The stone-cold expecting stare of your Australian Shepherd’s eyes can seem to be looking into the depths of your soul wanting so hard to communicate with you! What could they be thinking and why do they stare so intensely?
That was the question on my mind when I decided to dive into some research and talk to owners to find out.
Your Australian Shepherd will stare at you as a way of communicating with you. They will often stare at you looking for cues of what is going to come next. They stare when they want something from you, such as attention, or food, or even when they are just trying to show you admiration and affection.
So how do you tell what the different stares mean? Why is it sometimes feel uncomfortable when your Australian Shepherd stares at you so intently? ….And of all things, why on earth does he stare at you when he eats or poops!? Consider this article your one-stop shop for winning the Australian Shepherd stare-down!
Reasons Why Your Australian Shepherd Stares!
1. Your Australian Shepherd is Trying to Read Your Cues
One of the biggest reasons your Aussie will stare at you is to gather information about the cues you are sending him. Australian Shepherds are working dogs and will look at you when asking for a job to do.
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Despite being named ‘Australian’ Shepherd this breed likely does not come from Australia, their origin is nearly impossible to pinpoint as they have a very rich and confusing history (link goes to an AKC article). One thing about the Australian Shepherd that is not confusing however is their high energy and desire to work.
Australian Shepards are herding dogs, so it is their instinct to herd and move… well anything, kids, cats, cows, you name it! They will look to their pack leader (which is hopefully you) for cues and instructions for the job they are doing.
Australian Shepherds are very loyal and very intelligent they can and will learn quickly. Working to Establish yourself as a strong and confident leader in their presence is the key to teaching them as well as gaining their understanding and trust. When they stare intently at you they are looking to you for that confidence and guidance as the alpha member of their pack.
Because Australian Shepherds are so intelligent and loyal they often pick up on subtle things that other dogs might miss. They are good at understanding you and they can often feed off your emotions and know when something is off. They may be looking to you to figure out how to fix it.
They may also be staring at you as they try to decipher your body language and figure out what might be coming next in their daily routine.
When your Australian Shepherd stares at you he is drawn to look at your eyes because as this study shows they actually do really well at reading eye movements and facial expressions of their owners and can interpret your emotions, which will help them decide what may come next!
2. Your Australian Shepherd is Communicating Love
Another reason your Australian Shepherd is staring at you can simply be explained that he loves you!
When a new mother holds her new baby and they look into each other’s eyes it has an amazing effect of releasing a powerful hormone called oxytocin. This hormone is often called the love hormone as it helps us connect and bond with one another.
Eye contact is a big thing to us humans, and dogs may be the only species that really understands that. A study shows that dogs and their owners alike both experience an increased release of oxytocin when we stare amorously into one another’s eyes. Dogs are the first and possibly only species besides humans that have been observed doing this.
So even though your Australian Shepherd may be territorial and wary with strangers, his bond with you can be unshakeable! This explains why your Australian Shepherd may just be your best and most loyal friend. This release of hormones will actually help you and your dog build a stronger bond and build more trust with each other.
Here are some other ways to tell that your Australian Shepherd loves and trusts you.
- Curls up next to you or in your lap
- Greets you enthusiastically while wagging his tail
- Pushes on you with his nose
- Relaxed body language around you
- Gets excited when he sees you after you’ve been separated for a time
- licks you or wants to kiss and lick your face
- Sleeps on his back and exposes his belly when he’s close to you
- Leans against you, or lying down next to you
- Sleeping with or carrying around your dirty-smelling laundry or shoes
- Wants you to play with him
- Stares at you lovingly
- Brings things to you
So next time you are feeling stressed and need a pick me up, try having a staring contest with your sweet Australian Shepherd and see if that helps you both feel a bit better.
In fact, many people have found that Australian Shepherds can make really great therapy and service dogs!
Or you could spend some time cuddling with your Australian Shepherd on the couch while you check out this sweet story of a loving Australian Shepherd and her owner.
3. Your Australian Shepherd Wants Something
Your Australian Shepherd stares might not always have loving intentions. If your Australian Shepherd is staring at you with an accompanying whimper or whining he’s most likely trying to communicate that he wants something from you.
