Don’t Look at Me in That Tone of Voice

Thanks to Yukon Yahoos for the image

I hate dog staring.

Correction I hate dog staring that is not on command!

95% of my training and what I teach my dog revolves around controlled eye contact, but that is the difference it is controlled and taught as a dog obedience exercise.

When dogs make their own decisions to “stare” at things, chances are it is about a half of a second before they lose complete control!

Staring (that is not taught) is almost always bad!

Dogs STARE right before they make bad/aggressive decisions.

People don’t realize that something so simple is a precursor to naughty behavior.

It is as if for a moment your dog sees something and is then determining how he is going to behave in that situation.  You have a very short period of time once your dog stares, to stop or change his mindset and his behavioral plan.

Remember this is a precursor and something that you are looking for before your dog becomes reactive or aggressive!  Recognizing this sign can help you stop the bad behavior.

Dog to Dog Aggression

Dogs that are dog aggressive are notorious for this behavior, although it might be fast most dog aggressive dogs will freeze and stare prior to a show of aggression.

This freezing posture and staring is an indicator toward the impending aggression.

And it is at this point and when you “know what he is thinking” that you have a chance to change the behavior and stop the aggression.

People often “wait” until the dog stops, stares, and then begins barking and lunging before they try and correct the behavior.

When what they need to do is recognize the tiny signs BEFORE the full blow aggression starts.

Remember when you were a child and you were thinking about doing something naughty, and your mom use to say “Ah ah!  Don’t even THINK about it!”  She could tell that you were thinking about sneaking something you shouldn’t because she could see you stop and think, or the slightest change in your normal behavior.

We all thought that our moms had eyes in the back of their head, and knew what we were thinking.

We need to be the same type of parent for our dogs!  We need to stop that behavior in the “thinking” mode, because often it is impossible to stop once the aggression has started.

Once they are at this point; Its too Late!

Barking and Lunging on the Leash

I often get emails from people wondering how to stop their dogs from barking and lunging toward things while they are walking.

“I can’t get his focus on me when he is barking and lunging on the leash”.

And, my mental response is “Of course you can’t, you have already lost the battle”.

Not only do I believe that the foundation of eye contact and obedience is probably lacking in these types of dogs,  one the behavior gets this bad… you have already lost the battle.


Because dogs condition themselves with bad behavior, and that conditioning leads to more and more bad behavior in the same situation.

So your dog is dog aggressive; he sees a dog at 100 yards away and his body or his head freezes the moment he sees it and he starts to stare (it is at this moment you have a chance to impact his behavior) after a second or a fraction of a second he begins to bark, growl, dig his nails in and lunge on the end of the leash.  His aggression may even feed aggression from the other dog.  Even if it doesn’t this excitement and frenzy feeds his agitation and it gets worse and worse as the dog approaches or he approaches the dog.

If leash corrections, prong collars, (I had an owner that said she poked her dog) or other forms of compulsion are used the behavior gets worse and escalates.

And, he is learning to ignore you and the compulsion that you employ.

He is also conditioning himself that when he sees a dog, this behavior is successful because he is getting an adrenaline rush out of the aggression.  So the next time he sees a dog the behavior will be the same or even worse.

So by allowing him to get aggressive you are losing not only the battle but probably inevitably the war.

It is that fraction of a second before he goes “nuts” that you have an ability to change his behavior, by changing his mindset.

Each dog is different yet similar.

Some dogs will twitch their ears first or show other precursor signs.

But most dogs will stare.

The duration of the stare, however is different for each dog.  Some dogs will stare for a fraction of a second; while others may stare for a second or more.

Some dogs get reactive at 10 feet away, while others may show signs at 100 yards or more.

You have to get to know your dog and not push him past his boundaries.

Obedience at Home is Key

If your dog will not give you eye contact at home, with no other distractions around… why would you even consider that he would give you eye contact when he sees another dog or a person?

Even if he is not blatantly dog aggressive, if he is not being taught and reinforced at home with no distractions and then moving slowly to more and more distracting environments then he has no chance to give you good behavior when he is totally inundated by his environment.

In order to be successful you must be doing your homework at home.

Carry Treats and/or Toys

You are not reinforcing in and of yourself to change behavior.

In order to change behavior you must be reinforcing.  So learn to carry toys and or treats in your pockets or a fanny pack.

Your dog will learn that you always have his favorite stuff.

Once the behavior is learned you will no longer need the treats/toys, but in the learning stage your dog must realize you have great stuff!

Recognize the Signs

Look for your dog’s specific signs and then aim to NEVER see them again.

If he twitches his ear at the sign of another dog; that is the time to get his attention and focus on YOU!

It is also a time when you can turn around and go the other direction and ask for other forms of obedience (sit, down, stay, high five, etc.)  It doesn’t matter what you get your dog to do, the idea is that you just change “what he was thinking or planning!”

