Why Does My Dog Stare at Me?

Published Jun. 21, 2024
brown and white senior dog looking at the camera

Adobe Stock/Holly Michele

Do you ever get that feeling you’re being watched, and you look up to find your dog staring at you? Why do dogs stare at you?

Eye contact is part of normal communication in dogs, but is the way they’re looking at you normal? Here’s what to know about why dogs stare.

Why Does My Dog Always Stare at Me?

There are many reasons why a dog might stare at you. For example, some dogs stare to solicit attention or food. Others may do it and then follow up with a play bow (or downward dog) to entice you to play.

Your Dog Wants Something

Dogs have learned that making eye contact will get their pet parent’s attention. At certain times of the day or in certain circumstances, they use their stare to convey certain information.

For example, around dinner time, many dogs may try to catch your eye to remind you to feed them. Dogs may also stare and paw at you to remind you to take them out for a potty break.

Your Dog Loves You

If your staring dog just cannot keep their eyes off you, this may indicate affection and show how important you are to them. They want eyes on you at all times.

Some dogs with separation anxiety will constantly stare at their pet parents because they’re worried you’ll sneak out and leave them home alone.

It’s a Sign of Aggression

In the animal world, a direct hard stare is not a good sign. This is usually an indication that the dog is uncomfortable and wants you to move away or stop doing whatever you’re doing at that moment.

You might be standing too close to the dog, making them feel trapped. Or maybe the dog is guarding a precious treat and is afraid you’ll take it away.

Some dogs stare and stiffen when strangers approach them and make direct eye contact, which the dog may perceive as a threat. It’s the same as if a stranger walked up to you with a hard stare—most people would feel uncomfortable and potentially scared. 

Your Dog Is Reading You

Some dogs are attentive and like to constantly check in on their pet parents. They may examine what you’re doing simply out of curiosity, or to see if you’re going to offer them a tasty snack or an afternoon walk

Some dogs are in tune with their pet parents’ body language. They may ask for attention from you when you’re relaxed and avoid you when you appear tense and angry. Some dogs may also try to approach and provide comfort when you appear sad or upset.

Your Dog Is Trying To Tell You Something

Eye contact is definitely a form of communication that dogs use with humans. Some dogs stare to attract your attention and then follow up with further communication, such as a play bow or walking over to where their leash is kept.

How To Tell Why Your Dog Is Staring

When you catch your dog staring at you, examine your body language and the situation you are in.

Is the dog staring at you because you inadvertently picked up their special toy and they want you to drop it or toss it for them to chase? Or did you walk next to their treat jar, and they are hoping you will give them a snack?

Also pay attention to the time of day—is it almost mealtime and your dog is letting you know they’re waiting for their dinner?

How Should You Respond to a Staring Dog?

If a dog stares at you, stop what you’re doing and don’t make direct eye contact. After a few seconds, take a look at them and analyze the dog’s body language.

Take an overall look at the dog’s stance, ear position, tail position, and facial expression to determine if you should interact with the dog or leave to a safe space:

  • Is the dog standing tall and stiff, or does the dog have a loose body posture?

  • Is the tail loose or hanging down or tucked under the dog’s body?

  • Are the ears forward and erect or pulled to the side or completely flat on their head?

Dogs with a tense body posture, stiff tail hanging down, and ears pulled to the side or flat on their head do not want to interact. The hard stare is a clear sign that you should back away and give the dog space.

If the dog has a loose body language and facial expression with a loose, wagging tail, then you can call the dog over to interact. Always allow the dog to make the first move.

If you’re ever concerned about a dog’s stare, you’re never wrong to look away and slowly back away while facing the dog. If the dog was uncomfortable and you move away, you should see a relaxation in their body language.

Dogs can be very communicative with their eyes. It’s up to the pet parent to decipher what message the staring dog is trying to say.

Wailani Sung, MS, PhD, DVM, DACVB


Wailani Sung, MS, PhD, DVM, DACVB


Dr. Wailani Sung has a passion for helping owners prevent or effectively manage behavior problems in companion animals, enabling them to...

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