Dogs use their eyes to communicate with people, whether it is because they entirely love and adore you or because they are begging for whatever it is you are eating.
As a general rule, your Doodle will be trying to get your attention to tell you something, or they will be carefully watching you, waiting for you to communicate something to them. There is no one answer as to why dogs stare at their humans. However, it is usually never anything to be concerned about and usually means your dog is well-attuned to you.
From a very early age, dogs are smart and learn to understand what their owner wants or is doing, even predicting what might happen next. So, what are the main reasons your dog might be staring at you?
Dogs have a unique relationship with humans. A hormone called oxytocin is released when a dog and a human mutually stare into each other’s eyes.
This hormone is known as the “love hormone” and is released when lovers look into each other’s eyes and when mothers look into their baby’s eyes. This causes your dog to bond with you in a unique way. He stares at you because he loves and trusts you.
Dogs have learned to read their people well, and a great deal of this is due to the intense way they watch everything you say and do and how you say it and do it. Your dog may closely monitor you for any sign that you might take him on a walk or that it’s playtime.
He will also watch you for any indication you are leaving, wanting to be prepared for any negative change.
A dog will also keep your gaze if you are training him via positive reinforcement. He will be eager to obey any commands and watch you closely, awaiting any direction or cues as to what you want him to do. This is a very desirable trait as your dog’s full attention prevents him from being distracted by other things during training.
One of the less desirable reasons your dog may be staring at you is to get something from you, particularly in the kitchen or at the dinner table. A dog will stare at you while you eat, and in a moment of pity or guilt, you may slip him some food.
This reinforces the behavior, and you can expect your dog to make it a habit if you don’t catch it soon.
Begging is generally considered to be bad manners in our canine family members. Dogs may beg and be pushy about food or playtime or even for snuggles.
While you need to be sure you are meeting all your dog’s needs, you should be the one calling the shots, not your dog. It is important not to reward your dog for begging and to ignore his pushiness.
It may be that your dog is staring at you to get your attention because he has a legitimate need for your help or attention. He may stare if he needs to relieve himself or if you haven’t taken him for his walk yet.
It may be you forgot about mealtime, and it’s his way of trying to let you know he is hungry or that the water bowl is dry. Some dogs will stare at their owner if they get a toy stuck and need help getting it out.
If you don’t like the staring, whether because you find it alarming or because you can’t exactly hear a stare to know your dog needs something, you may want to teach your dog alternate ways to let you know when he has a need.
A bell by the door he learns to push when he needs to go outside would be a great example of this.
This behavior will need to be dealt with immediately if your dog is staring out of possession, either over toys or over food. In the dog world, a stare can mean a challenge.
If your dog is stiff, his ears flat, maybe even baring his teeth and growling, you have a problem of resource guarding.
This issue needs to be addressed as soon as possible since a possessive dog can be quite aggressive and may even bite its owners in an attempt to protect what they see as theirs alone.
If this is your experience, take your dog to a veterinarian or a dog behaviorist as soon as possible. This isn’t an issue you want to slide.
Staring Between Dogs
While a dog staring at a human is generally nothing to be concerned about, a dog staring at another dog is concerning. Dogs’ ancestors considered staring or held eye contact to be both rude and threatening.
Over the centuries, this instinct has gone mostly dormant as far as dogs relating to humans, but it is still very much alive among dog-kind.
If you find your dog staring at another who is staring back, neither backing down or turning away, you need to get your dog away carefully. The direct challenge could easily transition to a fight.
As a human, you must be careful not to stare at any new or strange dog. A peculiar dog won’t have a relationship with you to assure that you aren’t threatening them. Staring at a strange dog could very well lead to aggressive behavior in the other dog.
Snarling, teeth-baring, and a stiff posture are all reasonable indications that you need to back off. It is far better to let a dog grow accustomed to you in its own time and way.
New Dogs (or Puppies)
So, what about new dogs you rescue or even puppies? What’s the rule of polite eye contact with them?
You never know what a rescue dog’s history with people is, so proceed with patience. If your dog doesn’t make eye contact, it may be out of fear or timidity.
They may not yet know that eye contact isn’t a threat to you. When they become comfortable, and as you bond, he will learn it is safe to look at you.
It will be vital that you train him to be ok with eye contact since attention is essential for other training. But be patient and kind.
With puppies, start making eye contact as early as possible. When you talk to him, play with him, cuddle him, look into his eyes.
You will probably do it without thinking since that is a huge part of how humans communicate. Puppies will quickly catch on and learn to communicate that way too.
Staring is not a behavior to be concerned about. It is how dogs communicate with you or wait for you to share with them. Understanding some of the reasoning behind it can help you know what to do for your dog, and it might even allow you to teach him some new ways to get his message across.
Your dog loves you and trusts you, and that is why he stares to you.