Puppy dog eyes don’t mean what they seem

By | Published On: August 22, 2023 | Categories: Behaviour, Dogs |

Does your dog sometimes have a ‘guilty’ look? Does your dog peer up at you with his eyes wide? What do you think he is trying to tell you?

Dogs can’t speak – of course, they can bark, whine, growl, yip, and make a lot of other noises but they usually don’t sit and have a chat in the language of our choice. Their language largely comes from their posture and their actions.

Dog body language is something that we humans get wrong. I have written before about misinterpretation of a wagging tail. Even so, I am still regularly asked why a dog is barking and scared but their tail is wagging. It is not a sign of happiness in all circumstances. Learn this – it may save you or your family from a bite one day.

Dogs watch us all the time. ALL the time. I am sure you know the times when your dog is fast asleep, flat as a pancake on the sofa, maybe even snoring happily. And yet, you move a little and the dog is up, alert, awake. This may be a raised eyelid or a full bounce to their feet. It is quite unusual for a dog not to pay attention to this, unless they are very young or very old.

Your dog is aware of your every move. He keeps an eye on everything in the home, and outside (hence alerting you to strangers outside, or dogs on the TV). Pay more attention to this, and their eyes.

The ‘guilty look’, where your dog has wide eyes, lowered head, and usually the whites of your dog’s eyes showing around the edge as he looks up towards you. ‘Guilt’, however, is not what the dog is displaying. Any dog would not find it easy to understand such an emotion! He is more likely to be worrying about what your reaction might be.

If you regularly tell your dog off when you enter the room, for something the dog has done earlier, he will not understand what he has done as being wrong. He WILL, however, know that your appearance at that time usually coincides with you being angry. The dog has no idea what has made you angry He just knows you are going to behave in an aggressive-sounding manner. It’s a bit unfair of you, really!

These big eyes can be seen when a dog is worried. Never ignore your dog peering at you. Your dog is trying to be polite at this point. Check what is happening. Is anything worrying your dog? In my behaviour work, with dogs that have bitten, often one of the early signs is this very same eye-rolling action.

Perfectly nice, normal family dogs are trying to communicate with us and we are ignoring their appeals to leave them alone. It is so much more than the ‘talking tail’.

So next time you see puppy dog eyes, ask yourself if your dog is trying to get out of trouble by being polite. If you ignore him, he could be anything but.

– Karen Wild

– Karen Wild

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