My Dog Use to Be Afraid of People

So instead of letting him stiffen and STARE at them as they approached; I would take notice of his behavior and if their advancement began to bother him in a small way I would change our direction and then get him to give me eye contact (which relieved his fears) and then I would get him to do a number of tasks for me.  Sit, down, sit, down, high five, spin, shake… while he is doing this he has a hard time focusing on his fear of the advancing person.  It also kept the person from asking to pet him or interacting with him at all since we looked indisposed!

The same can be done for dogs that are dog aggressive.

When you notice the precursor behavior, you must change your dog’s mindset and his plan for what he wants to do (aggression).

Because once he is in the middle of his aggression, it is almost impossible to get him to focus on anything, food, toys, affection, yelling… it doesn’t matter what you use at this point you are losing and it is best just to back up and get out of that situation and try next time to avoid it with training.


  • Work at home on your obedience and focus
  • Begin to recognize the precursor behaviors BEFORE your dog explodes
  • Carry great stuff!
  • Work slowly to decrease the space that it takes to get closer to the distractions
  • If you have a setback, don’t focus on it or get aggressive back, get out of the situation back up and train harder!
Start Calming Down Your Over Excited Dogs Today!

Your First Lesson’s FREE:

Sign up below and we’ll email you your first “Training For Calm” lesson to your inbox in the next 5 minutes.


  1. Shelaine says:

    What if your dog uses staring as a way to let you know they need something? My border collie has always stared at me when she needs to go outside. I’m sure that in a sense she is commanding ME instead of the other way around, but in so many instances this behaviour has been a blessing. Sure, I could have taught her to just go to the door or ring a bell when she wanted to go outside to do her business…but when I’m with her at someone else’s house, or at my workplace, she doesn’t know where the right doors are. By coming over and staring at me to let her out it has prevented many accidents, especially when she was a puppy. We do have a daily routine of when I let her out, but some days she’ll play extra hard and drink more water than usual so it’s great when she let’s me know she’s “gotta go” before the time I would normally let her out. To me it’s the equivalent of a child telling a parent that they have to “go potty”.


    Minette Reply:

    We each decide what we want in a pet. I try to do the training at my house 😉

    But as I mentioned I teach my dogs to stare at me for reward at a very young age. So in some ways you are validating what I am saying… just get that eye contact also on your terms.

    But nothing good usually comes from dogs staring at something else (the cat, other dogs etc) … that usually leads to other bad behaviors (except when you are training hunting/pointing dogs) lol.


    Bruce Ramey Reply:

    Hi, I’m Bruce and I have two staffies and a Black LabxGerman Shepard. The German ShepardxBlack lab is around 13 years old and hes all set in his mind and normally he’s well behaved. The other two, well they are a different kettle of fish. One is of course my favorite, her name is Dutchess and she’s 5 years old and she’s are $10,000 dog. She was hit when she was only 4 months old by a hit and run driver and well you can guess what we went through getting her back to health. Theother one is same age and we adopted her at around 1 year and shes an american staffie and alot more agressive than Dutchess. Dutchess would love or does love everyone and thing that she comes across. Well I’m trying to train Dutchess because she is with me pretty much 24/7 and even sleeps with my wife and myself.

    I have trouble trying to train D. when the other two are around. I’ve tried putting them in seperate rooms and that doesn’t even work for training. Any other ideas?



    Minette Reply:


    I crate mine when I work with my others, it builds excitement as to who is next and it lets the others decompress after training.

    Eventually I work them all together, but when they are “learning” they are separate.

    Bill chaillot Reply:

    If the stare is prelinary to aggressive behavior which would include barking, one might try the bark collar. If when attending dog related functions and it becomes necessary to crate your dog, some will exhibit aggressive behavior if another dog should get too close to the crate. The bark collar again may come in handy. Your question may be, “How do I discourage the barking when not wearing the bark collar.” Wearing a snug fitting leather or nylon collar simular to the fit and feel of the bark collar may convince the dog that the bark collar is on, but this would only be after conditioning with the bark collar has been successful; therefore, training to curb agressive behavior with the bark collar depends on the determination of the dog. Depending on what strength to set the electrical impulse will depend on how sensitive your dog may be, so start at the lowest impulse and work higher as needed.


    Minette Reply:

    If your dog has already gotten to the point where you need a bark collar, you have lost the battle and probably the war.

    I don’t like bark collars and the electronic ones only work on 40% of dogs. The citronella work on 90% of dogs and are less damaging.

    However I prefer actual training. I want to stop my dog BEFORE he barks and I do that by keeping an eye on what he is watching and curb the behavior before it happens.

    Michelle Reply:

    Border Collies are known for their “eye,” a sort of stare that they use to move sheep from place to place. I have a mix and she uses staring to tell me multiple things, from wanting to go out to telling me she knows it’s time for agility class so COME ON MOM LET’S GO.

