Learning about your dog’s body language can better help you understand their behaviour, when they are happy or anxious, and how to better care for them. In this article from the Body Language Series we look at Dog’s eyes.
Eye shapes and colours can vary a lot in dogs. Brachycephalic dogs (short nosed dogs) often have very wide eyes – e.g. pugs. Some dogs can have different coloured eyes (heterochromia) or both eyes that are blue. This can often be of putting for some dogs as it can look like dogs are staring.
Neutral (relaxed or happy): Iris (coloured tissue) should be clearly visible, soft almond like shape to eyes.
Blinking can indicate non-threatening intentions and can be used to avoid eye contact.
Squinty eyes can be a sign of avoidance, or appeasement to indicate peaceful intentions. Often seen in videos on social media of a dog who is ‘in trouble’. Contrary to popular belief, the dog does NOT know what they have done wrong and is only trying to appease the cranky/intimidating human.
Aroused/stressed/fearful: Pupils will be dilated and eyes more round in shape.
‘Whale eye’ – during stress, fear and arousal: Whites of the eyes are clearly visible, sometimes only for short periods.
Direct eye contact: The dog may be alerting to something or fixated on an object/person/dog, or scared and uncertain.
Fixed or Glassy
‘Hard eye’ is a fixed, glassy stare and is a threat to get something to move away.
It’s important to read the dog’s whole body and not just one part, plus take into consideration the context in which the behaviour is happening.