Canine Master Blog

A Dog’s Eyes

My father always told me to pay particular attention to a dog’s eyes.  He said the expression in the eye never changes from a day a dog is born until the day he dies.  The eyes are the gateway to a dog’s soul.

After honing my skills as a canine behaviorist, I now know that the eyes are very important in reading a dog.  Dogs communicate mostly through body language.  They use their eyes, ears, mouth and teeth, tail and fur along their backs (hackles) to let you know what they’re mood is and how they are feeling, ie happy, sad, nervous, fearful and/or angry.  You need to become adept at reading all the signals they are giving you at the same time from all of these body parts to really understand what’s going on.  The shape of the dog’s eye and the direction and intensity of his gaze are things to watch.  A relaxed and happy dog will have normal-shaped eyes while a fearful or stressed dog will have larger than normal eyes.  A dog that is being submissive to you may squint his eyes.  Proper dog etiquette does not allow direct stares as this is considered by dogs to be rude and threatening.  Most domestic dogs learn to accept direct stares from their humans.  They may give you a “look away” that is their way of saying “I’m no threat”.  However, be wary of the dog that stares directly at you with great intensity.  The whites of his eyes may be showing which is called “whale eye”.    This dog may be showing aggression.

A dog’s body language is complex and often subtle.  It takes practice to observe and understand what a dog is communicating through various parts of his body.  Once you give it a try, it will become easier and and will really help you better understand your dog.

Yes, Dad, the eyes are important!

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