It’s tough living with a dog because they can’t speak, so you don’t understand why they do certain things. This article will talk about dogs and eye contact.
A lot of dogs don’t look you in the eye, and there’s a lot of reasons why this is the case. Let’s answer this question and tell you everything you need to know about dogs and eye contact.
Why Don’t Dogs Look You in The Eye
Dogs don’t look you in the eye because it’s a sign of aggression used in the wild. Typically eye contact is seen as a challenge or threat from another animal.
It’s perfectly normal for a dog that loves you to look you in the eyes. The simple fact is that eye contact varies so much from dog to dog. In the following paragraphs, I’m going to be speaking in general terms. It’s important to understand your dog and who they are before you can understand what eye contact means to them.
A lot of people reading this article might have just adopted a dog. The best course of action for you is to go slow and take your time. Remember that eye contact can be seen as a confrontational thing. You want to avoid this with a new dog in your home.
As you both learn each other, realize that their evolution leads them to avoid eye contact unless a fight is desired.
For scared dogs, eye contact means that you’re going to hurt them. In the wild, animals will sustain eye contact to communicate that they want to fight. A scared dog won’t want to fight, so when you look in their eyes, then they start to cower in order to avoid a fight.
The truth behind eye contact in dogs comes from evolution and biology. You’ll see similar behavior if you watch animal documentaries and see how animals act in the wild.
What if My Dog Looks me in the Eyes?
If your dog looks you in the eyes, it doesn’t mean that they’re looking to fight or challenge you. As dogs get socialized, they start doing things that humans do. They lose the behavior that they use in the wild, and they start showing new behavior.
If your dog looks you in the eye, look for other behavioral shifts. If their tail is wagging, then there’s nothing wrong.
If they are bent down in a playing position, again, there’s nothing to worry about.
However, if their body gets stiff, then you have to be careful. Do they look scared or angry? Either of these options could result in a problem, so it’s always best to defuse the situation. Avert your gaze and turn your head to the side until they calm down.
When they’re calm, you can leave the room or go about your business. Don’t rush them into eye contact. They have to learn it at their own pace.
That’s not to say that dogs can’t be taught how to maintain eye contact with you. After all, we use eye contact to show that we love someone. Let’s learn how to teach your dog how to look in your eyes.
How to Teach My Dog to Look Me in the Eyes
This is one of those things that isn’t easy to teach. It goes directly against the dog’s ingrained biology.
As a dog gets more comfortable around you and becomes more socialized, they’ll be more likely to sustain eye contact with you. Until then, you can’t rush things or force anything.
Some dogs will never hold eye contact because of their breed, their history, and their temperament. It has nothing to do with you as an owner. It has everything to do with the dog itself.
Don’t take it personally if a dog averts eye contact or looks scared when you look in its eyes. It’s a scary thing in the dog world. If your dog ever acts aggressively when you make eye contact, then it’s time to get a professional involved. It could be dangerous to try to teach a dog like this.
The best time to teach your dog how to hold eye contact is when they’re a puppy. You can tell your puppy, “look at me” while you look at their eyes and point to your eyes.
The best way to teach them is to put them on a leash and have plenty of treats ready. Give them the command, and when they look at your eyes, give them a treat and reward them. If it’s hard for them to look you in your eyes, hold the treat near your eyes so they’ll look at the treat. If they look at you, praise them.
This is your way of teaching your dog that looking in your eyes is a good thing. It makes them more comfortable as they hold eye contact with you, and it overwrites their genetic predisposition to avoid eye contact.
What Does Eye Contact Mean to a Dog?
In a lot of dogs, eye contact means that you’re aggressive. Some dogs might perceive it as an attack or that you’re trying to be the dominant one.
Remember, dogs started out as pack animals. In the pack, there is an alpha that runs the show. If someone wants to challenge the alpha, they’ll start with sustaining eye contact.
This lets the alpha know that they want to fight for the position. Over the years, this piece of biology and evolution has stayed in the back of some dog’s brains. Dogs might think that you’re looking to challenge them when you look in their eyes.
The other thing to realize is how much larger we are than dogs. If you’re standing over a dog and looking in their eyes, they might get really scared. They won’t think you’re challenging them. They’ll think you’re intimidating them.
Dogs that are more nervous will get terrified in this instance and cower from you. It’s a good idea to approach these dogs while crouching and trying to get down to their level. This will take the size discrepancy out of the equation, at least.
Eye Contact with Dogs you don’t Know
If you don’t know a dog, you shouldn’t look in their eyes. For example, if you’re on a walk and see a dog, it’s unwise to sustain eye contact.
They might already view strangers as threats. With the addition of eye contact, they might get scared that you’re trying to take over their home and their space. They might lash out and get really angry.
If a dog is staring at your eyes, you should avert your gaze and turn your head to the side. This is your way of telling the dog that you’re not looking for trouble, and you don’t want to fight. It will make them feel more comfortable and can avoid a sticky situation.
When to Use Eye Contact with Dogs
Though there are some times when it’s a good idea to use eye contact with dogs, if a dog you don’t know is approaching you, you might use eye contact to stop the situation.
For example, if you’re walking and a dog is approaching you from behind, they might be gearing up for an attack. Perhaps they tried eye contact previously, and you turned your head to the side. At any rate, they might be looking to show their dominance.
In this case, turn around and stare at the dog in the eyes. It shows them that you are not going to give up if they try to fight or claim their territory. This is when your size advantage also comes in handy.
They should take the cue and back down. If not, then you can turn around and walk away. If they try it again, then face the dog and make eye contact and show your teeth.
In the animal kingdom, showing teeth and eye contact is a clear indicator that an animal is ready to stand their ground.
If all else fails, you might have to pick up a stick or stone to scare the dogs away. If a pack of dogs is approaching you, stare at the one in the front. They are the leading member and the alpha of the pack. If you can scare them away, then the rest will follow.
This is an example of when eye contact can be used for a good thing to protect yourself from dogs. Understanding their body language is the first step in understanding what they’re trying to do and how to tell them your intentions.