Why is my dog staring at me?

Dogs are known for their ability to intensely stare at their owners, sometimes for no apparent reason. I do not mean the guilty look after a pair of my socks has gone missing. Or even the pleading look when food is available.

I know and recognise this behaviour only too well. If Poppy really wants something, she has numerous ways of communicating her wishes. However, there are times when it’s not inherently obvious as to what your dog actually wants from you. So, what’s it all about?

It might not be what you think…

Dogs feel no embarrassment and can maintain a stare for some time. It may come across to us like affection. Sometime it is. However, most expert opinion does not support the view that your dog’s staring is a result of ‘absolute devotion’.

Further to this, in Poppy’s case, I do not believe it is a sign of aggression or a challenge to my authority because it is a friendly stare. I sometimes stare back at her but she always wins that particular contest. As a dog owner, you will be able to learn about what your dog’s stare is all about according to their mood and expressions.

1) Attention seeking

It’s possible that the reason your dog stares at you is for attention. Your dog may also want some tasty food and has learned that a prolonged bout of staring may achieve the desired result. It is a fact that dogs love being in our company. This is particularly true when we make them the centre of attention.

2) Understanding your facial expressions

Another reason that your dog is staring at you might be to study our facial expressions and body language. This is a great way for dogs to understand what is required or expected of them. Dogs listen and they learn. In training we encourage dogs to look at us and pay attention to our instructions. Therefore we should not be surprised if our dogs sometimes look to us for guidance.

3) Showing affection

As we know, the love bond between a dog and its owner is unconditional. Some research in this area has shown that when a dog and a human stare at one another affectionately, it raises the levels of oxytocin. This is also known as the “love hormone”. It makes us feel happy and serves to strengthen the bond that we have.

4) Comfort and protection

If your dog is feeling anxious or in a spot of bother, they will probably look straight to you for guidance. The staring will be their own way of communicating to you that they are scared, and they need backup from the leader of the pack (that’s you!). If your dog is ever in a vulnerable position, you’ll notice them stare at you to make sure you have their back.

5) Displaying aggression

Staring at a dog you do not know is not to be recommended because another dog may see this behaviour as a challenge. It could cause that dog to react in a less than friendly way. Some dogs may see you as an aggressor and therefore this could provoke an attack. If a dog fiercely stares at you, this may be a warning sign and it may be followed by a growl. This is a sure sign that you should not proceed.

In short, eye to eye contact helps your dog understand your intentions and emotions or to put it another way, to read your mind. This ability enables dogs to interact with humans in a way that no other animals can.

If your dog displays the tendency to stare, we would love to hear from you with your opinions and stories.


James is a social media manager, dog owner and enthusiast.

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