    I’d also like to add (not connected to the person I’m replying to at all!) that not all dogs stare out of aggression. Some stare because they want to control the situation (my dog does this) and some who stare and then lose control (barking, lunging) etc. aren’t always doing it out of aggression either. Some dogs are what they call “frustrated greeters.” They want to greet the other dog SO BAD that they lose control of themselves. I liken them to kids in line at the grocery store who throw a temper tantrum because they can’t have that piece of candy they want.

    My dog used to be that way. She’d be fine if she met the dog, but she’d throw a FIT if she couldn’t go greet. We’ve worked hard at teaching her to relax when she sees other dogs.


    Shirley Reply:

    My dog is like yours used to be. He is so excited to see other dogs he gets very excited. How did you train your dog to not do that?


    Minette Reply:

    Dogs have to learn that being over excited gets him nothing!!

    Being calm, giving you obedience and attention and good behavior means he can meet and greet if appropriate.

    It is imperative to deny him access to other dogs if he is over excited.

    Also, some dogs do not tolerate over excited dogs very well and it can cause aggression.

    Barbara in VA Reply:

    Yes! My Beagle-Walker hound always comes to me and stands and “gruffs” a low growl when she REALLY has to go out and potty and vehemently wags her tail! She relentlessly stares me down! It’s hilarious. She’s a very sweet dog, til she has to REALLY go out! LOL Thank goodness she’s not agressive like the dogs in this article!


  2. Elna Lush says:

    My 6 1/2 month GS puppy stares at me while I get ready for work. He lies down on the carpet and follow my every movement. Past saturday my suasage female, she has the loveliest big brown eyes, was staring at me and following me all over the house. Whenever I looked up, she was sitting there, just staring at me! It felt like she was trying to convey a message to me, quite akward. Why do they do that? Should it just be ignored, is it just affection to watch ma?


    Minette Reply:

    Watching you and STARING at you (pupils dilated and hard) is quite different.

    My dogs follow and watch my every movement too.

    My oldest use to catch my eyes then STARE because he wanted something. But depending on the dog, depends on if this is an okay behavior or not. He was very kind hearted and respected me and so I allowed him to tell me he wanted cookies or treats by staring.

    My puppy who is 6 months old, does not respect any authority yet. He is quite full of himself and rotten. I would never allow him to choose to stare at me and then give him what he wants, on his own (he has been taught to do this on command).

    It depends on the dog. But either YOU are training the dog or HE is training you when staring goes on between the two of you.

    I prefer to be the trainer most of the time 😉

    And, I keep them from staring at other things in their environment to keep their attention on me!


    Linda Germana Reply:

    I’ve never heard of citronella for barking instead of bark collars. What is it and how does it work?


    Minette Reply:

    A citronella collar is a kind of bark collar that sprays citronella instead of using a shock.

  3. corey says:

    That was very helpful to me thanks!


  4. Butch Jarschke says:

    I raised a Rottweiler for 13 years and he was the best dog I ever had he listen to me with every command heel sit lay down roll over sit tight I could put him in the truck bed with the tailgate down and he would stay there the whole 8 hours at work and when I would stop to eat I would drop to tailgate and watch him and he would stay in the back of the truck even with stray cats that would walk under the tailgate & look up at him he would still sit tight people would be amazed by the tricks that he did. I would talk to him and he would look me in the eyes and know exactly what I would say I love it the animals that we work with and talk to like they would be your children your friends everything like that they’re amazing they do understand you they will listen. Add a cat named Moses he was a Siamese Persian blue eyes and did some of the same tricks he would sit lay down roll over hi 5 handshake and would leave the food not eat it until I told them to that’s how my rottweiler AC was also and not only was was he the best dog I had but Moses is the best cat that acted like a dog that I have.
    Someday I will get another puppy to raise again

    So communication is so very important with all


  5. Lise Lorquet says:

    Great advice! It makes perfect sense. The trick is certainly to foresee these situations and be aware. Thanks.


  6. Bobbi Keane says:

    Wish I could have taken advantage of the DVD on good house manners for dogs but it wasn’t”‘ the first of the month yet so had to see what my expenses would be. Retirement is good but fixed incomes are terrible. Feel like a pauper. I love your daily articles. Thanks. Getting a rescue dog next week. Can’t afford a new dog so I am hoping I can train a nice dog. You never know with rescues but unit is the right thing to do.


    Minette Reply:

    Rescues can be wonderful!!

    And, puppies can be monsters!!

    Keep reading our articles, follow up on FB and twitter and read through our archives of articles (you can search in a button to the right) and we will be here for you 🙂


  7. Nelle Chilton says:

    I have found your articles very helpful in training my boarder collie puppy. while she has learned very well to look at my eyes when I ask and to leave many situations alone when asked, I am unclear how to utilize her focus and herding instinct with my horses as I hope to teach her to herd. right now I am successfully correcting her when her energy gets what I consider too much. Iam not using the leave it command when she looks at and circles the horses. any advice or good reading material?


