Why Your Dog Avoids Eye Contact: 7 Reasons for the Behavior

A Bernese mountain dog looking off to the side while sitting on the grass.

Most dog owners love interacting with and gazing at their pets, but no matter how you like the idea of looking at your dog, they might not be comfortable making eye contact with you. 

Why does my dog avoid eye contact? Dogs avoid eye contact mainly because of their instincts. Dogs view direct eye contact as a sign of impending conflict or as a threatening or aggression behavior. However, dogs may also avoid eye contact when showing submission or because of fear due to a lack of proper socialization.

Should you worry when your dog avoids eye contact with you? In the following you’ll discover what causes this strange behavior in dogs and what to do about it. 

Why Dogs Avoid Eye Contact – 7 Reasons

Direct eye contact may happen while dogs are playing, especially when they want to play chase, but in most cases and instances beyond these situations, dogs purposefully choose to avoid eye contact.

The question is why?

Instinctive Trait

In the wild, friendly eye contact among canines doesn’t usually exist. So, if your dog doesn’t like to look straight in your eyes, you don’t have to be offended.

Remember that it’s not their nature to willingly make eye contact, and instinct dictates to avoid looking you straight in the eye as much as possible.  

An Attempt To Avoid Conflict

Looking straight in the eye rarely happens in friendly contexts for most dogs. Looking straight in the eyes is usually a precursor to a challenge or conflict in the wild.

It’s a threatening look for dogs, usually a warning signal.

So, if your pet averts their eyes whenever you try to make direct eye contact, it could be that they want to avoid any direct challenge. 

Sign of Submission and Respect

A stare-down with a dog can only end two ways. First, the confrontation can quickly elevate into a conflict.

However, if during a stare-down, your dog averts their gaze and avoids making eye contact at all costs, it usually signals submissiveness. 

Fear or Lack of Trust

Eye contact between humans is known to produce the “love hormone” called oxytocin, and the same powerful hormone is released during eye contact between humans and dogs.

In other words, your dog will feel the love during eye contact if they are used to doing so and are comfortable with you.

With that said, if there is a weak bond or lack of trust between a dog and a human, a dog will see your eye contact as a challenge instead of love. 

View Eye Contact as Threatening or Aggressive Behavior

While humans see eye contact as a sign of confidence, encouragement, and strength, it’s the opposite in the canine world.

Most dogs consider a staring contest to be a sign of a challenge. Making direct eye contact is often a way of challenging dominance or displaying aggressiveness in dogs. 

Interestingly enough, most dogs also view kisses and hugs as threatening behavior, so don’t force human displays of affection on your dog if it clearly makes him uncomfortable.

Not Socialized Well When Young

Another reason why dogs avoid making eye contact with people is that it simply makes them uncomfortable, especially with strangers.

It can be uncomfortable to look other people in the eye if you don’t know them that well. It’s the same thing for dogs. 

If they weren’t socialized well when young, it means they haven’t learned to be open and trusting with many people or other dogs enough to want to make eye contact. 

Guilt

If your dog is fine with making direct eye contact on any normal day but then stops unexpectedly, it could be that your pet knows they did something you won’t be happy about.

The thing is, dogs know more than we think they know. 

Most dogs know when they will get in trouble for something they did, and they will give you that guilty look – stealing looks at you and avoiding eye contact. 

How To Teach Your Dog to Make Eye Contact

Teaching your dog how to make eye contact will take some time, but it has great benefits for both of you. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Put your dog on a leash or harness and have a bag of treats handy (try these all-natural morsels). 
  2. Stand still in front of your dog and wait until he looks up to you. When he does, your dog deserves a treat.
  3. If your dog hesitates to make eye contact, consider holding a treat near your face. 
  4. Once your dog is readily making eye contact, you can start using commands like “look at me” or “look.”
  5. After your pup learns the “look” command basics, you can start practicing it in the real world, especially while you both are out and about among other dogs.

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Other Natural Dog Behaviors That People Find Strange

Besides avoiding eye contact, humans find other natural dog behaviors, like those mentioned below, weird and strange.

  • Eating grass – another instinctual behavior. 
  • Sniffing butts – the dog’s way of saying hello. 
  • Rolling in gross things – what smells terrible to us might smell good to dogs. 

Related Questions:

What Does It Mean if a Dog Growls With Eye Contact?

Prolonged eye contact accompanied with growling communicates aggression.

Dogs displaying this behavior are either providing a very serious warning or have moved past that point and are on the verge of attacking.

Why Does My Dog Put His Paw on Me?

Dogs show their affection differently. If your dog puts his paw on your out of the blue, it could be that they are seeking attention.

If your pooch places his paw on you while you are petting him, it could be a sign that he is showing his affection to you. 

Conclusion

It’s completely normal for dogs to avoid making eye contact with you. It’s not something you need to force but one you can teach your dog.

Most importantly, you have to bond with your dog to make them feel comfortable enough to look you in the eye. 

Last update on 2022-05-18 at 09:01 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API