It feels quite heartbreaking when your dog looks away from you. It is actually quite normal for dogs to look away from their owners, but there are times when this might also indicate an actual problem.
Here is a look into some signs indicating an issue, potential causes of your dog looking away, and ways in which you can minimize this issue.
- What to Look For
- Potential Causes of Your Dog Looking Away
- How to Reduce the Behavior
- Looking Ahead
What to Look For
In many cases, dogs avoid making and maintaining eye contact with their owners out of respect, making it a normal behavior that you need not worry about too much.
However, to establish whether or not your dog looking away from you is a result of other underlying causes, pay attention to your dog’s behavior and certain other cues in your environment. Examples include:
- Signs of injury
- Signs of poor health or discomfort
- Fear in their eyes or body language
- Whining or barking
- Objects they are holding on to
- Broken or chewed-out items around you
- Other bodily positions, such as the tail, ears and direction of both eyes
- Level of relaxation
- Position of tongue and mouth
In case your dogs appear stressed, injured, ill or fearful through their body language, this might indicate a deeper issue and cause for concern. A relaxed demeanor and body language will clear things up for you.
Potential Causes of Your Dog Looking Away
It is hard to immediately pinpoint the cause of your dog looking away from you. However, here are some of the most common causes that might explain this behavior so that you know what to expect and how to correct the problem.
Dogs are often a bit submissive with their owners, whom they might consider to be the leaders of their pack. In such a case, it is common for them to avoid looking straight into their owners’ eyes as a mark of respect and submissiveness.
Even if they look straight at you, they might look away quickly within a few seconds. This is normal on their part and not something you need to correct.
However, if the submissiveness is also accompanied by fear and cowering body language, you should attempt to correct this.
Chances are that your dogs have messed something up that they shouldn’t have. This could be a shoe or cushion that they have torn and chewed or some food that they have eaten that was meant for someone else.
Dogs usually sense that they have done something wrong using visual and verbal cues that you provide, so if you happen to be using these cues, you might find that they look away from you to avoid getting caught or scolded.
This also indicates that they feel bad and recognize their mistake.
Fear can also cause your dog to look away from you. If they live in a house in which they face punishment and ill treatment, they might develop a sense of fear for the people, causing them to avoid eye contact and keep looking away.
There might also be a certain trigger that might cause them to feel afraid, such as a new stimulant, uncommon noise or a sudden change in their environment. The appearance of something or someone that they are already afraid of may cause this behavior too.
If your dogs are aware of a challenge or threat in their environment, especially one that involves you, they might quickly look away to avoid this threat and keep themselves safe and out of harm’s way.
Even something as common as staring or looking into your eyes might indicate a challenge. This is because this is something they are used to in the wild or with other creatures.
Their looking away is a sign that they want to maintain normalcy and peace between you.
Poor Training and Socialization
Insufficient training and socialization might indicate that your dogs do not yet know how to look at you without averting their eyes.
While regular aversion to avoid threats or indicate respect is common, it is a problem when your dogs feel uncomfortable in every single instance of eye contact.
If coupled with other undesirable behaviors, you can confirm that the lack of training and socialization or overdependence on punishment and aversive tactics is what is leading to them averting their gaze.
Dogs that have had a traumatic and painful past are more likely to look away from you than dogs raised in a healthy and happy manner.
For instance, neglect and abuse might cause them to develop a sense of fear and trauma, causing them to look away as a way of protecting themselves.
It takes plenty of training and a consistently loving environment for them to overcome this trauma and feel more comfortable looking at you without the fear of being hurt.
Also Read: Why Is My Dog So Clingy All of a Sudden?
Preoccupation and Guarding
Dogs might look away from you if they are occupied with another activity, such as a toy they are playing with or chewing on or a puzzle that they are solving.
In such a case, you might get in the way of their activity, causing them to look away to indicate where their attention is at a given moment.
In other cases, the object or space that they seem to be occupied with might be something that they are guarding to establish their territory.
Looking away is a sign that they are marking their spot, with other potential aggression to follow if the threat to their space is more pronounced.
Your dog might be stressed out or uncomfortable due to some reason or the other. A common example of this is if they are feeling unwell or ill, resulting in pain, nausea, or another kind of discomfort.
By looking away, they might wish to conceal how they are feeling.
Additionally, other stressors in the environment, such as strangers, other animals or pets, hot or cold temperatures, and hunger might also result in dogs looking away from you.
Watch for other changes in their behavior to establish the problem.
How you behave with your dogs is another factor you must consider here. Frequent use of punishment or aversive tactics, shouting, anger in your tone, throwing things, neglecting their presence, or overt forms of abuse might make your dog fearful of being around you.
This might cause them to look away deliberately on a regular basis, especially if they notice you in a position to get into such behavior that they associate with fear.
Similarly, a similar kind of behavior or action from their past that you mirror or repeat might cause them to look away and cower back too.
How to Reduce the Behavior
Once you establish and confirm the cause of your dog looking away from you, you will have an easier time correcting the issue and making your dog feel more comfortable looking at you.
Note that this is not necessary for you to do if your dog is merely being submissive or trying to avoid conflict or threats.
Take a look at some measures you can take.
Make Your Dog Comfortable
You must make it a point to make your dog feel as comfortable as possible around you. Speak to them in positive tones, avoid anger and abuse, feed them enough and on time, play with them regularly, give them enough exercise and be overtly affectionate with them.
If there are indicators of stress and trauma, provide enough love and support so that these reduce over time. Take your dog for regular health check-ups too.
Also Read: Why Do Dogs Lick Blankets?
Training is a great way to stop your dog from constantly looking away from you and feeling more comfortable looking at you. It is essential to start at a young age so that your dog retains this behavior for a long time.
Make sure you teach them certain relevant commands and follow them up with a treat, praise or reward each time your dog maintains eye contact. This kind of positive reinforcement is better to promote this behavior and keep your dog happy.
Socialize Your Dog
From a young age, you should make your dogs come into contact with various kinds of people so that they know what to expect. This also makes it easier for them to learn, develop and repeat certain social cues.
Make sure you take them outdoors often so that they also come into contact with other people and dogs. Provide love and care on your part so that they associate eye contact with something positive.
Visit a Professional
If nothing works, you should visit your dog’s veterinarian to see if your dog has health issues that you can then treat. Consider consulting a professional trainer or dog behaviorist to help resolve the issue in a more effective manner.
Also Read: Why Does My Dog Eat His Toys?
Your dog might be looking away from you due to submissiveness, guilt, trauma, poor training and socialization, protection or guarding, discomfort or stress, threatening behavior on your part, fear and threat avoidance.
Make sure you create as comfortable and loving an environment as possible for your dog while also providing early training and socialization. Consult a vet and ask a dog behaviorist or trainer for some additional support.