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Why Does My Puppy Stare at Me?

by | Jan 14, 2022 | Dog Behavior

We all know it’s adorable when a puppy stares at us with those cute, wide eyes, but is there a meaning behind that steady gaze? According to pet behaviorists, there are several reasons why your purebred puppy or designer dog may be focusing on watching you or making prolonged eye contact.

Bonding with Your Puppy

Studies have shown that, just like humans gazing at each other, when dogs and humans stare at each other, it strengthens their bond. Think about how people in love look at each other and how a mother and infant bond while looking at each other. This same process happens when you and your puppy look at each other. It triggers the body’s release of oxytocin, a powerful hormone that enhances feelings of being close and connected. It seems instinctive for puppies, whether purebred or designer, to want to meet the gaze of their human family, but there are sometimes specific reasons that a dog stares at you.

To Get Your Attention

Like many toddlers, dogs of all ages crave the attention of their owners. If your dog is bored, restless, or just in need of some affection, they will stare at you to focus your attention on them. They may want you to play a bit with them, give them a few belly rubs, or cuddle them on your lap.

To Get Direction

Puppies look for cues from their owners. During training sessions or on long walks, you may notice that your puppy glances at you frequently for direction. They want to know what they should do next. Sit or stay? Go right or left? As your dog learns what they can and can’t do, they will look in your direction for guidance if they aren’t sure what the rules are or where they should be going.

To Fulfill a Need

Dogs who are housetrained will often stare at their owner when they need to go outside. Others stare when they see someone eating a particularly delicious-looking cheeseburger. Some dogs use staring to signal what they want, whether it’s a treat, a chance to go outside, or your spot on the sofa. Whether you give in to these soulful entreaties is up to you, but if your dog’s stare triggers guilt in you and you start giving more treats or table scraps, be aware that your puppy may have trained you rather than the other way around!

Empathy

Dogs are adept at reading their owners. They pick up cues from your tone of voice, mannerisms, actions, and more. There are countless reports of people whose pets know when they’re depressed, angry, and even when they are sick. If you aren’t feeling well or are stressed, your puppy’s stare may be a sign of support and empathy. They don’t want you to feel bad, so they stare to let you know they love you and want to help.

Aggression

There are situations when your dog staring may be a sign of dog aggression. It’s crucial to understand the difference between aggressive staring and other forms of staring in canines. Your dog will most likely never focus an aggressive stare on you because they love you and have bonded with you. However, you may run across other dogs who stare at you, approach them with caution, if at all. Dogs stare at perceived threats to warn the other dog or person to stay away from them. Look at the dog’s body language to gauge their aggressiveness. A stiff stance, raised fur on their neck or back, and bared teeth are all signs of aggression. Calmly walk away after breaking eye contact. Never stare down a strange dog.

Staring is one of the essential forms of communication between canines and humans. They can let you know they want to be fed, need to go out, or simply want your attention. Take the time to interpret and appropriately respond to their stares so that they are happy and well-adjusted.

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