You look at your dog oh so lovingly.
You think of how lucky you are with them.
Because they’re just the cutest.
Arf! Arf! Arf!
You get a lot of barks as a response.
“Why? Is it bad to stare?”
In this article, you’ll learn:
- If it’s bad to stare at your dog.
- 10 most common reasons why they bark when you stare.
- Why your dog reacts as such when you look at them intently.
- And much much more…
Table of contents
- Why do dogs bark when you stare at them?
- Top 10 reasons why dogs bark when you stare at them
Why do dogs bark when you stare at them?
Dogs bark when you stare at them because they think they’re being challenged. Oftentimes, it makes them feel nervous, scared, and protective. But it could also be because they don’t like being stared at, or the opposite, because they want something from you or they want to play with you.
Top 10 reasons why dogs bark when you stare at them
#1: They think they’re being challenged
As you’re sitting on your couch, your dog catches your attention.
They’re currently occupied with their tiny ball toy.
So you watch them being fascinated.
Then, they catch you staring.
And off they bark.
“Why does my staring always get a bark in return?”
Well, because for them, staring (even if it’s from you) is similar to “I’m challenging you.”
According to ASPCA, if your dog suddenly becomes aggressive, their barking is usually accompanied by the following behaviors:
- Becoming rigid.
- Showing their teeth.
- Snapping and snarling.
These signs are usually followed by your dog coming closer.
Be careful then because the next reaction usually includes biting.
#2: They’re nervous
Isn’t it when someone stares at you, a stranger or even someone you know, you’ll wonder what’s happening?
Different emotions come into play then.
And after that, when the staring doesn’t stop, you suddenly become anxious.
“Is there something wrong?”
Your dog is probably thinking the same.
They could be wondering if you’re staring at them because they did something wrong.
And then they become nervous.
And since they can’t talk, they bark instead.
It’s like asking you, “Hey hooman, what did I do?”
Below are the telltale signs that your staring just made your dog nervous.
Physical signs that your dog is nervous:
- Licks lips.
- Flattens ears.
- Avoids eye contact.
- Tucks tail in between legs.
To add to that, study shows that they do the following when they’re anxious and nervous, too:
- Being too vocal.
- Being destructive.
- Uncontrolled trembling.
- Excessive whining and barking.
- Peeing and pooping in undesirable places.
So, if you’re not ready to train your dog first to eliminate their nervousness, avoid staring at them for a while, even if it’s so tempting to do so.
Check out this article: My Dog Never Wags His Tail: 9 Surprising Reasons + 3 Tips
#3: They’re being protective
Have you been unintentionally staring at your dog while they’re eating? Or maybe while they’re busy playing with their favorite toy?
Dogs can be as loyal to you, but also to their food, toys, and other things they consider important.
But being too protective might do more harm than good.
Especially if they start showing signs of aggression while protecting what they have.
According to AKC, simply put resource guarding as, “don’t disturb your dog while eating or being occupied with a toy,”
Because you’ll never know how they will react (and you might not like it).
If you notice the following signs from your dog, it might be time to back off:
- Being alert.
- Eating fast.
- Staring intently.
- Barking/ growling.
- Showing their teeth.
- Stiffening of their posture.
- Lunging and biting (worst).
- Running away with the item.
- Securing the item (with their body and paws).
#4: They feel scared
Did your dog come from a different family before you started taking care of them? Or were they a rescue from a shelter or a breeder?
If yes, then there’s a possibility that you just reminded them of their dark past when you stared at them.
So, they bark in an attempt to protect themselves.
It’s also possible that your dog has posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) caused by the trauma and abuse they experienced before.
Maybe their previous family used to stare first before yelling or hitting them.
Other possible causes of PTSD:
- Being involved in a dog fight.
- Being involved in an accident.
- The sudden death of a family member.
- Close encounter with natural disasters.
- Being left and abandoned in the woods.
But it’s already a good start to stop doing things that you believe cause fear to your pooch even if you don’t know the real reason behind it yet.
Desensitization and counter-conditioning are two things you can try with your scared pooch.
Accompany these with tons of patience and lots of love and they’ll eventually see you as someone who they can be safe with.
Note: Try your best to find out your canine’s history, so the vet can give them the appropriate treatment.
You may also wonder: Why does my dog grunt when I hug him?
#5: Simply doesn’t like being stared at
“Stop it, hooman.”
“What are you staring at?”
Your dog just hates being stared at.
Sometimes the reason could be as simple as that.
It’s just like when your sibling is staring at you without saying a word.
It gets annoying eventually.
Because you don’t know what’s on their mind.
Consider your dog’s bark as saying “What?!” in human language.
But since dogs communicate through body language, their bark is their way of telling you to stop.
Other signs that show that your dog is uninterested and uncomfortable are:
- Licking of lips.
- Looking away.
- Leaving the room.
Look at how this dog responded when someone was staring at them:
#6: One of you needs something from the other
If you have a socialized dog, then they’re not gonna be afraid of your staring.
In fact, they’ll interpret staring as either one of these..
“Hooman, I’m hungry. Please look at me.” (and feed me)
This is when you decided to stare at them and they’re already looking back. And they bark to let you know that.
