Eye contact between humans and their canine companions has long fascinated pet owners.
We’ve all seen instances of dogs appearing to connect with us just by looking into our eyes, but you might be wondering: do dogs actually like eye contact with humans?
In this post, we’ll explore the research on how dogs respond to the human gaze and whether or not it’s something that can bring the two species closer together.
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Do Dogs Like Eye Contact with Humans?
Dogs like to make eye contact with their humans when they have positive feelings, such as excitement and playfulness.
They also like to establish eye contact when trying to communicate their needs or desires, such as getting a snack or going for a walk.
But in some cases, dogs might feel threatened or intimidated by eye contact with a human.
This article will look deeper into the reasons why dogs like eye contact.
It will also detail some instances when dogs may not like it.
Read on to understand your wonderful canine companion.
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Why Do Dogs Like Eye Contact?
Dogs like eye contact because it is an effective mode of communication with their humans.
Hundreds of years of living with humans have shaped dogs’ behaviors, and they have learned that eye contact is a great way to convey their feelings or get what they want.
While most dogs can establish eye contact for communication, a study found that some dogs are more likely to do so even with strangers.
These dogs include:
- Short-headed dogs
- Younger dogs
- Playful dogs
- Visually cooperative dogs
Dogs establish eye contact for various reasons.
Let’s check out some of them:
Dogs Observe Their Humans
While there aren’t many studies to support whether dogs can read human emotions through eye contact, some researchers found that dogs can recognize their humans’ facial expressions, which plays an essential role in dog-human communication.
To observe their humans’ emotions, dogs stare at their eyes and faces.
Depending on how long the dog has been living with you and how deep your connection is, your dog will be able to tell how you feel and sympathize with you just from this visual connection.
The next time you try to hold your dog’s gaze, try to channel a positive mood and energy, and see how they respond.
A lively tail wag could tell you that your dog is receiving and throwing the same energy back at you!
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Dogs Establish Eye Contact To Get What They Want
The strong bond between a pet dog and its human sometimes makes verbal language unnecessary, as dogs can often understand body language and facial expressions.
As mentioned, dogs tend to observe their humans very carefully for visual communication cues.
Not only this but dogs also understand that their humans observe them.
A study found that dogs are likely to communicate when their humans are available for eye contact.
Dogs give humans visual cues through mutual and directional gaze, such as pointing toward food or toys using their gaze.
The effectiveness of this mode of communication results from the interaction and relationship dynamics between the dogs and their humans.
Once the dogs get what they want using this strategy, it will become a habit for them, and they will try to use it even when they communicate with strangers.
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Dogs Keep Eye Contact As They Wait for Commands
In the same way that dogs stare to observe our facial expressions and understand our emotions, they also keep eye contact as they wait for commands.
It’s a way for them to express their readiness and willingness to play or follow orders.
Dogs quickly get used to a routine with positive reinforcement training.
This training is good to help shape desirable behaviors in your dog and avoid aggression and bad mealtime or playtime habits.
After they formed a habit from the training, they would often watch out for verbal and non-verbal signals from their humans.
They would also stare steadily and wait until their humans met their gaze.
Otherwise, they might whimper or bark to get your attention.
It shows that dogs understand how important eye contact is for communication and that they won’t be able to play or communicate with you until you are staring at each other.
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Why Do Dogs Avoid Eye Contact Sometimes?
Although keeping eye contact with your dog can help you understand what they want to express, their apparent aversion to it can also tell you a lot of things.
Dogs avoid eye contact sometimes when they feel scared or anxious about doing something they know their humans would get mad about, such as breaking a vase or chewing on the pillows.
Younger dogs also avoid eye contact when facing older or stronger ones.
Let’s look at these reasons in greater detail:
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Dogs Avoid Eye Contact When They Are Scared or Anxious
There is not enough scientific evidence that can prove dogs feel guilt.
So when your playful dog avoids eye contact after breaking some valuables at home, it is most likely due to fear or anxiety.
As discussed, dogs recognize their humans’ emotions through eye contact. In addition, living with humans for a while makes it easier for dogs to understand what events would make their humans angry.
They avoid eye contact to avoid conflict. You may also notice them tucking their tails between their hind legs.
It is an indication that they feel scared or anxious.
While it’s human nature to get mad at such situations, it is best to compose yourself and avoid outbursts that would cause further anxiety to your dog.
Instead, you may trade a toy for the valuable item in their mouth and teach them ‘safe’ and ‘unsafe’ items for chewing using positive reinforcement.
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Eye Contact Between Dogs Can Be a Sign of Aggression
Although dogs don’t mind staring at their humans, maintaining eye contact with other dogs can be an entirely different thing.
Dogs may stare down at each other to establish dominance.
They may also keep eye contact in fear that they will be at the losing end if they look away.
That is why eye contact between strange dogs is often associated with aggression.
When two dogs become aggressive and attack each other after a stare-down, they may be challenging to break apart regardless of the commands your dogs may be accustomed to.
The key is to spread a blanket or any large piece of cloth between them to keep each other out of sight.
Younger dogs tend to look down or away from older or stronger dogs to avoid conflict.
However, this behavior largely depends on the dog breed and the humans’ manner of raising their dogs.
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Do Dogs Like Human Eye Contact? Some Final Notes
Dogs generally like maintaining eye contact with their owners. However, there are times when it makes them feel anxious.
Therefore, pet parents must observe other telltale signs that could help them understand when and why their dogs are behaving oddly.
Dogs also like establishing eye contact with the humans they trust.
If your dogs refuse to do so with you, you must check whether there is something you can do for your dogs to reassure them and make them feel safer around you.
That’s the end of this post looking at the question: do dogs like eye contact with humans?
Before you go, you might enjoy this short video with more advice about canine eye contact:
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Tim is a proud, vetted, and experienced dog foster carer for a charity helping dog owners escape domestic abuse.
He has years of experience training and caring for dogs, both his own and other people’s.
He is an expert in canine behavior and is highly skilled in dealing with all dogs but specializes in the difficult ones that other people may struggle with.
When he isn’t fostering dogs, he is making friends with other people’s pups!