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Dog Behaviourist Explains The Meaning Behind The 'Hard Stare'

Dog Behaviourist Explains The Meaning Behind The 'Hard Stare'

Has your dog ever given you a hard, stiff stare? A dog behaviourist has explained why.

Dog owners are all familiar with the staring looks they get from their beloved pets, but only a few understand what their dog is actually trying to communicate.

Thankfully, Zoe Willingham, dog behaviourist and founder of Best Behaviour Dog Training has not only explained the different types of stars but also what they mean.

Canines spend a lot of time staring at their humans and one stare owners will often see is the ‘hard stare’. This star usually comes with stiff body language and sometimes a growl or bark. “This is often because the dog is concerned about something or may even be hunting or stalking something with their eyes,” Willingham explains.

A dog behaviourist has explained why dogs stare at their owners. (

Sometimes referred to as the 'warning stare', dogs often use it in situations in which they are guarding resources or attempting to tell their owner that they don't like something.

"It is a hard stare often seen with dilated pupils and stiffness. Sometimes dogs can be seen offering something called Whale Eye, where [their head it averted and] you can see the white part of their eye and it looks like they are still looking at you."

Another stare owners might recognise is the ‘soft stare’. One example of when this might be seen is when you’re tucking into your favourite meal and your fur baby watches your plate and your mouth as you eat, longingly.

Willingham explains: “[When] they gaze into your eyes, [It’s] often because they want something. This can be combined with head tilts and cute vocalisation.

“Dogs are very good at working out what look gets them what they want."

Dogs might also give their owners a longing stare. (

She adds: “Dogs usually stare at their owners for a number of reasons, this can be to get their attention, to receive attention, to warn owners, or to ask for something. Dogs are incredibly expressive animals and staring is just part of the body language they use to communicate with us.”

Both types of stares aren't reserved for humans either. Willingham says that other dogs and even cats are able to understand dog behavioural cues.

We all recognise this longing look. (

"Animals are very good at reading each other and I see it all the time with cats and dogs that they cats understand what the dog is likely to do next by the way the dog looks at them," she explains.

Owners can become more aware of the ways their dog communicates by training their dog with a qualified professional to learn all the facets of dog behaviour. Willingham says: "a good trainer will help you understand your dog. Another way is to watch your dog and even video them, you will be fascinated watching them and their individual quirks."

Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock/ Alamy

Topics: Animals, Dog