Why Does My Dog Stare at Me?
Why does my dog stare at me?
It’s a question many owners have. Raising a dog can be as hard as raising a child, some say! But with a child, there’s a distinct advantage that they can tell you what they want, and vocalize if something is wrong. With dogs, you have to work it out on your own, and one behavior you may notice is some pretty intense staring.
So why does my dog stare at me? There could be a few reasons.
One reason your dog might be staring at you is to show affection, or hope to receive it. Gazing can release oxytocin, so believe it or not when your dog stares at you, it might just be because they love you and hope to receive that love back!
Sometimes the simplest answer is often the right one.
They Want Something
Another reason your dog might stare at you is that they want something. If it’s getting close to mealtime, check the clock — they might be staring at you because they think it’s time for you to get up and get their food. Or it might be something much easier, like desiring a belly rub!
A dog might also approach you with a toy in their mouth and stare at you, as an indication that they want to play. Often, the reason a dog is staring at you can be worked out by taking a close look at what else they’re doing and the rest of their body language.
Speaking of body language — dogs may also stare because they’re being aggressive.
You will notice this because it will look very different from a dog who’s trying to be affectionate. An aggressive dog staring will have a stiff body, and often have its ears or lips pulled back.
If it’s a strange dog staring at you, you should never approach if you can’t tell if the stare is friendly or aggressive.
Confusion is another reason dogs might stare at us! Sometimes this is accompanied by a head tilt because they’re looking for non-verbal clues to work out your body language.
Dogs don’t operate much on being verbal, and instead go on body language. That’s why it can be handy to teach a hand signal to go along with your basic commands, because it makes it easier for them to pick up.
You might also find your dog staring at you when you’re trying to teach one of these commands, because they haven’t yet picked up on it. If this happens, try to go back to using a lure (with a treat) so they have something to follow. Never expect your dog to just pick something up through words alone, as this isn’t how dogs work! They don’t understand our words.
The confusion might also be because there is cognitive dysfunction. Dogs get older, and might start to get confused and wander aimlessly. The best thing you can do in this situation is reassure them that you’re here for them.
What Should I Do?
What you should do about your dog staring at you depends entirely on the situation! If they’re begging for food, you might want to ignore them, or teach them a command such as ‘place’ so it’s impossible for them to stare in your face.
You can do this by picking a mat or dog bed away from where you usually sit and luring them there, rewarding them when they touch the spot. Eventually, you can try and increase the length of time they stay there.
If your dog simply stares at you when they want to play, you can indulge them! This is good manners if they aren’t demand barking.
However, if your dog is staring at you because they’re being aggressive, you should take action. The first stop for an aggressive dog is always the veterinary clinic to check nothing is physically agitating them. Many dogs who suddenly become aggressive are actually in pain.
After that, you can try to work with a professional trainer and/or behaviorist to try and reassure the dog that nothing is wrong. Relaxed, happy dogs aren’t aggressive, so that’s what you’re aiming for!
Ultimately, you know your dog best and have to judge the staring for yourself. You’ll eventually figure out why they’re doing it!