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Why is my dog staring at me?

Excited dog outside licks lips

Do you ever feel like you’re being watched? We love the companionship of our pets, but it can be disconcerting when your dog stares at you all the time. 

How can you tell the reason behind your dog’s staring? Is this behavior normal, or should you be concerned? 

Table of contents 

Possible reasons your dog is staring at you 

Because we don’t speak the same language as our dogs, nonverbal cues like eye contact and body language are very important in helping us communicate with each other. According to professional dog trainer Stephanie Gibeault, most dog staring is a combination of affection and attention. Here are some of the reasons your dog may be fixing their gaze on you: 

They are reading you 

Dogs are incredibly in tune with humans, particularly their owners. They can sense our moods and follow our pointing gestures. Most dogs are also curious about the people and world around them and learn by observing. They often turn to their people as sources of knowledge. 

If you notice your dog staring at you, they may be trying to gain information about what you are doing or how you are feeling. Eye contact can also help tell them what you want from them, and other important insights about their environment. 

They need to tell you something 

Staring often occurs when your dog is trying to get your attention or tell you something. As their caregivers, our dogs depend on us for pretty much everything. Your pup may need to go to the bathroom, want you to throw their ball, or they’re hungry. 

Direct eye contact can be hard to ignore, and dogs quickly learn that staring at us is an acceptable way to ask us for something. They usually get what they want from staring, and they are not likely to be scolded for staring like they are for more disruptive behavior like barking or whining. 

They are expressing emotions 

Just like humans, dogs use eye contact to express emotion. Research has found that when we gaze lovingly into our dogs’ eyes, they both understand and return the affection. Dogs and humans both release oxytocin, a feel-good hormone, when they look into each other’s eyes. So, if your dog is staring at you with soft, puppy dog eyes, you may be right to think they’re saying, “I love you.” 

However, your dog may be staring at you to communicate negative emotions. A “hard stare” is typically accompanied by a stiff tail, tense posture, and dilated pupils. Your dog may be trying to express that they are fearful, stressed, or uncomfortable. 

According to veterinarian Dr. Patty Khuly, dogs are more likely to stare down strangers and unfamiliar dogs, but your dog may give you a bad look if they are resource guarding. You should consult a professional dog trainer or behaviorist if your dog is showing signs of aggression or resource guarding. It is also important to not stare at new dogs, as direct eye contact can come across as threatening. 

They are experiencing cognitive decline 

As dogs age, they may exhibit signs of cognitive decline. Pacing, panting, and staring, in addition to other behavior changes, are all common in senior dogs with declining cognitive function. 

You may also notice that your dog’s sleep schedule is erratic. Sleeping more during the day, coupled with restlessness and agitation at night, may mean your dog is experiencing sundowning. Typically, these behaviors occur in the evening, and your dog may otherwise behave quite normally during the day. 

Senior dogs suffering from cognitive decline often experience new or heightened stress. In addition to appearing restless, they may also be more irritated by things that never used to bother them. Take note of any behavior changes in your senior dog, as this may signal cognitive decline. 

How can ElleVet CBD + CBDA offer support for cognitive decline? 

ElleVet’s CBD + CBDA is extremely effective in providing dogs support for cognitive function and both situational and general stress. If you are noticing atypical staring, pacing, panting or any other behaviors that might signal a mental decline in your aging pup, ElleVet’s CBD + CBDA products can help address these imbalances and offer cognitive support, which is so important for maintaining the best possible quality of life. 

ElleVet’s CBD + CBDA chews, soft gels, and oils can also help your dog have a comfortable and calm sleep through the night and help them manage their stress levels so they feel less agitated. In addressing your dog’s short-term and or long-term stress, ElleVet’s CBD + CBDA can lead to improved overall well-being. 

If you suspect your dog is staring at you due to cognitive decline, you should consult your veterinarian. For any questions about ElleVet’s CBD + CBDA products or how CBD can help your canine friend live their best life, give us a call (844-673-7287) or send us an email ([email protected]). We are here to help. 

What about head tilting? 

What about that cute head tilt your dog sometimes gives you? They look right at you while you are speaking to them, and they tilt their head from one side to another as if they are confused. 

According to experts from VCA Animal Hospitals, your dog does this to indicate that they are concentrated, engaged, and interested in what you are trying to say to them. But this also means that they haven’t figured out what you want, and they are waiting for more clarification. 

If your dog gives you a head tilt while they are staring at you, you may need to try a different way of communicating to them what you want. The good news is that you have their attention! 

Finding the cause of your dog’s staring 

When trying to determine why your dog is staring at you, context is key. What are you doing when your dog stares at you and when are you doing it? 

Dogs are very sensitive to schedules. They may start looking at you as soon as the clock strikes dinnertime. Or they know that you take a break after Zoom calls to give them attention, so staring starts in the middle of all your meetings. Take note of your own behavior to figure out why your dog is looking at you. 

Did you train your dog to stare at you? 

Dog parents often unintentionally train their dogs to perform certain behaviors by rewarding them. Staring can be hard to ignore so it is a useful tool for dogs to use to get what they want. In the case of dogs who beg for human food, their staring has probably been rewarded in the past with a table scrap, so the reinforced behavior sticks. If your dog is staring at you all the time, have you trained them to do so? 

How can you get them to stop? 

Your dog staring at you is not necessarily a “bad” behavior that needs to be addressed. In fact, your dog is likely trying to communicate something important to you. However, it can make you uncomfortable and we all need some privacy now and then. So, how do you get your dog to stop staring at you? 

If all your dog’s needs are met (i.e., bathroom, water, food, exercise) but the staring continues, help your dog learn how to relax in a separate space. Provide a long-lasting bone or a peanut butter filled Kong to keep them occupied, or a puzzle toy to keep them mentally stimulated and not dependent on you for entertainment. Reward your dog for doing something other than staring at you, like going to find a toy or laying down in their bed for some quiet time. But gazing into your dog’s loving eyes is a beautiful thing, so don’t forget to enjoy the experience, and reciprocate!