Why do Dogs Avoid Eye Contact?

Why do dogs avoid eye contact? If your dog avoids eye contact, he must have a good reason why. Not all dogs make eye contact and the way they act when you make eye contact may reveal some interesting findings about the dog's personality. The way a dog behaves is often the result of how he was raised in his environment and his past experiences can shape future behaviors. Read on to learn why some dogs avoid eye contact.

Understand Eye Communication

In the human world, eye contact is often a sign of courtesy and confidence, we look people into the eyes to understand their emotions and we use our eyes to communicate, but in the dog world, direct eye contact can be perceived as a threat. If you watch dogs interact, you may notice how a dog averts his gaze when another stares directly. This is peaceful way to 'appease" and solve a potential conflict. When two dogs stare each other intently though this is often a sign of an impending fight.

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A Quest For Trust

Some dog's aren't comfortable making eye contact with people. These dogs may be shy, inhibited from past negative experiences or simply haven't learned that with humans it's fine to make eye contact. It may take time for a dog to trust and learn that eye contact is OK. When you meet a new dog, it's best if you avoid giving direct eye contact to reassure the dog that you're not threatening. Slightly looking away instead of staring directly in the eyes is a good choice.

Eye Contact is Good!

If you have a new dog who is intimidated by eye contact and looks away, you can create positive associations so your dog can learn that eye contact is a good thing. When you are in a quiet place, make a smacking noise with your mouth and bring a treat at eye level. If your dog makes eye contact, even for a brief second, praise and immediately reward by giving the treat. Repeat several times, holding the treat longer and longer before rewarding, so your dog learns to maintain longer eye contact. If at any time your dog appears nervous or aggressive during this exercise, consult with a professional.

Did you know? According to a study conducted by Evan MacLean and Brian Hare, dogs have proven to be much more adept at reading human social cues than chimpanzees or great apes, and even as puppies, dogs showed the uncanny ability to spontaneously respond to human gestures such the direction of our gaze and pointing to help them find hidden food or toy rewards.