    Minette Reply:

    Find a herding trainer in your area.

    I also took my herding dog to training when he was 7, actually, and I was told never to “start” on horses because if the dog makes a mistake horses are more likely to kick and hurt a dog.

    So my dog got use to herding ducks and sheep and goats. Once you get control, my guess is you can get your dog to be safe around horses. But ask your trainer.


  8. James says:

    My Dog shows aggression to other dogs except the other 2 dogs in the house , and does excessive barking when someone knocks on the door , what do I do ???


  9. Liz says:

    This is really useful as Jessie tends to lunge at dogs, although it’s friendly mostly but sometimes she can show agression and I’m not always able to judge which it’ll be. When Jessie was younger (we rescued her at 10mths) she would give an intent stare into our eyes just ahead of jumping up at us or barking for attention. It was always a precurser to excited behaviour. A few months into having her I read about the calming signals that dogs give to each other, like yawning, sighing, turning to look away etc and the one that works like a dream with Jessie is ‘slow eye blinking’. I’ve been teaching her to look into my eyes (when waiting for food, and on command when I want her attention) and she’s getting better at it with distractions, but when she looks too intently at home and starts to stare at me, if I slowly blink at her, she immediately relaxes, her eyes soften and she may then look away. It works without fail and I also feel as if I am building relationship with her and communicating ‘you’re loved and you can just relax !’ The calming signals really do work human to dog, just the same as dog to dog. 🙂


  10. James says:

    How can we stop a 12-week old lab/pitt bull mix from biting too hard when he is playing . . . at least we think he is playing


    Kathy Archambault Reply:

    My opinion? Biting “too hard” isn’t the issue here. Your puppy needs to be taught that puppy teeth do not belong on people. Don’t try to teach the puppy to bite gently. Strive for no bites at all. A puppy is a baby. If you try to teach him/her to bite gently now…a few months down the road when he/she has dog teeth and dog strength in that jaw, you’ll have to try to teach no bites at all. I’d suggest skipping to that My lab puppy learned the command “NO BITES” at a very early age. Good luck. Remember to always love your puppy and correct with love and understanding. My Jack always got “No bites!” Then he’d lick and he got “OH…I LOVE your kisses”. Give it a try.


    Cynthia Stevenson Reply:

    I don’t know about a pitt mix…so this may not work as temperments differ between dogs.

    Our borderlinecollie (we know both parents…yes good farm dog [blue heelerXaussie shepherd/border collie] in town meets pretty registered border collie….you know the rest) knows she can not play as rough with me as hubby or the (adult) kids. I never scolded her but the game just stops immediately if she play bites too hard (I have to get a bandaid or skin glue to stop the bleeding). My more fragile skin tends to tear and bleed easily so she has to be very gentle with me but she can play hard with hubby–she leaves teeth marks occasionally. Hubby says he is playing too rough with her when that happens. Our vet has said that because she has learned to play differently with us depending on how hard we play some 2 bit burgler is going to get bit with some force if they push or kick her away…she will come back with a bit more force than the thug used to push her away.

    Maybe pitts can learn the same thing…I have seen a pitt at the dog park get a bit out of line and the owner immediately removes him from the park. He comes back in 5 to 10 minutes when the dog calms down. The owner is really conscentious in keeping the pitt behaving properly. (OK I’m terrified of pitts but watch Animal Planet and am getting less sure they are a danger to everyone when properly socialized and with good behaviors taught.)


    Lisa Reply:

    I have a lab / pitt mix and when she plays too hard I tell her “nice” and she immediately eases up and licks my hand. These are highly intelligent dogs and she learned what I meant by nice the first day. She also knows the word “ouch” means she is playing too hard and that works just as well.


    Minette Reply:

    stop playing with him!!!

    Teeth = loss of playtime!!!

    Also exercise him! Puppies bite because they are bored and don’t know how else to engage us.

    If he is too tired, he won’t put his teeth on you.

    He needs exercise and the mental stimulation of training!!


    Rigena Reply:

    I agree. Play time stops when he is “mouthy”. It can be hard to discourage a puppy’s chewing, though.
    I have always liked my dogs to be able to chew on acceptable things, like the occasional rawhide or bone, or a proper chew toy. I know there is debate about such things but if you choose to use these accessories they are great tools during puppy time.

    When you play with your puppy, ALWAYS have the chew toy in hand. Use the toy to redirect where his mouth goes. If he bites you, play time ends and the toy goes away.

    Teaching him to play with things other than you will help with future types of training exercises.
    Giving him an allowed thing to chew on can also sway his interests away from things like shoes or furniture.

    Always remember to supervise when your puppy has a chew toy.


