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Why does my dog stare at me?

 by bora on 11 Oct 2019 |
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An act of devotion or a request to refill the food bowl? Staring can hold a multitude of meanings for our canine companions.

In the human world, making eye contact is a way of social bonding and this is no different in our canine companions. Multiple studies have shown that eye contact between two people helps strengthen their bond and researchers have found that, in dogs, this behavior activates the same hormones that are released when they gaze into their owners’ eyes. However, as with most types of body language, staring can hold multiple meanings depending on its context.

Eye contact is one way our pets get our attention. Whether he wants you to take him out for a bathroom break, refill his water bowl, or give him a tasty treat, staring can be an effective way for Fido to alert you that he wants something. Pay attention to the context of his behavior to help you understand what your dog is trying to say. If he stares at you with his leash in his mouth, for example, he’s almost certainly asking for a walk.

In other instances, staring is a sign your dog is thinking and processing input from his surroundings. Often accompanied by the classic head tilt, Fido may look into your eyes while attempting to make sense a new command or pondering an unfamiliar sound you made. Our dogs wants to please us, so this type of behavior is your companion’s way of doing his best to follow your commands and avoid being scolded.
There are, of course, instances when dogs stare in an aggressive way. In the animal kingdom, making eye contact is often hostile behavior and an invitation for attack. Watch your pet’s body language to understand what his eye contact is saying—it may help you avoid putting yourself in harm’s way with an aggressive animal.

In most cases, staring is a normal behavior in dogs. However, prolonged periods of gazing into space or at walls can be a symptom of Canine Cognitive Dysfunction, or CCD, a condition similar to Alzheimer’s disease in humans. If your dog is getting lost in familiar places, failing to respond to normal commands, trembling, or walking aimlessly, take him to your veterinarian for an exam to diagnose the condition. While there is no cure, your vet can offer advice on the best ways to help your companion if he is experiencing CCD.

It’s important to pay attention to context when figuring out what Fido’s gaze means. While often a sign of affection, staring can hold a number of other meaning for your pet. By paying attention to contextual clues, you can better understand your pet and his needs, strengthening the bond you share.


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