Learning how to read your dog’s body language can go a long way in helping you bond with your dog as well as helping them to be better behaved.
You may notice if your dog is following you everywhere, but what other more subtle cues might he be giving you? Perhaps nudging you with his nose, giving you whale eye (wide eyes where you can see the white).
Your Australian Shepherd may be asking for you to let them outside to use the restroom, he may want you to play with him, or maybe he is dying for you to share some of your delicious chicken sandwich you are eating.
When an Australian Shepherd stares at you while she is eating it’s because of the ancient natural instinct for dogs (and their ancestral wolves) to look at the pack leader during meal times as a sign of submission and asking for any scraps that they are willing to share.
Either way, pay attention to not only his eyes but his ears, tail, and how his body is positioned and you may soon discover how to understand your dog’s secret language.
Other Australian Shepherd owners have said that if their pup is staring at them to get their attention then they better give them some attention! If they are on the computer or the Ipad and they don’t put it down and pay attention their dog will start getting more insistent with its stares using nose bumps, followed by strange whining noises, and possible barks in the face.
4. Your Australian Shepherd is Trained to Look at You
When you bring home a new puppy and first start teaching and training it, one of the most important things to teach them first is to look at you. Teaching them how to sit, stay, heel, settle and all the other important commands is so much easier when your dog first knows to look at you.
Dogs often recognize visual cues much easier and sooner than they can figure out what you want them to do purely by speaking the command. When your Australian Shepherd is trained to look at you are able to see your movements and interpret whether you want them to sit, stay, come, or something else.
So for training purposes, if your dog looks at you a lot that will make your job a lot easier. Take advantage of all that attention and see what fun tricks you can train them to do.
This attentive stare may also explain why your Australian Shepherd looks at you while he’s pooping. He’s not doing it to gross you out, but most likely when you trained him to go poop in his spot outside you gave him lots of praise, attention and maybe even treats. He may continue to stare at you because he’s expecting more of the same.
5. Your Australian Shepherd is Confused
If your Australian Shepherd is looking at you and you’re are confused as to why that may just be your answer as well. Sometimes we humans do funny and unpredictable things. If your Australian Shepherd is looking at you with his head tilted to one side and his ears perked at the attention he’s probably confused and wondering what you are doing or trying to communicate to him.
Another sign of confusion in your Australian Shepherd may be licking of the lips or a quick shake of his body. This could show that the confusion is causing a bit of stress in your dog.
Your Australian Shepherd may be asking for more clear directions and understanding of the behavior you are looking for from him.
Unfortunately, as your Australian Shepherd ages and becomes a senior, his confused stares could indicate something more serious such as cognitive dysfunction. If you have an older Australian Shepherd and they are also forgetting basic commands, wandering aimlessly in circles, or having accidents in the house it’s time for a visit to your vet to see what can be done.
6. Your Australian Shepherd is Confrontational
Australian Shepherds can have a strong desire to show their dominance over other dogs and animals, they are not inherently aggressive, but it’s still very important to socialize your dog well when they are young. If your Australian Shepherd is not well socialized as a puppy his stare could be confrontational and a warning that something bad is going to happen.
If your Australian Shepherd has an icy hard stare accompanied by a low growl or baring of teeth, proceed with caution. Australian Shepherds are unlikely to show this behavior to their owners but may do this when feeling threatened.
Situations where your Australian Shepherd might feel threatened can include:
- Resource guarding a treat, special toy, or food
- Being approached by a stranger or someone that makes them feel uncomfortable
- An unfamiliar animal that is invading his space
- Any interaction that is unfamiliar, unsettling, or startling
Other signs that your Australian Shepherds staring could lead to confrontation may include a rigid or stiff body, holding very still, tail tucked or not wagging, and ears laid back on his head.
If this is your Australian Shepherd or any other dog that you may be approaching break eye contact and back away. Give your Australian Shepherd some space to calm down and evaluate why he may have reacted that way. You will also want to work on training him to not be aggressive in order to avoid potentially dangerous situations in the future.
So next time your Australian Shepherd is staring you down, and your first reaction is to think about how creepy it may be, or that he’s judging you and found you unworthy, think again. Most likely that intense stare means that your dog is your lifelong companion ready to please and protect you no matter what.