    Bill Chaillot Reply:

    Any kind of harsh correction behavior on the part of the person receiving the play should not be necessary when using the following method. Wet your hands with alcohol, Bitter Apple, vinigar or some other distasteful liquid prior to play. Wearing gloves that have been doused with the above also works. Playing tug with a tug toy will keep your hands out of your dog’s mouth almost altogether. When you want him to release the tug toy, merely show him a second toy and chances are he will release in hopes of getting the second toy. Have fun!


  11. i have a dod that stare at me when i get done playing with her i think she asking me what are we doing next mom. i give her alot of love.and i tell her that i have got to get my house work done and she seem ok with that. i tell her after i get done we will plat some more and that makes her real happy.


  12. Philip says:

    How do I break my dog of other dog aggression because now he is starting to do it with people. He just runs at them growling and barking, hackles up. I am concerned it may end up becoming worse


  13. Oralia Landry says:

    How do you stop a 1yr. old lab to stop jumping on me or to stop her from being to excited.


    mallory Reply:

    i have a 5 month old whippet. very much fun but loves to bite and when she wants something will ask for it. what she is asking for I do not know exactly.
    she loves to chew shoes, towel, anything.
    especially when i try to change my pants, will bite the bottom of the pants and thinks it is play. how do i stop her from jumping up on me and others. she loves people, does not bark and ignores other dogs.
    pulls on leash when out for a walk.
    Is it not bad for her throat, She is a sight hound and can see everything. when sleep comes , she is perfect. play time is enormously furious.
    does not come when I call her at play time. runs away and thinks it is fun.
    she is only 17 weeks old.
    is this normal for such a young puppy, especially a pure whippet?


    Minette Reply:

    She needs exercise!!! And LOTS of it.

    Puppies bite when they are bored and under stimulated. She needs walks and runs and play and obedience.

    Leash manners have to be taught, otherwise they do pull. You have to teach her how to respond on a leash.

    Read this article and the other 3 in the series on leash manners

    Provide her with exercise and toys.


  14. Mike says:

    Staring can be a problem, but as you say you have to know your dog. My Border Collie is smart but doesn’t change light bulbs because he has no thumb. He comes to me and stares. I say, “Show me what you want.” He will go to the door, the empty water dish, or the chair where he has a ball out of reach. His staring is a way of letting me and my wife know that he wants something, and he usually gets it. Otherwish he is an excellent watch dog, who is gentle when told that everything is alright. Otherwise very protective, warning, while waiting for instructions. No one comes into my yard or house until I tell him it is OK. then he sits calmly on command and soon brings a ball to the visitor, wanting to play. Although he is well trained, much of this is self taught and he seems to pick up things with little instruction. Loving, gentle with children, but watchful with strangers, without being agressive. Excellent protector, pet, companion and sometime teacher. I have learned as much from him as I have taucht. After 76 years of dogs of many breeds, the BC has been a wonderful experience.


  15. blissinger says:

    My dog stares at me in the morning when she wants me to wake up, or when I’ve been reading for a long while and she wants something. She leans on me, with her face up close to mine (nosing aside my book) and fixes me with her eyes, but it’s just a way of getting my attention. And it works. I should add she’s a Maltese.


    Minette Reply:

    She’s training YOU 😉

    My old guy use to catch my gaze and then look up where I keep the dog cookies, then look at me and up at the cookies… They are so much fun!


    Naomi Reply:

    Awesome! Sam, my Shih Tzu, is the same. I am so in love. 😉


  16. Linda Young says:

    I love this article. It was very relative issue(s) with my beloved Taz.
    Thank you so very much.


  17. Natalie says:

    Don’t worry about your dog’s breed when it comes to the biting. Mutts are unique in the way that they inherit the best attributes from both parents. Over the years I have learned from my experience with Pitts I have met in public and now my own mix, as well as working with them at the humane society near my home, that this play bite is play. Bullie breeds (pitts, boxers, other block head dogs) tend to show affection with what they see as gentle nipping and biting. You just need to teach your puppy that when it bites too hard, that play time is done. Anytime he bites when you don’t want him too, then stop playing. Pretty soon he’ll catch on and you can play without worrying about constant biting.


  18. John Snyder says:

    You all need to listen to a song by Jason Gray called “If I were a dog.”
    It will help, “’cause dogs are prone to stare.”


  19. Karen says:

    I’ve seen that stare in other dogs. My Golden Retriever never stares, she doesn’t have one iota of aggression. However, other dogs attack her for some reason. She was attacked by a German Shepherd once and the owner didn’t know how to control the dog. I had to intervene and pull the dog off, he bit down on my hand and broke the skin. So my question is, if I see that stare coming from someone else’s dog, what can/should I do?


    Minette Reply:

    If in doubt; don’t touch it!

    And, slowly back away.


