Those cute little beady black puppy dog eyes! When they look at you it seems as if they are staring into the very depths of your soul! Are they judging you, are they trying to tell you the secrets to their universe? What are they trying to communicate?
That was the question on my mind when I decided to dive into some research and talk to owners to find out.
Your Shih Tzu 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 Shih Tzu 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 Shih Tzu stare down!
Reasons Why Your Shih Tzu Stares!
1. Your Shih Tzu is Trying to Read Your Cues
One of the biggest reasons your Shih Tzu will stare at you is to gather information about the cues you are sending him. Shih Tzu make the best companion dogs and want to please you at every turn. They thrive on being close to you and understanding your every move. They will follow you endlessly and are often nicknamed the velcro breed just for that reason.
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Nicknamed the Lion breed Shih Tzu were known as one of the most notable dogs of the Chinese empire. Being bred to keep the nobles and wealthy company they got really good at tuning into their owners to pick up tips and clues on how to act. Dogs instinctually look to their pack leaders for guidance on what to do next, Shih Tzu are no different, and you are their pack leader.
Since Shih Tzus 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 Shih Tzu 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 Shih Tzu 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 Shih Tzu is Communicating Love
Another reason your Shih Tzu 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.
If you let your Shih Tzu sleep with you, you may be getting more benefits from oxytocin. (Make sure to read this article before you let your Shih Tzu sleep with you!)
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 Shih Tzu may be somewhat wary and nervous with strangers, his bond with you can be unshakeable! This explains why your Shih Tzu 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 Shih Tzu loves and trusts you.
- Curls up next to you or in your lap (How much do Shih Tzu love to cuddle? Owners tell all!)
- 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
- Wants to lick you all the time (Find out all about Shih Tzu kisses here!)
So next time you are feeling stressed and need a pick me up, try having a staring contest with your sweet Shih Tzu and see if that helps you both feel a bit better.
3. Your Shih Tzu Wants Something
Your Shih Tzu stares might not always have loving intentions. If your Shih Tzu 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.
Your Shih Tzu 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 a Shih Tzu 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 Shih Tzu 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.
“The creepiest really is when I lay down in the afternoon to take a nap, he climbs on me, lays on me and stares at me while I sleep, with his nose this close to my face! Literally, close my eyes with him staring, waking up like an hour and half later, he’s still in same position and still staring without blinking! I swear it’s creepy!Ana S.
4. Your Shih Tzu 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 Shih Tzu 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 Shih Tzu 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 Shih Tzu is Confused
If your Shih Tzu 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 Shih Tzu 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 Shih Tzu 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 Shih Tzu may be asking for more clear directions and understanding of the behavior your are looking for from him.
Unfortunately, as your Shih Tzu ages and becomes a senior, his confused stares could indicate something more serious such as cognitive dysfunction. If you have an older Shih Tzu 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 Shih Tzu is Confrontational
Shih Tzu’s are normally a very friendly and docile breed. They can be great for families and kids, but they still need to be socialized well when they are puppies. If your Shih Tzu is not well socialized as a puppy his stare could be confrontational and a warning that something bad is going to happen.
If your Shih Tzu has an icy hard stare accompanied by a low growl or baring of teeth, proceed with caution. Shih Tzu are unlikely to show this behavior to their owners but may do this when feeling threatened.
Situations where your Shih Tzu 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 Shih Tzu 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 Shih Tzu or any other dog that you may be approaching break eye contact and back away. Give your Shih Tzu 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 Shih Tzu 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.