Dogs have long been companions for humans, but what’s with the staring? What is my dog trying to say? Often, dog behaviours are a way to communicate - some are simple to understand, and others may be more complicated.

Why do they stare?

A trained dog will often stare waiting for a command, but your dog may watch you the entire time moving from the table to your chair, or maybe leaving the room and returning. It’s possible that he’s just curious to know what’s going to happen next! It doesn’t take long for a dog to pick up on our habits and behaviours, and a trip to the kitchen might mean there’s something in it for him. As an example, just picking up his lead probably means ‘walkies’.

Resource guarding

Be mindful of how you react to your dog’s stares. After all, the phrase ‘puppy dog eyes’ exists for a reason. If you can’t resist those sweet eyes pleading for a chip or crust from your plate, and you give in, you’ll be forever dealing with a dog that is constantly begging at the dinner table.

Some dogs may exhibit ‘resource guarding’ while eating or playing with a toy, which might include unbroken eye contact and aggressive behaviour, such as soft growling, stressed body language or bared teeth. If you notice your dog staring, be attentive for signs of resource guarding.

Dogs will often use eye contact to assert dominance or show aggression. They may be trying to tell you they feel agitated and want you to leave them alone. Dogs will use eye contact like this when they feel threatened or territorial.

Your dog needs something

If your dog brings you a toy, sits and stares, it’s pretty obvious they want to play. If your dog is staring at you while sitting next to the door, it probably means he needs (or wants) to go out. And as mentioned previously, staring at you while you’re eating likely means your dog is hungry and wants some of what you have.

Your dog is bonding with you

If your dog is otherwise relaxed (their ears are floppy, they seem playful, etc.) and they are staring at you, chances are they are locking eyes to strengthen your bond. A lot can be said with the eyes when you can’t exchange words.

Persistent staring isn’t always an efficient way for dogs to tell humans what they need, either. Your dog may need help finding a more effective way to get your attention – maybe a communication tool like tying a bell to your door and training your dog to ring it when they want to go out might work.

Dogs are sociable and pack animals, and like to be around other companions — and outside of dogs, that means you, their human companions; you are part of his pack. You might be a surrogate mum - In the absence of their mother, puppies can ‘imprint’ on their owners, which means they might look to you as their mother.

Should you allow your dog to stare?

Allowing your dog to stare out windows when unsupervised is potentially a harmful activity, and in a relatively short amount of time, might cause your dog to bark and lunge aggressively at dogs or people on the street.

But what if they are staring into space?

Staring at the wall or staring into space could be a symptom of a type of seizure called a partial seizure or a focal seizure. These seizures are often hard to diagnose, and if you notice him doing it constantly, you would be wise to contact your vet.

Conversely, if your dog is staring into nothing, it might be that they're actually sniffing the air and staring at the scent trail. They might also be trying to locate a smell coming from a particular area, like the kitchen!

Unfortunately, there is no simple one-stare-fits-all answer. Dogs have many reasons for turning their gaze on us - and most of the time they are either communicating with us or waiting for us to communicate with them.


Marilyn writes regularly for The Portugal News, and has lived in the Algarve for some years. A dog-lover, she has lived in Ireland, UK, Bermuda and the Isle of Man. 

Marilyn Sheridan