Why does my dog stare at me?

Have you ever caught your dog staring at you? Maybe you’re both curled up on the couch and you see them gazing up at you. Or, do they seem to silently watch as you go about your daily business?  We know our pups so well, but staring behavior can baffle even the most clued-up owners. To help, we’ve rounded up answers to the question “why does my dog stare at me?”.

Do all dogs stare?

When you look at your dog, you’ll often find they look back at you. This eye contact seems to have developed back when dogs were domesticated. In more recent times, scientists found that wolves don’t look back at humans, but pet dogs do.  Researchers have also discovered that it takes ancient breeds longer to make eye contact with humans and that they gaze at us for less time than any other breed.

This means that, while domesticated dogs do look at humans, they may not all stare in the same way.  Sometimes their stare can be an affectionate behavior, but sometimes it can be associated with aggression. It all depends on the circumstances.

Why does my dog stare at me?

Staring as a positive behavior

Catching someone staring at us can be unnerving. But, dogs have their own ways of communicating with us. In fact, if your pooch is staring at you, it could be out of love!

Researchers have found that dogs with higher levels of the hormone oxytocin are more likely to stare at humans. This is the hormone that is released when we bond with other people or cuddle. It is sometime referred to as the “love hormone”. Soft staring in dogs is often considered an affectionate behavior that forms bonds and attachments.

Staring as a negative behavior

Experts think that staring was an aggressive behavior for our pups’ wolf ancestors. A wolf might have stared as a way of threatening or asserting dominance, for example. Our domestic dogs have inherited some of these attitudes and can see direct eye contact as hostile. That’s why experts recommend avoiding direct eye contact, especially with dogs that you don’t know.

Dogs who stare in uncertain situations

If you’ve read the above explanations but they don’t seem to fit, then you might still be wondering “why does my dog stare at me?”. Perhaps, it’s because they aren’t sure what’s happening. Pet dogs often look at humans when they sense conflict or confusion.  They could be looking at you for reassurance. In fact, dogs often take their cues from us. This is why it’s best to act normal in situations that could be stressful for your dog, such as when they hear fireworks or go to the vets.

Another reason your dog might be staring at you is because you’re in charge. You decide when they eat, you tell them to sit, you’re the one who initiates their beloved walkies.  Watching you might give them an idea as to what’s going on.

Or…you might just be eating something that looks delicious. We’d stare too if someone was eating a donut in front of us!

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