Should you look a dog in the eyes?

In this article, we will answer the following question: Should you look a dog in the eyes? We will explain the main reasons why a dog stares at you, and how to react in each case. 

Should you look a dog in the eyes?

If you don’t know canine sign language, you should not look a dog in the eyes. Remember that it is not the same to look into the eyes of a dog that is barking at you than to do it with your dog whose head is resting on your lap while they doze on the sofa.

For dogs, holding their gaze is, as with humans, a challenge, but it can also be a declaration of love. Dogs interpret our body language very well, and our eyes speak volumes. If the dog is not yours, do not hold his gaze as a general rule. If the dog is yours, you can look at it with love, and it will be reciprocal.

Animals, like humans, have the capacity for language. Although they cannot speak as humans do, they can communicate perfectly, and if there is one animal that perfectly achieves its goal, that is the dog.

The tail and the ears’ movement, the way the hair is, the legs, everything has a meaning, but most importantly – their eyes. The way our furry eyes look at us has a ‘human’ point that makes people unconsciously attribute human characteristics to these animals; dogs and people’s eyes are more similar than we think, right?

There are many myths about a dog’s gaze: many claim that it is not acceptable to stare into the eyes of a dog while others defend the opposite. But what is the reality? Very simple, each moment and situation has its meaning.

Your dog is looking at you: a sign of love.

When dogs look at their owner intensely, they usually want to say something. With their gaze, they are able to understand if they need something or if the situation is not going well. It is also a way to express your affection and love, especially the females. 

A study by the Center for Canine Cognition at Duke University asked this question and carried out an experiment: they brought dogs and people together in the same room to analyze what happened when they stared at each other and the result was surprising.

Among the couples who had made intense eye contact, oxytocin, the so-called love and happiness hormone that occurs when one is happy, had been secreted. This research reinforces the theory that it is positive to look at our pet in the eye and that they interpret it as a sign of love.

Your dog is looking at you: a sign of alert

The intense gaze of an unfamiliar dog can also be a defense mechanism. To know its exact meaning, you simply have to interpret if it is accompanied by other gestures such as the tail (in tension), the hair (bristling), or the ears (backward). Your common sense will make you understand what it is about.

What are the reasons my dog ​​is staring at me?

A dog staring at his master can have several meanings. Indeed, the dog tends to observe his environment and use facial expressions to convey messages. A dog that is staring or observing therefore uses body language to communicate a message to you. If your pet is staring at you all the time or staring at you, find out why your dog is doing the same.

Provocation from your dog

A fixed gaze from the dog can be caused by provocation. Your pet provokes you through this gaze. A dog with staring eyes may want to intimidate or assault you.

You should know that a dog who stares at you is a dog who can provoke you in some way or another. He seeks the affront with you by seeking to control your gaze. This behavior is often seen in dominant or power-seeking dogs. This very specific look can be accompanied by quite specific gestures, which also signify signs of provocation.

Allows the dog to study your behavior

The dog is an animal very close to humans. He is by her side throughout her life, and thus accompanies her in very different times, whether they are moments of happiness or sadder moments in life. The dog is an animal that does not understand human language, and therefore it relies on your behavior to interpret how you are feeling. 

It is during these times that a dog may stare at you in an attempt to better understand the situation. The dog is an understanding animal very close to its owners, so it will tend to come and console you in the event of a drop in power.

As for us, the dog uses the gaze to understand his environment and his master. He then observes and studies the behavior of his master for example.

Your dog does not understand the situation

When a dog is staring at you and has his ears straight, it means he doesn’t understand the whole situation. You may have asked him for an order he did not understand or made a request that remains a question for him. 

In this case, it is advisable to repeat your request in another way. It doesn’t mean that your dog doesn’t want to listen to you, just that he hasn’t understood. Your dog looks for you to make you understand precisely his incomprehension.

The dog is waiting for permission

Your dog may stare at you as soon as he waits for clearance. This is the case, for example, when you feed him, but also when he has to cross the road, enter the house … 

It’s a good thing, it means that your dog has received a good education and that he respects you. The fixed gaze is, in this case, a mark of respect towards you so do not panic if it comes back regularly.

The dog is afraid of something

When a dog is afraid of a situation, he can react in different ways. He can use his gaze which is one of the quickest indications. If your dog seems to be shaking violently, his gaze is fixed on yours and he starts to cry, he is most likely frightened of the situation. 

This is why you must reassure your animal by talking to him in a soft voice, you can stroke him, all with the aim of showing him that he has no reason to be afraid, that you are in control of the situation.

A dog who keeps the gaze in your eyes can also be scared of a situation. It is then necessary to understand what anguishes your pet in order to come to his aid and reassure him.

How to react when my dog ​​stares at me?

As we just saw earlier, a staring gaze from your dog can mean a lot. It is therefore important before making any decisions to properly interpret the animal’s behavior. Find out how to interpret and act when faced with a dog staring at you.

If your dog is showing signs of aggression

In this case, don’t panic: you need to show your dog that you are the dominant one. For that take a firm voice and say “no” to him, with the finger-pointing in his direction. 

You have to be high up to impose yourself on him. You should not take your eyes off him, as this could be interpreted by your dog as a mark of weakness and lead him to behave more aggressively.

If your dog is not showing signs of aggression

Reassure your dog, show him that you are in control, and no reason for him to panic. You can pet him, talk to him in a soft voice, and entertain him by playing or changing his attention to something else.

According to a scientific study, the exchange of long moments of glances between a dog and his handler leads to hormones’ production significantly. These hormones are attachment hormones, Oxytocins. 

This, therefore, proves that through the eyes of the dog and the Man create a real bond, that there is an exchange and a dog-Man relationship. It is through this that the dog comes to become a full member of the human family.

As a conclusion

When a dog stares at you, you should take it as a token of love in most cases. Your dog probably wants to ask you something.

If it is a stray dog ​​or one that you do not know anything about, and the look is accompanied by other gestures such as bristling hair and has its ears backward, it is probably on alert (to the unknown) and is ready to attack.

It is best to follow this tip:  If the dog is not yours, do not hold his gaze as a general rule. If the dog is yours, you can look at it with love, and it will be reciprocal.

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FAQ on Should you look a dog in the eyes?

Is it bad to stare a dog in the eyes?

It can be bad to stare a dog in the eyes, especially if it is not yours. This behavior can scare them and tell them that you want a challenge. However, it all depends if it is a dog you have a connection with or if it is a stray dog. 

Why do dogs look away when you look at them?

Most dogs look away when you look at them to sign that they do not want a challenge. In canine language, a stare equals a threat, especially if it is not your dog. 

What does it mean when a dog stares you in the eyes?

If a dog stares you in the eyes, has a stiff posture, and seems aggressive, it is better not to hold the gaze and slowly back away. If the dog is relaxed and knows you, he probably wants to tell you he loves you. 

Do dogs like getting their paws rubbed?

Some dogs like getting their paws rubbed, while others may hate it! When rubbing your dog’s paws, make sure you are very gentle and that you also pay attention to its reaction. If he starts to growl or seems uncomfortable, stop touching its paws. 

Can a dog be mad at you?

A dog can be mad or upset because something happened, but he is not “mad at you.” Dogs do not feel emotions like humans do, and they also do not associate blame with emotions.

Do dogs like hugs?

Not all dogs like hugs. If dogs could choose, they would prefer a belly rub or a back scratch to a squeeze.


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