Why Does My Dog Stare At Me?
June 25, 2023
Most often, your dog stares at you because they love you! Staring between dogs and humans releases oxytocin, which is generally known as the love hormone and is the chemical that is released when a new mother looks at her baby. It makes our dogs and us feel good!
It is good however, to understand the reasons behind the staring:
WATCHING FOR CUES
Our dogs are one of the few animals that are completely in tune with humans. Dogs are very observant and are always watching for cues for things that will affect them. Picking up the car keys might mean a drive to the dog park or opening a draw might mean food.
If your dog stares at you long enough, you might give them food, a treat, a reward or even your attention. This will then reinforce the staring behaviour. Ideally, we want our dogs to be looking for cues from us rather than making us feeling guilty. If you become aware of this behaviour, you can stop rewarding them at the wrong times
A dog that stares with unblinking eyes and a stiff posture might be doing something called resource guarding and is a throwback to their times in the wild. Staring can be threatening and can be used to warn off competitors for food. If this staring is combined with agressive behaviour, a visit to the vet or dog training is advised.
Getting your dog’s attention during training is one of the most important steps. If your dog isn’t looking at you, they aren’t paying attention. This is also an important command to redirect your dog’s attention when you are out at the park or in public with so many distractions.
The easiest way to teach a “Watch Me” cue is to lure the behavior from your dog. If you make it obvious where you want your dog to look, it won’t take long for them to catch on. Start these exercises in a quiet environment so you’re easily the most interesting thing in the room. The following steps will help you lure your dog’s eye contact:
- Hold a treat in front of your dog’s nose.
- Slowly bring the treat up between your eyes. Your dog should watch the treat and be staring at your forehead.
- Mark your dog’s behavior with a clicker, marker word like “Yes,” or praise, then give your dog the treat.
- Repeat the above steps but reward your dog with a treat from your other hand instead.
- Repeat steps 1 to 3 with an empty hand, but still reward your dog with a treat when they make eye contact. It can help if you stink up your fingers first by rubbing them with a treat. You’ve now taught a hand signal for “Watch Me.”
- When your dog is reliably following the hand signal, start saying your verbal cue like “Watch Me” or “Look” before you move your hand.