What does it mean if your dog won’t stop staring at you? If you’re eating, well, the answer is pretty obvious. Dogs love food and are always down for a treat. Or your dog could be making eye contact with you because he wants another kind of reward. Maybe it’s going for a walk or playing a game of tug. It could be even simpler than that — your pup may just want some basic affection, like a kiss or belly rub. Veterinarian Dr. Patty Khuly offers even more reasons why a dog might stare: “There’s the possibility that a dog is simply seeking attention in any form or perhaps she’s merely waiting for praise or direction. Some dogs may just be trying to read an emotion in our human facial expressions.”
If you have a dog who stares at you often, it might surprise you to learn that eye contact isn’t a natural behavior for dogs. In the canine world, prolonged eye contact can actually be considered a challenge or threat. According to trainer Mikkel Becker, many dogs will turn their heads to the side to avoid making eye contact. It’s an appeasement gesture that dogs do to defuse potential conflict or a fight. So why, if dogs usually treat eye contact with their own kind as a threat, do they stare at us humans so much? Becker says it’s probably because they’ve learned it leads to positive rewards like food and affection.