“Yes, hooman? Do you have treats for me?”
So, they wag their tail and maintain eye contact, while waiting for their favorite treat.
If you want this kind of reaction from your pooch but you get the opposite in return, then maybe it’s time to train them to be more sociable.
It’s highly advisable to start ‘em young but it’s never too late to try these to your adult dog.
Start inviting people over
You can start by inviting a friend to your house.
Too much will make your dog feel anxious instead of safe.
Do not let them approach your pooch, instead, let them approach your friend first.
And don’t forget your treats because then they’ll associate your friend as someone with whom they have a good “treat”-lationship with.
Then maybe, if they’ve already accepted friend #1, try adding friend #2 next time and so on.
Take them on a walk every day
During walks, your pooch will encounter new things every day and it’s important that they get exposed to these.
New views, different sounds, varying smells and tons of human faces.
Being with your dog outside will give them the feeling of safety.
But you can also take the time to keep them away from events or situations that cause them stress while out there.
Slowly make them observe a dog park from afar
It’s never advisable to rush into things when you’re dealing with a socialization-beginner pooch.
So don’t take them directly to dog parks.
They won’t ever want to come back.
Instead, make them be an observer first by walking just a few meters from it.
Then if you think your dog is adjusting, you can slowly work from there.
Be mindful of your behavior too
Dogs imitate their fur parents’ actions. They can feel your emotions, too.
So, you must always be mindful because if you’re stressed, they feel the same way too.
Use a calm and reassuring tone of voice towards them to ease their anxiety every time they receive stares, not only from you but from others too.
#7: They want to play
This one is still similar to #6 and is likely applicable when your dog is socialized.
Your dog’s barking when they catch you staring at them is actually a call to play.
There are 3 common doggy body language that’ll show you it’s what they want.
The following are:
The play bow pose
If this is your pooch’s way, they’d drop the upper half of their body on the ground, front paws in front of them (extended).
Their head and chest are lowered as well while their butt and tail are pushed up.
Imagine humans doing yoga and making the downward dog pose, that’s somewhat similar.
The belly pose
You must be familiar with this already.
It’s when your dog rolls over and exposes their belly.
While waiting for your warm and gentle rub.
And of course, you’ll give them some.
The leaning pose
This can be a crucial post because minimal changes could mean that your dog is already aggressive instead of playful.
Below are the signs you should look for if they want to play:
- Lips are sealed.
- Head is upright.
- Ears are perked up.
- Body is leaning forward.
- Tail is wagging in a horizontal manner.
- Eyes are fixed (on an object or a person).
If for example, their tail is vertical instead, be careful because it means they’re starting to become aggressive.
Reading tip: Why does my dog bring me toys?
#8: Approaching old age
Dogs also experience being forgetful (in general), in other words, canine dementia or canine cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CDS).
As your dog is aging, they’re probably barking because they don’t recognize you anymore or they don’t know what’s going on.
According to WebMD, symptoms of this syndrome start at the age of 9.
Vets use the acronym DISHA to easily diagnose dementia in dogs.
- Interaction changes.
- Sleep disruptions.
- House soiling, memory, learning.
- Activity changes.
BBC says that according to a group of vets there are actually 85% of dementia cases of pets (cats and dogs) that go undiagnosed.
That’s why they’re calling for pet owners’ cooperation because the syndrome is actually more treatable when it’s still in the early stages.
So, be kind to your old fur pal. Stop staring and bring them to the vet immediately for proper diagnosis.
#9: It’s a natural instinct
Just like digging holes, rolling in mud or dirt, and sniffing each others’ bum, dogs also bark on instinct.
When you stare at them for a while, they’ll think that you’re looking for a fight.
So, they’ll bark at you thinking that’s what you’re after.
It’s similar to when dogs are in a heated fight.
Before engaging in a brawl, they’ll look each other in the eye while pacing back and forth in an invisible semi-circle.
#10: Showing some love
As mentioned in #6 and #7, not all dog-staring is bad.
Especially if your dog is staring at you first, waiting for you to glance back.
And when you finally do, they let out a short and gentle bark.
According to AKC, staring at your dog’s eyes feels like heaven to them (but as you can tell, this isn’t applicable all the time though).
When you stare back at them make sure you accompany it with a huge and reassuring smile.
Staring at them actually releases oxytocin, a kind of love or bond hormone. This particular hormone also spikes up your attachment to your pooch.
Other things dogs do to show their love:
- Tilt head.
- Follow you.
- Stay near you.
- Raise eyebrows.
However, a study shows that dogs whose breed are closer to wolves (e.g. Siberian Husky) can’t maintain longer eye contact with humans.
So, if your dog’s breed is any of the following, then there’s a tendency that they’ll bark more when stared at:
- Shih Tzu.
- Chow Chow.
- Afghan Hound.
- Tibetan Terrier.
- Siberian Husky.
- Alaskan Malamute.
These breeds are close to the wolves, so when stared at they might have a ‘fight or flight’ response.
Just remember to be careful.
They love you but stay away from what triggers them, for a more peaceful and loving relationship.