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Understanding the look your dog gives you

It can be kind of creepy when you realize someone is staring at you. But when it is your dog who is staring, you wonder what he or she is trying to say. A furparent wants to understand his pet, always.

Understanding the look your dog gives you
A dog gives you that soft gaze when she loves you,. Putzi's eyes sparkle with love for her owner who took her photo.
“It’s even weirder to realize that your own dog is staring at you while you brush your teeth, eat your breakfast, or spend time reading in bed. While being stared at by a dog might be less disconcerting than being stared at by a person, it’s still odd!” said Kayla Fratt, in “Reasons Why Your Dog Stares at You” in The Spruce Pet.

Here are the many reasons your dog locks eyes with you.

1. Longing Eyes

 Your dog wants something when you see those longing eyes.  

 When your dog looks at you with longing eyes, check out the following:

*Does he want his favorite toy?

*Do you have food in your hand?

*Does he want you to pet him?

*Does he want to go out?

“Dogs quickly learn that staring at us is an okay way to ask for something. In fact, you probably have a hand in teaching your dog this behavior because you gave your dog something when she stared,” Fratt said.

It is possible that you gave him food when he stared at you.

Or you absentmindedly reached out to pet him, also after you saw him staring at you.

Or you unknowingly rewarded him when you caught him staring at you.

“As annoying as the staring can be, you’ll probably agree that staring is a better way to ask for something than barking, digging, or biting!” Fratt said.

2. Tilted Head

Your dog is confused when he stares at you with his head tilted.

“Dogs that stare during training, especially with that cute tilted head, are probably a bit confused. Your dog is trying to figure out what you want—much like you’re trying to figure out what she wants! It would be so much easier if we all spoke the same language,” Fratt said.

When your dog does not follow you when you tell him to do something, and he just stares at you, you have to go back to how you trained him. You have to retrain your dog. That stare means he did not understand your instructions.

“Your dog isn’t being willfully disobedient. He is just confused,” Fratt said.

3. Direct Stare, Hard Eyes

Your dog is tense when he stares directly at you.

Before a dog bites, he gives a “hard stare.”

“There’s an entirely different sort of dog stare out there… This stink-eye look can last just a split second or go on for minutes. It’s one of many warnings of a dog bite. Confusingly, many dogs will also avert their gaze before they bite,” Fratt warned.

You have to immediately stop when your dog turns and stares right at you while you’re petting him or approaching his toy, food, cage, or bed, Fratt stressed.  

“It can take some serious practice to tell the difference between what animal behaviorists call a ‘hard stare’ and just a longing look for liver treats, “ Fratt said.

“Give your dog space if her stare is accompanied with a stiff tail (wagging or not), still body, closed mouth, dilated pupils (wide pupils), a lowered head, ears pinned forward or backward, and a strong body shifts forward or backward. You might not see all of these signs at once, but look out for any combinations,” Fratt added.

The best way to deal with canine aggression is to back off if you are not an expert in dog behavior.

4. Soft Eyes

Your dog loves you when he gives you a soft gaze.

“An article in Science from 2015 found that dogs and humans both release oxytocin when they look into each other’s eyes,” Fratt said.

You have to put the soft gaze into context as some new owners mistake this for a hard stare.

A soft gaze is usually accompanied with a soft or sweeping tail wag, a light pant, relaxed ears, and normal-sized pupils.

“Many dogs are more prone to loving gazes early in the morning when serotonin levels are highest. Your dog is unlikely to look lovingly into your eyes when she’s playing, eating, or training—so assume that she’s got a different motivation if that’s what’s going on,” Fratt said.

5. Herding and Hunting

Staring can also mean your dog is on the prowl.

“Herding dogs are also prone to staring, as a way to control sheep, goats, cows, toys, and people. The famous ‘eye’ of a Border Collie comes out as the dog stalks a flock of stock, a toy, or a playmate.

Hunting dogs also often stare when they’re on the prowl,” Fratt said.

“This behavior can be playful or serious but comes out often when you’re in the middle of a game or the forest. If you notice your dog suddenly slow down, lower her head, and stare into the distance (or at a moving object), she’s probably in hunting or herding mode!” Fratt added.

Understanding the look your dog gives you
A dog tilts her head when she is trying to understand a human. A smiling Louise tilted her head when she saw the camera. 
Context is always important when you are determining why your dog is staring at you.

Please pay close attention to what’s going on around you and your pet, and observe your dog’s body language. DC

Topics: furparents , Kayla Fratt , “Reasons Why Your Dog Stares at You” , The Spruce Pet
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