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Why Dogs Stare: Cracking The Code Of Canine Gaze

At A Glance

Your dog stares at you for reasons ranging from expressing positive emotions to calling for help. Whether it’s puppy-dog ogles or spying eyes, this mannerism means your pet is trying to tell you something.

  • It’s best to pay attention to your dog so that you can understand what it is trying to convey, rather than ignoring the behavior.
  • Some dogs lock eyes as a way of expressing their anger, displeasure, or annoyance.

Last Updated on: Sep 21, 2022

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“Why does my dog stare at me?”

You’re not the only one with that sentiment. I hear it quite a lot from family, friends, and customers.

If you’ve been trying in vain to crack the code of your dog eyeballing you at random moments, you can now drop the guesswork.

It is simply their non-vocal way of speaking to you and could imply a number of things.

Similar to its other body language such as the position of the tail and ear, facial expressions, or barking, your pet’s stares come with a message.

Read on to find out what they’re communicating.

Reasons Why Your Dog Stares At You

“Why does my dog constantly stare at me like it’s watching me?”

I get that question often, too.

While having your pet’s (seemingly judging) eyes on you could make you feel uncomfortable, it’s not something to be nervous about.

Here are the different ways you can interpret those fixed looks:

infographic image

Reading You

Your dog is most likely trying to figure out your mood or intention at the moment. Your body language builds anticipation in them: Is a treat coming? Are you going out for a walk? Maybe it’s time to play fetch? Or do you want to just laze around?

Dogs have the ability to recognize a person’s emotional state and tend to stare at you longer when you’re happy than when you’re sad.

It’s true! They know the difference between a neutral and a happy facial expression. Your dog can actually associate your countenance with probable outcomes.

A study by the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience and Psychology found that canines are great at reading human social cues.

Since you don’t share the same body language, your dog may visually observe you and base its response on your outward expressions and movements.

Love Language

“Why is my dog staring at me like it’s telling me something important?”

Another question many dog parents ask me.

The answer should be obvious—to express affection!

Dog owner Kenneth Musson shares that his pet stares at him when he impresses it with something wonderful. It gives him this tender look as if to say it doesn’t want to miss a moment with its human.

Ain’t that sweet?

Yes, your dog expresses its fondness for you by staring. It’s like nothing and no one else deserves their approving look more than you do.

Looking at you with warmth is a dog’s way of expressing its love for you. Stare back, give it a pat or a hug, and reciprocate the gesture.

Female dogs with high oxytocin levels tend to stare longer than usual at their owners.

Studies say that a staring dog could be driven by a positive emotion shared between them and their human. Those warm, fuzzy feelings generated by puppy dog eyes? It’s actually backed by science.

small dog barking

A Sign of Aggression

Why do dogs stare at you in an intimidating manner?

Yes, they sometimes do that, but it’s only a defense mechanism towards something they perceive as a threat. In some cases, the threat could be you, like when you’re holding a stick or screaming.

Staring is their way of showing dominance.

What you can do to correct this behavior is to reassure your dog that your action is not a hostile one.

Hardcore stares could also result from jealousy and agitation. In extreme cases, it would be helpful to withhold some things that may be causing these feelings.

“This means not being able to go to the dog park at all. Often, it means not bringing a squeaky ball; even more frequently, it means not bringing dog treats”, says Anthony Newman, Calm Energy Dog Training founder.

These are all parts of training them on self-control and submission.

Attention-Seeking Behavior

One of my readers sent me this desperate message: “Why does my dog stare at me all the time?”

Seriously consider the fact that they simply need you to mind them. If your dog is hanging around more than usual and giving you constant, undivided attention, it means they want your attention back.

Isn’t that similar to human behavior? When someone you care about stares at you, it’s difficult to ignore them. Your dog is no different. Bonding is as important to canines as it is to people.

Try your best to take a pause no matter how busy you are, and heed its non-verbal call. The last thing you want is for your pet to feel neglected.

Aubrey Sperry, CDBC, CPDT-KA, Owner and Head Trainer at Sit Pretty Dog Training in Massachusetts, shares: “Sometimes when our dogs stare at us, it encourages us to provide them with attention, which is also a major reward.”

A dog may also do the gesture to express its desire to go outside or to play with you. And yes, your dog giving you that familiar stare along with a playful bow would tug at your heartstrings.

a tweet with an image of a dog staring at its owner

Asking For Food

As a dog parent, you may already be familiar with that eye contact your pet makes when it thinks you’re holding a treat.

“Dogs use their behavior, like staring, to get the things they want”, says dog trainer and animal behaviorist Melanie Cerone, Ph.D., BCBA, CPDT-KA.

So when you find yourself wondering, why does my dog stare at me, while you open the cupboard, it’s sending a clear message: “Feed me!”

Remember that when you do give them food, you are reinforcing that behavior and they will repeat it as a practice because it works.

Most dog owners don’t really mind even if it distracts them from what they are doing at the moment. They understand it’s their pet’s way to communicate its hunger.

Cognitive Dysfunction

“Why does my dog stare at me with an empty, faraway look?”

Sometimes, I receive this query, and it’s more than worth a serious thought.

