As a dog owner you will catch your dog staring at you a lot. They do this as a form of communication. Staring at you can mean different things, so how do you decipher what your dog is trying to say with its stares. Dog stares may vary in the level of intensity from curious looks to kind friendly stares to more intense stare downs.
There are various messages dogs pass along when they stare at people. This is because to bridge the gap in our language barrier between humans and dogs, we have both found ways to hear each other beyond the use of verbal communication.
Why Do Dogs Just Stare At You?
Dog staring is a phenomenon I have seen severally in both my dogs. I am going to tell you about dog staring from the perspectives of two of my dogs Skido and Smokey. who have interesting individual personalities.
Smokey has such a strong emotional connection with me and the family. It is always staring to take notice of what you are doing. It patiently watches you to see if you are busy. Smokey is such a gentle soul, strong and built like a lion, it has a presence to it and a lot of charisma. There are days when am simply sitting on the porch relaxing or contemplating an issue. The next thing I notice is Smokey licking my face. Saying without words that, yeah don't worry everything will be ok. The ability of your dog to sense when you are troubled can be so strong.
Sometimes they just want to keep you company. If Smokey notices you on the porch and it is not sure if you want him around, you can tell from its walk, it is a gentle unsure sway, like I don't want to disturb, I just want to be by your side. Then it comes near you and simply sits and relaxes on all fours. If you give it eye contact it will either move close and lick your feet or raises it's head close to you so you can give it a pat on the head. Afterwards, it gently goes off to sit by your side.
If there ever was a dog that understood how to be in the company of a human without causing too much interferences it was Smokey.
Skido is Smokey's son. It is quite grown now and an adult dog. Smokey's unique traits is that it acts like a human. Not just any human but think rich, affluent and bougee. Skido is a dog that is able to close doors. Depending on it's mood it opens or closes the gate to this house. This is a full sized door. If the sun is out, it comes out to sunbath. Lying down on its side and if it sees you, it just simply raises it's head in acknowledgement and goes back sunbathing. Anytime I see him sunbathing, he reminds me of my days in England with people out on the fields lying on the grass and enjoying the warm days.
Skido unlike it's father, will stare at you only when it knows food is coming, or you are walking with a stranger. When food is coming or you are holding treats in your hand. You will see Skido all stares, wagging it's tail in excitement, while waiting anticipatedly. If you are with a stranger you will see Skido on full alert. Ears up, staring sternly at the stranger, tail straight up and still and it barking at full intensify.
Other than that, Skido is not so big on stares. It enjoys an occasion patting and rub from time to time but it is not one that will come looking for praises or full on attention. The Dog not only has high emotional intelligence it is almost human in character. Cats have nothing on Skido, with it's ultimate snobby Kingly pride.
WHAT DO DOGS SAY WHEN THEY STARE AT YOU
I AM READING YOUR NONVERBAL CUES
Dogs make use of our body language and innuendos to understand our spoken words and what we want from them. To understand us you may catch your dog staring at you wile tilting it's head to effectively pick up your speech. You might also catch them staring at you when you are cooking, or when wearing your go shoes to out. They are waiting to pick up any verbal or non-verbal response from you so they stare hopefully looking out for your reactions.
I WANT SOME FOOD
When dogs see their owners munching on some food or cooking, they tend to sit beside them and stare at them. Hoping and wishing you give them some bits to chew on as well. Dogs have become accustomed to owners sharing their foods and snacks with them or giving them a plate while on the dinner table. If you do not want your dog staring at you while eating, it is best to not encourage this behavior.
I AM CONFUSED
If you give your dog an instruction to follow and then don't react but rather keep staring at you, it means they are confused. They are uncertain of what you want and mean and will keep staring at you, for you to expatiate or show them what you want from them. Dogs do not understand our spoken words but they do pick up on certain words we say repeated overly time and our mannerisms. So when you communicate with your dog it is best to use but spoken words and body movements which the dog can hold on to, in understanding what you mean.
I ADMIRE YOU
Similar to when humans express love by staring at one another, sometimes eye to eye, dogs do the same. They stare at their owners and family to communicate I admire You and I am happy to be here with you. It has been scientifically proven that similar hormones that are released between mother and infants are also released when dogs feel that warmth towards their owners and family.
I WANT SOMETHING
Dogs will stare at you to communicate they want something. It could be a walk, to get your attention, in need of a cuddle or some treats. If you look closely at the context surrounding the dog stare, you often can tell what the dog wants. They know staring at you will elicit a response and once you act this usually serves as a reinforcement for the behavior.
I WILL LIKE YOUR ATTENTION
Dogs will give you the stare down to get your attention . This may be to show you something they think is out of place or simply to tell you to play with them. Some dogs will hold their toys or lease in their mouth as they stare at you excitedly, reminding you that it is time for them to play or go on their exercise walk.
THIS IS MY TERRITORY
Dogs mark their territory and are always suspicious of individuals invading their space. If you visit a friend or enter a dog's territory you may notice that this may cause the dog to stand still and give you an intensive aggressive stare. This happen with other dogs or humans. If you encounter a dog with such an aggressive, unsettling stare, you want to break the connection and give the dog some space and time to calm down.
I AM SUFFERING FROM COGNITIVE DYSFUNCTION
As dogs grow older just like humans, they have the possibility of suffering from cognitive decline, this is called cognitive dysfunction. Such dogs look disoriented even in familiar circumstances, they can no longer follow basic instructions and are just quite upheaved. If you notice your dog exhibiting this signs and it keeps staring at you or into space, it is best to see a veterinarian as soon as possible.
Use of Staring in Training
When your dogs stares at you, it shows that it is giving you it's full attention and it is distracted by happenings in the surrounding. This can be very useful during dog training sessions. You want your dog to be focused at the task at hand and to quickly notice your instructions and body cues. Dogs that perform tricks with their owners during competitions have to move in sync with their trainers. So it can be a trait worth fostering and encouraging in your dog.
Most dog stares at their owners are usually from a place of love, happiness and trust. It is their means of communicating with us when things are off or they need us to pay attention to their wants. You should be concerned if you are stranger and a dog keeps staring at you, as it may attack you, thinking you are a thief or want to cause harm. As an owner encouraging your dog stares with treats or a pat reinforces the behavior. Ultimately dog stares are a way for them to communicate with us.