  20. I have a rescured Greyhound who is 4years old, i have had him for 18 months, untill he came to me he had never been in a house.Over this time he as had to learn a lot which he as done very well.
    He is afaid of other dogs, when they get in his space he will notice them and keep turning round looking for them, if they get nearer he will bark and lung.
    I can not get his attention at all when he is like this i just have to walk on untill the other dog is out of his space.
    I take him on a walk with a group of Greyhounds once a month he as now settled down with them.
    I was just wondering if you had any advice.


    Minette Reply:

    he needs to be desensitized like you are describing by getting his attention when he is not with other dogs around and putting it on command.

    And, then walking him with dogs he knows.


  21. I have a different problem…My dog is a chihuahua mix so I am told…even though he doesn’t have any of their characteristics I can see…but he has the biggest mouth, biggest teeth and the longest toungue I have ever seen in a little dog…He licks all the time….I want to break that habit because he drives me crazy….licks me, my pants, my shirt, my chair…the floor, the carpet…what can I do???


  22. After reading all this interesting info and the reply’s I now know why my two lyear old female dogs starring means.The small one (tillie) goes to PATIO OOR turns her hed and looks me right in the eye, I open the door nd she’s out in back yard doing her business. The larger of th two (both from same litter) will jump in my lap, sit and stare in my eyees, if I have a treet she is happy, if not she will make a low throat rumbling sound until I get up and give her one. Then we are all happy until next time.


  23. kaptenron says:

    My daughter-in-law has 4 dogs, one of whom sometimes stares into space where we can’t perceive anything. I know that “there are more things in Heaven and Earth” than we can perceive and I wonder if she might be aware of something we are not. I believe that animals communicate telepatthically and my dogs often know what I’m thinking about without any obvious clues being given. I’d like to get your thoughts about this. Thanks


  24. Travis says:

    Interesting article on staring. My dog is extemely sweet and good natured, so much so that I have never even heard her growl at another dog. She isn’t a timid dog by any means either. I have to say I enjoy her looks or “staring”. Often if I am reading or watching TV she will come over and stare until I make eye contact and once she has my attention she will give me that tail wag and advance for head petting. She also communicates to other people with her stares. My contractor was working inside the house while I was away and told me that my dog was super smart as she greated him and then would stare at him until he made eye contact then she would look at one of the cupboards, back to him and then back to the cupboard…as yes he gave her a treat because he couldn’t believe she could communicate to him where her dog jerky was hidden in one of the kitchen cabinets. She obviously knows how to work the humans but I have to say, that’s what makes her so special. Her stare is probably a lot different than the ones described in the article because as soon as she gets the eye contact from whoever it is, she starts wagging her tail immediately. Some dogs don’t fit into the typical molds.


  25. Dominique says:

    What an interesting article! I have a Border Collie/Shepherd mix who is about 7 years old and who is my service dog; although I mostly trained her she is very well behaved.
    She also stares and I’m glad I’ve read the responses: it seems that Collies like to stare at you to communicate what they want. And I am getting from the trainers that “the dogs are training you.” So? If the dog is well behaved and stares at you once in a while because they want to go pee or whatever, it’s no big deal. It’s ok for the dog to feel they’re part of the family and can make themselves heard every so often!
    You should see my cat…


    Minette Reply:

    My dog that died 4 weeks ago at almost 13, got almost anything he told me he wanted by staring 😉

    it is all about what you want in a dog, but making sure you are not creating a monster 😉

    Dog’s are much better trainers than we are!


    Diane Reply:

    I am so sorry to hear you lost your dog. I know how hard it is to lose them. I lost my sweet sheltie, who was almost 13, in March and I still miss her so much. I do have another 2 1/2 year old sheltie, who I know also misses her buddy.


  26. Anne May says:

    My. 120lb gsd is almost two years old. He was great with other dogs until he was about 14 months old. He was attacked by little yappy dogs three times in approx 5 weeks, now he is ready for any dog who comes near him. It’s like he wants to get to them before they get to him. I used to love taking him for walks, now I dread it. He lunged at a nice older dog the other day, pulling me over onto the floor. I managed to keep hold of the leash while the other owner got his dog a safe distance away. I try walking him with a friend who also has a gsd, andapart from a little snarl now and then they get on ok and walk quite well together. How can I train him and encourage him to be sociable?


