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The Real Reason Your Dog Is Staring Into Your Eyes

Sometimes you glance up and your dog is staring intently into your eyes. It is as if your dog has something to say to you. Studies indicate that canine species communicate with each other by gazing. Dogs specifically seemed to have evolved to look at humans’ faces even more than socialized wolf counterparts.1

I understand you. Do you understand me?

Perhaps your dog not only has something to say to you, but feels that he is also gaining information from you by looking. Dogs are naturally attuned to non-verbal communication. Maybe she is using your expression to help her decide how she should react to something as well as sharing with you how she feels about it. Her gaze is telling you something while her eyes are also reading your cues.


Watch me, Watch me.

Another study compared dogs and human toddlers to see what they would do when presented with an unsolvable task, looking for the audience effect.2 The canine subjects would habitually look to their human handlers when they recognized the insolvability of a task to see if the human would indicate a clue or maybe just to see if they were watching. Your dog could be staring into your eyes to assure that you are tuned into her. She can reaffirm her link to you and it provides social stability to her.

Something good is coming.

Our dogs definitely know that we represent resources for them. They are always on the alert for an opportunity to obtain the resources. He probably knows the look on your face and eyes when you are about to indulge him and he wants to be ready.

It is imperative to know that some dogs possess an aggressive stare, so be sure to consider the other body language cues from a staring dog to stay safe.

Of course, the reason your dog is staring into your eyes is somewhat dependent on your specific dog. Whatever the exact reason for your dog’s stare, if you were not important to him, he would not bother.

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  1. A simple reason for a big difference: wolves do not look back at humans, but dogs do. Curr Biol. 2003 Apr 29;13(9):763-6. Miklósi A, Kubinyi E, Topál J, Gácsi M, Virányi Z, Csányi V.
  2. Gaze alternation in dogs and toddlers in an unsolvable task: evidence of an audience effect. Anim Cogn. 2013 Nov;16(6):933-43. doi: 10.1007/s10071-013-0627-x. Epub 2013 Mar 30. Marshall-Pescini S, Colombo E, Passalacqua C, Merola I, Prato-Previde E.

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Written by Dr. Kathryn Primm
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