What Your Dog’s Facial Expressions Really Mean
No one questions the special bond you have with your furry best friend, but do you fully understand everything your pup’s trying to tell you? You will now.
Your dog is bilingual
All animals possess an innate ability to communicate with their own species, the doggie behavioral experts at Wag, a dog-walking and information site, tell Reader’s Digest. But over the course of thousands of years spent with humans, dogs have acquired the ability to communicate with humans in a way that humans understand and encourage. That’s why one facial expression can mean two different things, depending on whether your dog is interacting with you or another dog. Here’s what your dog’s adorable face is trying to tell you.
That soulful gaze
A perfect example of the dichotomy between dog-to-dog versus dog-to-human facial expression is eye contact. Between dogs, eye contact signals aggression, explain the Wag experts. Between humans, eye contact is an integral part of communication. Humans reward eye contact from humans as well as dogs. Dogs have acquired this understanding and use their gaze to win approval from and show love for their humans. Here are 13 astounding things your dog knows just by looking at you.
Breaking eye contact
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Part of communication via the eyes includes breaking eye contact. Dogs stare at each other until one or the other breaks the gaze—and a fight could break out. With humans, dogs are perfectly comfortable breaking eye contact, and in no way is it a prelude to trouble. Rather, it indicates a comfortable rapport between a dog and his person.
Blinking or squinting during eye contact
If a dog blinks while making eye contact with you, he may be contemplating what you’re thinking, according to Dr. Danielle Bernal, a veterinarian with Wellness Natural Pet Food. This is particularly true if you’ve just given a command. The same is true of squinting during eye contact, says Michael Schoeff, the proprietor of Premier Pups. “I’d read it as a sign of appeasement,” Schoeff advises. “And that’s a good thing. Your dog lives to appease his human.”
Squinting or blinking in general
Squinting and repetitive blinking may mean something entirely different when a dog is not looking into your eyes, Schoeff explains. Squinting can signal pain or illness. Rapid blinking can indicate stress or fear. And when a dog opens his eyes wide at another dog, it can signal aggression. Here are more unbelievable facts you probably never even knew about your pooch.
When your dog raises one eyebrow or both while making eye contact, it’s a sign of alertness and interest, says Schoeff. Here’s an opportunity for you to engage with your pup, maybe teach him a new trick.
Avoiding eye contact
A dog who avoids eye contact is likely having trust issues, Schoeff says. “Dogs are aware that eye contact with humans signals trust and comfort,” he explains. A dog that avoids eye contact with humans is doing his best to avoid any kind of interaction, whether negative or positive. We see this sometimes in dogs that have recently been rescued from bad situations. When these dogs finally are able to make eye contact, it’s incredibly rewarding. These are the 8 signs that your dog trusts you.
That adorable head tilt? It’s exactly what it looks like, according to Schoeff: It means your dog is curious. Don’t miss these training secrets dog trainers would never tell you for free.
When your dog lowers or bows his head while gazing up at you, it’s an act of submission, explains Schoeff. It’s not all that different from blinking or squinting during eye contact; consider this a sign of a healthy dog-human relationship.