    Minette Reply:

    you must desensitize him read this article

    And get a gentle leader… read this article


  27. Patti says:

    My Standard Poodle will also stare at my husband or me when she wants/needs something from us. If we do not see her staring, she will vocalize to get our attention. However, my first trainer warned me that my dog likes to stare down other dogs, people, cats, small animals, etc. She taught me to always keep an eye on my dog and to break her stare. We attend many dog events and she warned me some breeds would not tolerate her staring and would react.
    My dog also does not always tolerate other dogs rushing into her space and staying in her face. I have learned after 3 seconds, my dog will either play bow to the other dog or growl at them. SO MANY dog owners think face to face greetings are acceptable, or allow their dog to charge up to another “just to say hello”. I have been taught this is rude dog behavior and natural for the other dog to correct the rude dog. If dog owners allows their dog to come face to face with mine before I can prevent it, I give 2 seconds and pull my girl away. And I have learned if she stiffens and looks “proud” and stops wagging her tail, she is about to growl and snarl at the other dog.
    We work on her “watching” me at home or while we are outside.
    As Minette mentioned, you need to know your dog and it’s body language. And you have to be proactive (or pre-emptive as the case may be) to prevent unwanted behavior. Every dog owner is not a responsible dog owner, so we have to be vigilent with our dogs.


  28. Carole says:

    We have a rescue dog that will be very aggressive to me or anyone who she feels is in my husband’s territory – like lounge chair and his office.
    When you said citronella works 90% of the time, what did you mean? Would this work for this problem? Thank you very much.


    Minette Reply:

    Citronella collars only work for barking.

    I recommend you get a veterinary behaviorist to come to the house and work on a behavior modification program.

    I cannot see the aggression so it limits my ability to give you advice. Find a behaviorist to help you.


  29. Nancy Reynolds says:

    This just makes so much sense! I have a 2 year old Australian Shepherd that has issues with both new people and new dogs. The good thing is that “stare” is a great indicator of what is going to happen next. I am going to try this refocusing technique and see what happens!


  30. Julie Roberts says:

    This is almost opposite, staring at the dog, instead of the dog staring… but, I have raised and trained dogs for many years, and when ever my dog was in the “down, stay” position, we were usually in eye contact. A couple of people have said that if you make eye contact with a dog, it is a sign of aggression, and the dog will “break” from the command. I have not experienced that to be the case. My dogs have always trusted me, and don’t seem to be threatened by eye contact, except when I give them the “evil eye” they will submit, and usually lie down. They seem to know he difference. You seem to be of the opinion, like I am, that eye contact with your dog is an important tool. Have you heard the opposite, that you should not make eye contact with your dog?

    I agree, that I have noticed a dog will stiffen and stare for and instant, or longer, when he is about to become aggressive towards another person or animal. It is good to recognize that behavior, in order to prevent yourself from being bitten by someone else’s dog.


  31. Marla Wallace says:

    My dog Max is about a year and a half old. One of his behaviors that we couldnt figure out was while my husband and I would be eating, Max would sit on the couch and stare at the ceiling. Because of your article I put two and two together. After he stares at the ceiling he will beg for food from us. I guess the staring must be him trying to decide whether hes going to try and get some of our food or not. The only thing Ive ever seen him stare at is the ceiling, so I guess thats a good thing! Thanks for all the great articles!


  32. janeva says:

    my dog, herbie, looks at the hand that gives him the treats, toys,food,etc, and not me!!!
    what do i do?


    Minette Reply:

    Bring it up to your face and wait for him to look at you.

    Usually they do in frustration… then reward. He will catch on quick.

    Read this


  33. Suzan says:

    I have a 3 yr old Afghan male…..very loving but also has agression problems … daughter is living with us and has a greyhound mix…..almost every day at least once Cashmere will suddenly for no reason do the eye stare ….and then attack Merlin …..huge chaos ensues and Cashmere is sent to his kennel (he never really hurts …but scares the other dog….how to stop this once and for all: he also is agressive and lunges and barks ..some times on a walk (my daughter walks him as he is too strong for me or my Husband….I am at my wits end ,,what to do?


    Minette Reply:

    NO staring!!! This is a precursor and a warning sign, when you see it get involved and make him do something else.

    Put the aggressor on a leash and a gentle leader and don’t allow him to be loose in the house… he has not earned this privilege if he is being aggressive.

    And, go back to basic training several times a day EVERY DAY. He obviously is not listening in other areas of his life either if you cannot walk him.

    Go back and teach him sit, down, and heel and get him to give you eye contact and learn how to teach him to do things for you that are good and on command.

    Just working with him daily will probably decrease his aggression!


  34. T says:

    We have an 8 month old coonhound who is full of energy and loves to play. Like all coonhounds he loves to be around us all of the time as well. The only command we have successfully been able to teach him is “sit”. How do we teach him eye contact? How do we get him to walk quietly on the leash instead of lunging until he sounds like he is choking (until we can get another harness in his new size)He is not necessarily agressive around other dogs (yet) but he thinks they all want to play with him. Sometimes “sit” works, but never for very long, because stay doesn’t work and he is easily distracted.


    Minette Reply:

    Read this


  35. Bree says:

    I have a 5 month old puppy. He is a bullmastiff and boxer. He is crazy! He thinks biting hard is playing. So he BITES everyone! It hurts. He will charge and growl. I try to give him a lot of love. What am I doing wrong or what am i not doing?


