Why Do Dogs Stare? Here Are a Few of the Reasons

published Feb 24, 2020
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There’s nothing cuter than seeing a dog stare lovingly at its human as they go for a walk. But is love really what’s on a dog’s mind when it stares that way? An article in Southern Living recently broke down some of the reasons why dogs stare, and it turns out they run the gamut from touching to pragmatic to worrisome.

First, the pragmatic: Your dog may be staring at you simply because it thinks you might have food to share, or because it wants attention, a walk, or cuddle time. Dogs who have been trained to watch you for cues may also be nervous that if they look away from you, they’ll miss an important cue and get in trouble or lose out on an opportunity for treats, according to dog trainer Cesar Milan.

Next, the worrisome: If your dog is staring not at you but vacantly into space and your dog happens to be older, this behavior may indicate a medical issue called canine cognitive dysfunction, which is similar to Alzheimer’s. If you think this might be the case, consult with your dog’s vet.

Last, the touching. Southern Living mentions a study about dog eye contact and bonding:

If your dog is making some serious eye contact, go ahead and stare back into your pup’s eyes. It’s a great way to bond as PetMD.com reports that Japanese researchers found that when dogs gaze into their owners’ eyes, the look activates the same hormonal bonding response as when a parent looks into their child’s eyes. It even sparks the release of oxytocin, the so-called love hormone, for both humans and canines. “The dogs experienced a 130% rise in oxytocin levels, and owners saw a 300% increase, the study reports,” writes PetMD.com.

So maybe your dog is just staring at you because it’s hoping for another snack. But if you meet its gaze, you may both feel the love.