Why Does My Dog Stare at Me?

Dr. Joe Alcorn, M.S., D.V.M.

Dr. Joe Alcorn is founder of Care Animal Hospital in Temecula, California. He has a Bachelor of Science in Biology and Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Colorado State University. He is a member of the American Veterinary Medical Association and his advice has been featured in large publications like Bustle and Martha Steward.

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From an icy glare to soft puppy eyes; have you had those moments when you wonder: why does my dog stare at me? If you’re looking for explanations, I’m going to decipher why dogs make eye contact with you and the possible reasons behind those stares.

Why Does My Dog Stare at Me?

Your dog stares at you for several reasons, mainly to read body language and communicate. When dogs make eye contact, it also means getting attention or even manipulation. Aside from showing emotions like affection, fear, and pain, gazing can come from cognitive problems.

As the saying goes, the eyes are the window to the soul. It may seem unnerving or worrying at times, yet staring is one way for dogs to communicate. This is why it’s essential to learn the reasons behind dog staring and the possible message underneath it.

White dog staring at its owner

Dogs Stare to Read Your Body Language

Dogs are extremely intelligent, as they can sense a person’s moods and understand gestures. This means that your dog may stare or lean at you if it wants to learn something about you. It depends on your nonverbal cues, sound, and movement.

For example, your dog stares at you to wait for signals, whether it’s time to play, eat, or go potty. Like in the training stage, your pet is waiting for you to tell them what to do next.

This also applies when you join performance competitions. Your dog will make intense eye contact to get in tune with your cues and position. Thus, you can take advantage of that gazing to avoid distractions in obedience training.

Dogs Make Eye Contact to Communicate

Another reason your dog is staring at you is that it’s trying to communicate feelings and send a message. Like humans, dogs also stare to express both positive and negative emotions.

  • Affection: Eye contact in dogs is a powerful communication method, especially if it’s conveying love, affection, and gratification. When your pet stares at you, the interaction releases oxytocin, commonly known as the love hormone. In effect, your dog forms a hormonal bonding that etches trust to communicate emotions effectively.
  • Confusion: If your dog is staring at you and can’t seem to move, this means it’s trying to get every single cue from your movements. In some cases, it means waiting for the right time to come to you or do something about the situation. 
  • Curiosity: Have you noticed that adorable soft stare, tilted head, and upright ears? That’s a dog’s way of showing curiosity or fascination.
  • Lack of trust: Dogs feeling this negative emotion would have tucked tails, pulled-back ears, and staring with watery eyes. This normally occurs in foster dogs and newly adopted pets.
  • Aggressiveness: When your dog is shooting eye daggers, try to back away as this means your pet is sensing a threat. This may also come with unblinking eyes and stiff posture, which generally happen when you try to invade a space or object your pet is protecting.
  • Tense: This is another form of hard stare that lasts for a few seconds. It typically happens when a dog intends to bite something. If you’re trying to touch your dog or put away toys, your pet may make a tense stare to say that it doesn’t like what you’re doing.

Dogs Gaze to Get Attention

When your dog is gazing at you, one reason could be asking for awareness or help. For instance, your dog may be in a new environment, and it’s trying to get your attention so you can help find a spot for a potty.

A long-coated dog staring directly

In some cases, staring is just a simple way for dogs to yearn for time, particularly when you arrive home from work. It’s their way of telling you to rub their belly or take them out on a walk.

Aside from that, your dog may be making eye contact because it’s trying to make you do something. This is almost like when dogs beg for food at the dinner table. When you’re eating, your dog may gawk at you as a sign of a desire for food.

Staring Due to Cognitive Problems

If your senior dog constantly gazes at you for no apparent reason, this could be a sign of Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome. When you notice that your pet stares at you while being disoriented or forgetting basic commands, your canine friend may be suffering from cognitive decline.

There’s an estimated 14.2% prevalence rate of cognitive dysfunction among dogs. However, only 1.9% of cases are diagnosed because owners think this is expected behavior due to aging.

How to Stop Your Dog from Staring at You

Pet staring isn’t necessarily a medical problem, yet it can be awkward at times. To stop your dog from doing so, try to catch this behavior early on so that it won’t become a habit. 

The simplest way to do this is to interrupt the behavior by petting or using special treats and toys. You don’t have to get mad or punish your pet for gazing; it’s enough that you shift the behavior in a calm and positive manner.

In one study, 85% of dogs have behavioral problems. If your dog’s stares become troublesome and affect your dog’s behavior, consider consulting a behaviorist or professional trainer. 

Related Questions

Why Is My Dog Growling at Me?

Similar to staring, growling is another way for dogs to communicate. There are many reasons your dog would growl at you, including fear, aggression, and pain. In some cases, dogs growl to get your attention and warn you of harm.

Why Does My Dog Follow Me All the Time?

Dogs follow their owners because of companionship and trust. Your pet may be following you everywhere because it needs attention, direction, or some form of reward.


Your dog may stare at you to understand human actions so it can respond accordingly. Dogs also make eye contact to communicate and convey emotions. If you notice unusual behavior along with gazing, it may be a sign of a cognitive issue I can help you with.