    Minette Reply:

    He needs more exercise than love. Exercise will make him tired, and a good puppy is a tired puppy.

    He also needs more obedience than love.

    If you give him attention all the time for nothing, you are rewarding his bad behavior. Instead make him work for his meals and teach him to sit, down, heel and give you eye contact.

    work him every day several times a day and make sure he is getting plenty of exercise and has lots of toys to play with!


  36. Carol says:

    I enjoy these articles so much! I have recently adopted a terrier mix shelter pup. Very sweet, but energetic and agressive. Plays well with our older dog, lab/dalmation. She treats him like “her” puppy and corrects him when he gets too rough or if she has had enough. I have noticed the “stare” from him when approached by another dog. Glad to get the advise to distract him. Thanks so much! Keep up the great work!


  37. Nola says:

    Some interesting comments. I have a 6.5 mth Border Collie. Of all the dogs I have had, mainly German Shep., this little guy is really the brightest. One of the most appealing things about him is the direct eye contact. When talking with a number of people, he is involved, watching the speaker, sometimes with his head slightly tilted as if agreeing.
    My husband is constantly on the phone, so to attract attention to himself dog hurtles past squeezing his teddy toy with a soundmaker in it’s middle.
    He then hides the toy to avoid it being confisq.
    His best mate is a very large, very gentle bull mastif with whom he plays well, so he has no reservations around “big dogs”.
    I am having trouble to make him walk on a loose lead though – still nearly chokes pulling ahead enthusiastically!


    Minette Reply:

    If he likes eye contact, then use that when you walk!!

    He can’t stare into your eyes and pull at the end of the leash!!


  38. Parth says:


    I’m Parth, a first time dog owner from Mumbai. We own a 3 month old Chocolate Brown lab and it seems the pooch has gotten aggressive very early. I’ll confess that the fault is squarely mine for hitting him hard on the jaw on a couple of occasions over his tugging habit. I know its absolutely unpardonable but I was massively tensed with other professional issues and it came all out on Sam. Although I’ve dropped the habit, he now growls menacingly every time he sees my index finger sticking out when I say ‘NO’. Though he had got around following ‘NOs’ and ‘SITs’, the commands were naturally accompanied by a hand/finger gesture which he has now associated with my slapping.

    So (1) is it too late to do repair work? and if yes, (2) How? I’ve been religiously employing ‘positive reinforcement’ for his other training but the NOs don’t work anymore cuz of the finger.

    Most importantly, he always bothers us by trying to jump on the dinner table or hungrily lunging at our food when we eat. I’m aware of a Lab’s tendency to eat heavily but his tantrums whenever we have our meals are getting out of hand. Any pointers?…


    Minette Reply:

    First of all imagine it from his point of view. The neighbor (who speaks a different language) comes over points his finger at you and then clocks you in the jaw.

    You are sure what you did, but it hurt and you are afraid. Then he does it a few more times.

    Now when you see your neighbor coming what are you going to do? When you see his finger, you are probably going to get ready to fight, right? Or as a human, you’d probably go get your gun.

    Well, this is how your dog feels when he sees your finger, except he can’t go get his gun.

    You HAVE to stop pointing at him when you are mad and stop using physical force.

    From now on you can point and then give him a treat, point and give him a treat. Hopefully soon he will associate the finger with food. But as soon as you get mad and use that finger again he will likely revert back to his trauma.

    DO NOT use physical force ever again!! Or you are liable to have a dog that will attack you one day.

    And, for now put him in his crate or outside when you eat, until you have taught him enough obedience that he will listen to you.

    Work on positive reinforcement obedience every day a few times a day. I would also recommend you look into our puppy programming series and that will teach you how to train him without using your hands!


  39. Dawn says:

    We have 4 dogs in our home. Alpha female is the oldest (14yrs) mix terrier (spayed) next is 4 yr old female Great Dane (spayed), Female Chiuhaha mix (not spayed) and a 14 to 15 month old male mix (fixed) possibly some pit and hound and about the same size of the terrier.

    Recently the male has begun attacking the Alpha female. The female has also been the aggressor twice. Water will break it up, and the terrier is definatly the looser in these battles. They are quite violent, but we have not had to take the female to the vet for injuries. We feel that he is trying to take her spot in the chain, but need advice on how to adjust or change the behavior???

    HELP!!! As a side note- our dogs get plenty of exercise and people time.


    Minette Reply:

    There is an unspayed dog in the mix, this can build aggression even in a neutered male. He still has hormones and he is reaching sexual maturity.

    He may be trying to take the alpha’s spot because she is old and he doesn’t see her as a good leader anymore, or she may be sick. In wolf packs the wolves often kill the alpha when they become sick or are too old to lead.

    That being said you need to do training with your male, constant consistent training and keep him on a leash in the house if you have to.

    You say hasn’t had to go to the vet… I say YET


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *