Why do dogs stare? What does it mean if your dog is staring at nothing? Oftentimes when our dog is staring at us, it’s because there is food in our hands. But, why do they sometimes seemingly stare off into space? As much as we wish they could tell us what’s going on, they aren’t able to. Our team here at Anasazi Animal Clinic in Gilbert has put together a list of reasons dogs might stare so you and your pet can be on the same page.
Why do dogs stare?
Dogs staring at nothing, at an object, or into your eyes all have different meanings. Similar to humans, dogs can stare to interact with you, gather information, or communicate an idea. These types of staring can be interpreted by the context in which they happen. When your dog is staring at nothing, this might be a sign of anxiety or pain, or potentially be a signaling of dementia.
Bonding—Dogs and humans have a special bond that coined the phrase, ‘man’s best friend.’ This direct eye-to-eye contact when exhibited in a loving and relaxed setting can help a dog bond to their owner.
Communicating—Staring could be a way for your dog to communicate their needs. They might be waiting on you to take them for a walk, to the bathroom, or feed them. Staring with defensive body language is your dog communicating that they feel threatened or protective.
Gathering information—Passed down from their wolf ancestors, dogs stare to gather information. This is what makes dogs so amazing and allows them to have jobs such as service animals, police dogs, and hunters. If that behavior is wanted, owners can use positive reinforcement along with a phrase such as “look at me.” This will turn that behavior into a learned response that they can perform on command.
Anxiety or Pain—Staring at nothing or having a glazed-over look in their eyes could be a sign that your dog is in pain. Dogs communicate their pain quietly but effectively through body language. When they are staring out the door or into a room where a loved one usually is, this may be a sign that your dog is experiencing anxiety.
Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD / Dog Dementia)—If your dog is staring at nothing and it looks to be related to disorientation or spacial awareness difficulties, this could be a sign that your dog is experiencing canine cognitive dysfunction, or dementia. Staring paired with symptoms like trembling, wandering, not responding to their own name, or house soiling may be an indicator that your dog is experiencing CCD.
When should I see a vet?
If you are at all concerned that your dog’s staring might be a sign of anxiety, pain, or they are also experiencing symptoms consistent with CCD, please consult a veterinarian. An examination will ensure that you and your pet are on the same page. Treating pet pain without first consulting a vet is not recommended.
Contact us today!
Please don’t hesitate to call Anasazi Animal Clinic in Gilbert by contacting us. We’d love to discuss your pet’s changes in behavior, training tricks, or anxiety levels. Providing you with compassionate pet care to ensure your pet is as happy and healthy as possible is our passion!