The most common reasons for dog staring at you could be looking for clues, confused or uncomfortable, a result of tension, seeking attention, some desire, love, shame or guilt.
Recently, I was struggling hard to beat a deadline for a work project. Marley, my dog, was playing inside the house having the best time of his life. I was so focused that I paid little attention to his enthusiasm, after all, I prefer him busy having fun.
I live alone so Marley keeps the environment busy when I am occupied with work. I noticed a sudden silence at the back of my mind and stopped working. Marley was staring straight at me with a tilted head and slowly wagging his tail.
I felt a sudden chill and asked, “Anything wrong boy?” He barked and continued running around then after a while he stopped and stared back at me. It was common for him to stare and I had noticed similar behaviors with my friends’ dogs.
It was at this moment that I asked myself, “Why is my dog staring at me?” It then became essential to understand why these “best friends” stare at us and I decided, during my free time, I will research this issue and share my findings.
I found that there is more to why they do this and that there can be a scientific explanation to this “mystery”. By the end of this article, you will have known more about why your best friend stares at you and probably get to strengthen your bond.
The science behind a stare
So, why is my dog staring at me? Scientists believe there are many reasons why our best friends gaze at us. Sometimes it comes as a surprise if suddenly they will not take their eyes off you. Scientists tend to argue that this could be a result of one of the hormones associated with social bonds. The oxytocin hormone regularly referred to as the love hormone.
Studies indicate that staring is common among animals. For example, among human beings, we may stare at each other due to the forces of attraction or love. A mother and child stare into each other’s eyes as a sign of affection.
Staring also occurs between couples or close friends. Between the mother and child, the stare generates a stronger bond. Here, it helps develop social skills. Since our best friends are almost equally emotional as humans, there is a chance they do this because of love or admiration.
The researchers have also figured out that as they gaze at you, it activates the same hormone-binding response as in human beings. Numerous surveys were conducted to observe the reaction in dogs as they stare at their owners. The findings provided that the oxytocin concentration increased by 130% and that of the owners by 300%.
It is the first time that a positive hormone combination has been found between these two species. The effect explains how these animals got to become our best friends. Our relationship with them is unlike that of any animal.
Also, the research clarifies that our friends have learned to use the neurochemical system, used by human beings, to establish and maintain relationships. It could also be the reason they will know if you are happy or sad.
To clarify this finding, the researchers observed wolves and found that they always avoid eye contact. For this reason, oxytocin levels will have a minimal impact; hence, causing tension.
It is not at always that as they stare at us, it is because of the oxytocin hormone. There are other possible reasons that could help you understand your friend.
Reasons why your dog is staring
1) Looking for clues
Why is my dog staring at me? It is a question most dog owners ask. You may sometimes think that they are responsible for staring, but it may surprise you that you may be responsible for such an act.
For example, you make decisions for your dog: decide what and when they eat and when it is time to leave the park or go for a walk.
The decisions we make for our dogs get to determine most of their behaviors. We give them so many orders that sometimes they get confused. You may assume that all is well as they take multiple orders but there could be repercussions.
As you give them multiple orders within a short time, it is possible that they will get confused. At this moment, the dog will have no option but to gaze at you.
You might have noticed that they know when you are ready to go to work. They will also know that you are leaving them behind when you get the keys, bag or briefcase. Every time they look at you, they are working on clues to understanding your behavior. It helps them to understand what is happening and how they could be affected.
2) Probably confused or uncomfortable
In the previous paragraphs on “looking for clues” I mentioned that they stare because they are confused. For example, during training when they stop and watch you with a tilted head it means they are probably confused.
You may have done something different from what they know and they need clarification before they proceed with training.
Our friends have some characteristics that reflect ours. Confused dogs will try to find what you want, just as you want to know what they want. If they spoke our language it would be easier to understand them. Unfortunately, our communication differs but we have found ways to adjust to their communication.
The next time you ask your best friend to do something and they stare, verify what you want them to do. Most importantly try to find what caused the confusion and they will gladly resume the training or play.
Never assume that your dog is intentionally disobedient when they stop and gaze. They may just be confused.
3) It could be a result of tension
We act differently from our dogs when in intense situations but it is obvious that tension could lead to hostile behavior from us or our dogs. Sometimes they steadily look at us because they are tense. The tension could be a result of past hostility.
During these moments, you will notice they maintain a “hard eye,” which is bad news for you. Whether or not it is your friend, a “hard eye” with minimal movement or absence of a wagging tail is never good news.
A hard eye is a possible cause for aggression. Avoid sudden movements and try minimizing eye contact.
Be calm if your dog is giving you the “hard eye” and try making them comfortable by causing a distraction. For example, you can show enthusiasm by smiling and calling their name softly.
Do not assume that just because they are loyal they will not bite. Your friend is loyal but when pushed they can react violently.
4) They are seeking attention
These animals cannot speak and the only way to let you know what they want is by action or barking. In some cases, they will look at you because they want you to pay attention.
Whenever this happens it shows a desire for you to do something. It could be time to feed them or go out for a run and you possibly forgot.
The need for attention might not be as direct as wanting you to rub their belly or throw the ball, but you will notice what they want. Do not be too busy to have time for your dog. Create time to bond and maintain the routine.
5) A sign of desire
Similar to attention, your dog will stare because they desire something from you. Remember they cannot speak, so body language is a great deal. It is easy for human beings because we speak out or go for something we desire.
Dogs stare because they desire being rubbed, given a treat or taken out to play. If you notice the sudden unmoved look is out of desire, give them clues to know what they want. They will be most excited if you pick their preference.
6) It is because of love
Love is beautiful, not only among human beings but between us and our best friends. The way you pay attention to the ones you love is equally how your dog will pay attention to you. You may notice them and the instance you lock eyes they will wag their tails in excitement.
They do this out of love. Obviously, we are at our happiest if we are with those we love the most. The same applies to these animals. Their reaction is not all about loyalty but a result of love. Your presence is calm and assuring, which influences their attitude towards you.
7) A cause for concern
Initially, I mentioned that staring can indicate dogs are tense, which displays a sign of aggression. However, this is not always the case as they understand us by observing our behavior. They know if we are happy and they will get it when you come home angry, sick, or sad.
As a friend, their job is to give you unconditional happiness. They will jump on you the moment you come home and they will lie next to you every time you are sick or sad. Sometimes, they may avoid you if you show aggression. Do not assume they are “just animals” you keep at home.
Dogs are happy animals and their gaze could be a sign of concern for your safety, health, or attitude. Before you judge them for staring, try finding out what you may have done.
8) It is possibly shame or guilt
Dogs are brilliant animals and they will always know when they are on the wrong. For example, if they stole food from the fridge or disobeyed an order and you confront them they will look at you with a guilty face.
In most cases, it is a funny face similar to how children react when “caught in the act” and they may even attempt to hide their faces.
Wait until you catch your dog eating from the trash, they will give you the funniest stare ever and possibly run away. Your best friend can differentiate right from wrong and they will be ashamed or guilty if caught doing something wrong.
If you are curious as to why they suddenly gaze at you, just observe their facial expression when caught on the wrong and you may see shame or guilt.
Dogs are always curious to know what we plan to do next so that they can react appropriately. For example, they can watch when you are cooking, working, looking for your house keys, or getting your jacket.
They do this because they want to understand what we are planning to do next and how it could affect them. Well, in this case, it could be a result of anticipation and nothing more.