If your dog stares blankly at you, or looks disoriented and withdrawn, then it could be a sign of Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD) or dementia.

In a study by J Vet Intern Med, researchers learned that senior dogs (older than 8 years of age) can develop CCD.

Dogs with CCD often:

  • wander aimlessly
  • stare into space
  • experience sleep-wake cycle disturbance
  • have lethargy
  • show learning impairment
  • suffer memory loss
  • decrease their social interaction
  • demonstrate anxiety
  • struggle finding food scraps or their way around familiar surroundings

Dogs with this progressive neurological disease vary in their cognitive decline rates.

Veterinarian and researcher Dr. Brian Gray Barnett shares: “One study found that 28% of 11- to 12-year-old dogs and 68% of 15- to 16-year-old dogs have CCDs. The onset commonly occurs between ages 12 and 15 years.”

When your dog exhibits any of the symptoms listed above, it is important to have it checked by a vet to rule out other possible causes.

There is no treatment yet for CCD. The only medical care that can be extended is delaying progression, which involves lifestyle changes and medications.

cute dog looking at his owner

Benefits of Locking Eyes with Your Dog

When a dog locks eyes with its human, both feel good!

There is something warm and nurturing about that loving gaze.

Research shows that the level of oxytocin (the famous love hormone) is at play here. It enhances the bond between a dog and its owner during and even after the mutual gaze.

Also, it boosts your pet’s trust and connection with you, similar to the biochemical basis of the bond between a mother and child.

black dog looking at her owner

How To Stop Your Dog From Staring At You?

A dog’s staring may also have something to do with its breed, age, and overall wellness.

Parlette Rigsby, owner and trainer of German Shepherds for 60 years, takes his dogs’ stares as a compliment and an endearing gesture.

But do you find it disconcerting or distracting? Do you still wonder, “Why does my dog stare at me into my eyes?” Well, you can stop the habit by addressing its root cause.

Here are some options to consider:


Maybe it’s past feeding time and your dog is reminding you to give it food.

You may have lost track of the hours but your pet knows when it’s meal time based on your routine. It will keep staring at you until you feed it. So take the cue and do what you’re supposed to do.

Make sure to feed them on time or give them access to food so they can eat by themselves when they get hungry, without the need to stare you down for it.


Always put clean water in your dog’s bowl so it won’t stare you into quenching its thirst.

Hot summers can make canines feel parched. Check often if they have drinking water available whenever they need it.


Be sensitive when your dog gives you a suggestive look—like staring at you and then turning its gaze to a toy or to the other side of the fence. This probably means it wants to play or its ball is stuck somewhere it can’t reach.

Allot some time for games, or better yet, make it a part of your routine. That way, your pet won’t feel the need to prompt you for playtime.


It could be that your dog is a furry ball of energy and loves physically exacting activities like running, hiking, or obstacle courses. If so, then staring at you could mean it wants you to get off your couch so you can both break a sweat together.

To keep their gaze off you, get active with them!

To reinforce a good habit, dog owner Yveline from the UK suggests using a clicker, a whistle, or a marker word/sound (like tongue clicking) to mark the exact moment your dog does something you like. Then follow that up immediately with a reward like a treat or a pat.

When it breaks its stare because you have already attended to its need, pat your dog or give it a treat to communicate that you like what it did. Gradually, you will be able to stop the constant staring habit.

dog sitting on the ground

Frequently Asked Questions

Why Does My Dog Stare At Me While I Cry?

Because dogs are sensitive to your emotional states. They can sense whether you are sad or happy. A study found that they can respond to human distress and provide limited, albeit heartfelt, help if you communicate your grief well.

Why Does My Dog Stare At Me While Lying Down?

Your dog either wants to engage you in a physical activity or is hungry. It’s staring at you expectantly because it needs something from you, like food or some playtime.

Why Does My Dog Stare At Me In The Night?

It’s probably yearning for attention after you’ve had a long busy day. Or perhaps it’s past feeding time and it’s reminding you to give it something to eat.

Why Does My Dog Stare At Me During Training?

If it’s a stare with a relaxed position, it could simply be an expression of appreciation. A hard stare with a stiff position could mean your pet is trying to show dominance or aggression.

Why Does My Dog Stare At Me While He Is Pooping?

“When dogs are defecating, they feel like they are vulnerable, so he’s looking to you to protect him and for safety cues as he goes”, says Philip Tedschi, professor and researcher on the human-animal bond with Rover.

two brown dogs lying in the bed

A stare is a cue from your pet that helps keep its message from getting lost in translation. It may seem ambiguous at times, but with careful attention, sensitivity, and empathy, you’ll be able to understand what they are trying to tell you.

So I say, savor those meaningful and expectant gazes. They are memories you’d love to look back on down the road.

And this time, you won’t need to ask, why does my dog stare at me?


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Meet Paul, a devoted dog dad to the delightful French Bulldog, Cofi. With a flair for humor and a deep understanding of Frenchie quirks, Paul brings a lighthearted touch to his writings. His relatable stories and practical insights are a blend of laughter and valuable advice and resonate with fellow dog owners.

Through his words, Paul aims to celebrate the joys and challenges of being a dedicated pet parent, reminding you that life is simply better with a four-legged, snorting sidekick by your side.