Why Does Your Dog Stare At You?

If you ever wonder why it seems that your dog is always staring at you, then you’re not alone! As it turns out, dogs do spend a great deal of time looking intently at their owners. 

Dogs, more than any other non-human creature on this planet, has a close bond with humans that spans thousands of years. They have learned to watch us intently, both to gain information about us and to communicate their wants to us as well.

Many dogs will watch their owners for a signal that something is about to happen. For example, if you regularly walk your dog on a leash, your dog may watch you for cues that you are about to pick up the leash. This signal watching carries over to other activities as well, such as feeding time, going out to play with his favorite toy or even going for a ride in the car.

This communication goes both ways. Dogs may communicate their desire to go out by sitting at the door and staring at you or their desire to eat by standing next to their food bowl and looking intently in your direction.

Some dogs will stare at you to try to get something to eat, especially if you are eating. If your dog stares at you long enough and you eventually give in, then the dog has won and you have just taught him a brand new and very effective way to communicate.

Perhaps you’ve heard that you should never stare down a strange dog, because it may be seen as threatening. If you do run into this situation and a strange dog is staring at you intently and without blinking, immediately avert your eyes and back away.

If your own dog does this when he is guarding a chew bone or other valued toy (known as resource guarding) you should consult a trainer, especially if this is accompanied by aggressive body language.

New studies show that our dogs stare into our eyes as a sign of affection. In fact, when humans and dogs look into each other’s eyes, both canines and people release the hormone oxytocin, which is known as the love or bonding hormone. 

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By Ellen Britt

Dr. Ellen Britt has loved dogs since she was a child. She is particularly fond of the Northern breeds, especially Alaskan Malamutes. Ellen worked as a PA in Emergency and Occupational Medicine for two decades and holds a doctorate (Ed.D.) in biology.

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