When your dog stands and stares at nothing, it can be a little unnerving. So why do dogs stare? Oftentimes when our dog is staring at us, it’s because there is food in our hands. But other times, they seem to stare off into space. As much as we wish our furry friends could tell us what’s going on, they simply aren’t able to. So today we’re getting into the minds of dogs. We put together a list of reasons why your dog might stare at you, their surroundings, or nothing, so you and your pet can be on the same page. 

5 Reasons Dogs Stare (Especially at Nothing)

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. But when your dog is staring at nothing, this might be a sign of anxiety or pain, or potentially be a signal of dementia. 

1. 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 with their owner.  

2. Communicating

Staring is sometimes 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, however, is your dog’s way of communicating that they feel threatened or protective. 

3. Gathering Information

Passed down from their wolf ancestors, dogs instinctually stare to gather information about their surroundings and other animals. This is what makes dogs so amazing and allows them to have important jobs 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 instinctual behavior into a learned response that they can perform on command. 

4. Anxiety or Pain

If your dog starts to just stand and stare at nothing, or gets a glazed-over look in their eyes, it could be a sign that your dog is in pain. Dogs communicate their pain very quietly but effectively through body language. When they are seemingly staring at nothing but looking out the door or into a room where a loved one usually is, this may be a sign that your dog is experiencing anxiety. 

5. 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 (CCD), or dementia. Staring paired with symptoms like trembling, wandering, not responding to their own name, or house soiling may be indicate that your dog is experiencing CCD. 

When Should I See a Vet About Staring?

If you are at all concerned that your dog’s staring might be a sign of anxiety, pain, or that they are also experiencing symptoms consistent with CCD, please consult a veterinarian as soon as possible. An examination will ensure that you and your pet are on the same page, and identify and health issues responsible for your dog’s unusual behavior. Treating pet pain at home without first consulting a vet is not recommended. 

Contact us today!

If you have any questions or concerns about your dog’s behavior, please don’t hesitate to call Anasazi Animal Clinic in Gilbert. We’re here to help you better understand 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!


Photo by fatty corgi on Unsplash