Why Does My Dog Stare At Me? - Pet Hub USA

Why Does My Dog Stare At Me?

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Ever have your dog stare you down or watch your every move? Dogs stare for a variety of reasons. Learn to interpret what a dog’s stare means and ways to focus that behavior into a positive experience.

Why Do Dogs Stare at People?

There are a variety of reasons your dog might stare at you. Dogs stare to communicate, beg, ask to go outdoors, and more. Let’s review three of the most common reasons your dog might be staring at you. Later, will look at ways to use and focus your dog’s staring behavior.

1. Your Dog Is Trying to Tell You Something

Dogs stare at us to get our attention, often as a way to try to communicate something to us.

The most common example is trying to let us know they need to go outside for a potty break. You might be sitting in a chair and your dog will come and stare at you. If that doesn’t work, your dog may take a few steps toward the door, then turn and look back at you. Or, your dog may simply walk up to the door then stand and stare at you.

Another common example is when you are eating. Your dog may stare at you to let you know is hungry too, or is begging for you to share your food.

Begging is also a manipulative behavior by dogs. In their minds, if they stare at you long enough, you might share a morsel of your meal. Below, we’ll discuss how to discourage begging.

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2. Your Dog Is Reading You

Dogs study us in greater depth than most of us realize. They analyze every facet of our behavior. That’s why dogs often anticipate our next move. Sometimes it is the most subtle of gestures. We do something we are unaware of, but something the dog picks up as a signal and knows what we’re going to do.

Why do dogs read us? The answer is simple. They are picking up clues about something we will do that will impact them.

The clinking noise a leash makes when we pick them up signals they are going for a walk. The subtle scrape of picking up glasses off the nightstand tells them their owner is getting up from bed. The squeak of pantry door hinges means feeding time. And the list goes on.

This is even more so for dogs that have been trained using positive reinforcement methods. They look for signals that mean they will earn a reward, whether a treat, toy, or game. Such dogs develop a love for training and eagerly await it. To a dog, training is a game that brings enjoyable rewards.

3. Your Dog Is Letting You Know How it Feels

Sometimes your dog is staring just to express its love for you. When your dog stares at you and you adore them back, it releases oxytocin, referred to as the love hormone.

Your dog can also stare at you as a way of letting you know it needs human attention.

Turning Your Dog’s Staring into Positive Behavior

When a dog stares at you to attempt to manipulate your behavior, your reaction can either stop or encourage future behavior. Here are some examples of typical manipulative behavior and what you can do to direct it toward positive actions.

1. Controlling Begging Staring

For example, if you do not want your dog to beg, you must ignore the staring. The dog will eventually learn staring won’t bring the results it wants, and it will find something else to do.

However, if you give in to staring when your dog begs, you are teaching the dog this is the method to use to gain food.

A better approach is to use this opportunity to teach your dog what you would prefer to do instead.

For example, you can lead your dog to its bed and give it a bone to chew while you are eating. Or, you can ring a doggy bell that will let your dog know it’s time to go outdoors for a potty break while you eat.

Ignore the staring and reward the new behavior. This teaches your dog to look to you for clues rather than attempt to manipulate you with its stares.

2. Addressing Aggressive Staring

When we look at the behavior of wolves, dogs’ ancient ancestors, staring was interpreted as threatening and rude. Dogs today still maintain that attitude toward other dogs that stare at them.

For the above reasons, you never want to stare down a strange dog. You also should never hold your dog still and stare into their eyes. They will interpret it as aggression.

What to do if Your Dog Gives You a Hard Stare

Besides the hard stare, there are other signs you should look for simultaneously. If your dog also has unblinking eyes and a stiff posture, it’s a sign of aggression. Avoid making eye contact and back away. Such actions are typically defensive. For example, your dog may have a bone or other valued treat it is defending. 

If you have a dog that exhibits such hard staring and aggressive body language, consider consulting a professional trainer or behaviorist. They can help you to work with the dog and deprogram its aggressive behavior.

3. Involve Your Dog in Training and Sports

If you have a dog that loves to stare at you, you can focus that behavior in a very positive way. 

One way of focusing your dog’s staring is to involve it in training. Training forces a dog to focus on you and tune out surrounding distractions.

Dogs wind up loving training because it becomes a game in which they receive a reward.

Sports are another way to focus that behavior. Dog sports require dogs to focus intently on their handler. The dogs need to observe cues through sight and sound of the handler’s bodily signals and vocal commands. Dogs learn to execute very exacting and specific behaviors and execute them without being distracted. Dog sports require teamwork that creates a bond between humans and animals.

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