Is eye contact really threatening to our dogs? - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 15 (permalink) Old 04-27-2018, 04:45 PM Thread Starter
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Is eye contact really threatening to our dogs?

Just wondering because quite a few people working in the pet industry told me that I shouldn't look at my dog in the eyes and it stresses her. However, I suspect my dog enjoys eye contact with me as I do. Sometimes, she even wags her tail when we share an eye contact if I haven't been paying her attention for a long time. She doesn't look away when we have an eye contact and doesn't look scared to me. Sometimes when we have an eye contact and I smile (90% of the times lol), she would run towards me trying to get scratches or trying to initiate play.

What do you guys think?

EDIT: FYI for context, she really hates prolonged eye contact from strangers though. She would sometimes lunge and bark at people who stare at her explicitly while approaching us. I guess the better title is "Is eye contact from owner really threatening to our dogs?".

Last edited by DaBai; 04-27-2018 at 04:59 PM.
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post #2 of 15 (permalink) Old 04-27-2018, 04:55 PM
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I think they're smart enough to know the difference between when you're happy or mad! Gandalf makes eye contact with me all the time, and doesn't shy away especially when we're training he looks for it. However, occasionally he will sneak over to the dinner table to look for food but all I have to do is give him stern eye contact and he visibly backs off and lays down. My guy definitely knows what a smile or a laugh is too and you can see his tail wag in response . My aunt had an aggressive rottie who if you gave it even a second of eye contact would be on you in attack mode, whenever we entered her house we had to be head down and couldn't look up... I guess it saw eye contact as a challenge.

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post #3 of 15 (permalink) Old 04-27-2018, 05:05 PM
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It's a challenge to stare into their eyes. I wouldn't advise doing it with a strange dog. With your own, it's proven that they watch our faces to interact with us. Think of it this way, if a stranger stared you down, you would either retreat, avoid or confront. If your mom did, you would interact with her in a positive way.




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post #4 of 15 (permalink) Old 04-27-2018, 05:07 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by GandalfTheShepherd View Post
I think they're smart enough to know the difference between when you're happy or mad! Gandalf makes eye contact with me all the time, and doesn't shy away especially when we're training he looks for it. However, occasionally he will sneak over to the dinner table to look for food but all I have to do is give him stern eye contact and he visibly backs off and lays down. My guy definitely knows what a smile or a laugh is too and you can see his tail wag in response . My aunt had an aggressive rottie who if you gave it even a second of eye contact would be on you in attack mode, whenever we entered her house we had to be head down and couldn't look up... I guess it saw eye contact as a challenge.
Thanks for sharing your experience. BTW out of curiosity, does that rottie also hate eye contact with your aunt too?
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post #5 of 15 (permalink) Old 04-27-2018, 05:10 PM
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Thanks for sharing your experience. BTW out of curiosity, does that rottie also hate eye contact with your aunt too?
Nope my aunt could look at the dog just fine along with other people it trusted like my grandma. We only see my aunt once a year since she lives far away so we are pretty much like strangers to the dog.

My dog is a weirdo, up until maybe a month ago if a stranger was staring at him he would get so excited and wiggly and stare them down waiting for them to pet him. Lord help us if they said "CUTE". He finally has calmed down a bit now so when people stare he just stares back with lovey eyes
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Last edited by GandalfTheShepherd; 04-27-2018 at 05:27 PM.
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post #6 of 15 (permalink) Old 04-27-2018, 05:16 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DaBai View Post
Just wondering because quite a few people working in the pet industry told me that I shouldn't look at my dog in the eyes and it stresses her. However, I suspect my dog enjoys eye contact with me as I do. Sometimes, she even wags her tail when we share an eye contact if I haven't been paying her attention for a long time. She doesn't look away when we have an eye contact and doesn't look scared to me. Sometimes when we have an eye contact and I smile (90% of the times lol), she would run towards me trying to get scratches or trying to initiate play.

What do you guys think?

EDIT: FYI for context, she really hates eye contact from strangers though. She would sometimes lunge and bark at people who stare at her explicitly while approaching us.
I think it depends on the dog. I think an insecure dog could definitely take it as a threat but I also think so dogs take it as a challenge. Sabi used to stare into my eyes like she was trying to do a mind meld, lol. I had to work, really hard to get Shadow to even look at my face and Bud would definitely tense if strangers stared at him.
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post #7 of 15 (permalink) Old 04-27-2018, 09:40 PM
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From my experience, my dogs don't mind eye contact with close family. Just not prolonged. Last time I tested contact with Dognition, the dog held the stare longer than I wanted to!

I would not hold a direct stare with a strange dog, just in case they don't like it. No need to cause a problem.

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post #8 of 15 (permalink) Old 04-27-2018, 09:57 PM
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If I make the mistake of staring at Russell, he barrels toward me, convinced I need his help. I pretty much never need his help, lol.

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post #9 of 15 (permalink) Old 04-27-2018, 10:17 PM
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I make mine focus on me with direct eye contact often. It’s how I train. I will not let another dog stare mine down, though. He doesn’t have to look at other people, just me.
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post #10 of 15 (permalink) Old 04-27-2018, 10:38 PM
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Karlo has one eye on me all the time. We make eye contact often.
Eye contact does have merit....and also can be a threat. When we do IPO and the helper makes eye contact with the dog, it is a challenge to the dog. Being neutral is important and the eye contact plays a part in it.
When training, there is a debate about the handler or helper wearing sunglasses, no eye contact can also be confusing to the dog.
Dogs that have no relationship with the 'eye contacter' will most definitely be put on edge if it is in a way where there are no manners.
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