Wait, hold the phone. We told you eye contact was good but now it’s not? So confusing! Fido looking at his mom with soft eyes, a relaxed face and a giant grin; all super awesome. Fifi staring at the cat, frozen stance and a tense mouth; not good at all. There is no need for a pet dog to stare at anyone or anything with beady eyes. And, we have met quite a few canines who will growl, snap or bite if a person or another animal stares back at them. Here are a few ways to diffuse staring and keep your pooch safe, happy and a welcome member of society:
Even if your dog is crazy friendly, if you pass a person who clearly does not want their dog to say hello; it not enough just to pass by the dog. Keeping your dogs eyes on you vs. the reactive dog will prevent the neighborhood BarkFest from coming to your hood. Construction in Chicago is miserable enough.
Tight spaces like some obedience classes, veterinary waiting rooms and daycare entrances can be tricky and stressful for many dogs. Encouraging your dog to look at you AND not allow him to stare at other dogs can make your life and those around you easier. Do not be distracted by the cute dog to your right, keep your eyes on your dog and praise him for doing the same.
If you are introducing your rescue dog or puppy to a child or another animal for the first time; do not let him stare. The longer eyes are locked, the more quickly a negative situation can escalate. Using gates and other management tools are best and keep your distance until he or she are looking to you without too much work on either end of the leash. And no collar corrections, please. If your dog is super tense, yanking at their neck sure is not going to help him or her relax.
Perhaps looking at you is not possible for your dog, it is too much for him or her to handle around distractions. Back up on expectations and reward for glancing, not staring at the person, dog or squirrel. If you need to cue it, say “what’s that?” and “yes” for a quick glance and you will find your dog starts to look up more at you than if you tried way too hard to get eye contact. And, never ever use food treats near another dog. A nice distance is best.
Living with a dog means sometimes being out and about with the world, no matter how fabulous your backyard might be. We have to remember that there is a lot of communication going on at the end of our leashes. Even if we live with the nicest dog in the world, allowing him to stare can cause ruckus and potentially teach him to pick up others’ bad behaviors we would rather not see. Be a dear and do not let your dog stare.