Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Body Language - The Eyes

We say that the eyes are the windows to the soul. When it comes to our canine companions, it can also be a window into their emotions. Remember that old expression "sad puppy dog eyes"? The next time you look at a dog, study her eyes closely. Are they bright? Do they appear large or small? Are they studying you?

Size Matters

A dog's eyes will appear different sizes depending how they feeling.

Normal size generally indicates:

  • happy
  • relaxed
  • friendly
  • alert

 Larger than normal size generally indicates:

  • frightened
  • stressed
  • aggressive

Smaller than normal size generally indicates:

  • frightened
  • stressed
  • in pain

You probably noticed that a frightened or stressed dog could have either smaller or larger than normal eye size. So you really have to take into account the situation and look at the rest of the dog's body to make an accurate assessment.


If a dog looks right at you with relaxed features (remember those puppy eyes) then she is happy, relaxed and probably looking for you to notice and give her some attention.

If a dog stares at you with tense features it can indicate that she is challenging you or trying to look threatening to you. If you don't know the dog, it would be a good idea to look away. In dog language that is like saying you mean no harm.

If a dog doesn't turn towards you but stares at you from the corner of her eye with her head lowered then beware. This is known as "whale eye". The whites of the eyes are large and shaped like crescents.

This dog is under stress or is guarding something and could turn aggressive if approached.

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