As a dog parent, you must have surely caught your dog staring intently at you at different times. It is one way how the dog tries to communicate.
There could be varying reasons why a dog stares at its human parent. For example, some of the obvious reasons for staring could be when you are about to bite into a delicious-looking steak or dessert, when you are playing with the dog, or when the dog is trying to divert your attention to a specific scenario.
At other times, you would wake at night and see your dog staring at you. Now, such behavior can understandably be weird and confusing. You are bound to wonder why does my dog stare at me when I sleep. What can I do? Should I be concerned?
The article will look into staring as behavior and, more specifically, the possible reasons your dog stares at you while you are asleep.
Why Do Dogs Stare?
Do not be startled if your dog stares at you. Staring is, in fact, a common behavior used by dogs as a communication mode.
A dog might typically stare when it wants something from its human family. For example, it might want food, water, treat, or toys. If it is their usual time to go for a walk, the dog might stare at you, the leash, or the door to indicate it is time to get going.
Another reason could be the dog is trying to understand you. Just as you are trying to find meaning behind their actions and behavior, dogs try to do the same thing. For example, they might be trying to figure out what makes you happy, what kind of behavior is appreciated, and what behaviors they should avoid.
Staring could also be the way dogs communicate their feelings. It could be love and happiness they are showing, or it could be nervousness or anger.
You need to consider the dog’s body language, time, and any activity you were doing to make sense of those stares. For example, if a dog gives you a hard stare along with a stiff body posture, it could be a sign of resource guarding. Therefore, it is best not to make eye contact and stay away from the dog.
On the other hand, if the dog is staring at you when you both are cuddled up on the sofa, it could be a sign of affection.
Why Does My Dog Stare At Me When I Sleep? – 10 Possible Reasons
Now that we know why dogs stare, let us dive into specific reasons this behavior continues even while you are asleep.
1. It Is a Way of Expressing Love
Dogs love their human family. And yes, science has been able to that prove this fact. For example, an Emory University study found that human scents compared to the canine scent, activated the pleasure center in the dog’s brain. Moreover, the scent of their human parents was the strongest stimuli for dogs.
They will show their love by listening to you, following you around, and getting excited as soon as they see you. Staring is also a way dog express their love towards you.
Dogs actively choose to be around humans. So, while you are asleep, it may want to be near you. And with staring, it can express its love without disturbing your sleep.
2. The Dog Could be Hungry
If the dog is hungry and you are asleep, it could just be waiting for you to get up and feed it. If the dog is too hungry, it might even go ahead and wake you.
For example, do you feed the dog first thing in the morning? If yes, then the dog is used to that routine. It expects to be fed by a certain time. And if you sleep in, it could be normal to find the dog waiting by the bed for you to get up.
It would help if you stuck to a feeding routine with dogs. The dog’s stomach can become hyper acidic, or it could become nauseous. Also, if you often find the dog staring at you in the morning, or it tends to wake you up, you may have to reconsider its feeding schedule.
3. It May Have to Poop
Another reason for those morning stares could be because your dog has to poop.
Dogs usually take around 8 to 12 hours to digest a meal. So for most dogs, pooping is the first order of business they must complete in the morning. So if you feed the dog before 7 in the evening, it will be ready to poop by 7 in the morning or before that.
It is one of the serious reasons that require your attention. If you do not let the dog out on time, it may try to control its poop as long as possible but eventually end up having an accident inside the house.
You will find yourself cleaning after the pet more often than you would like. Blaming them does not help. Moreover, a dog holding its poop can lead to health issues. The poop can get reabsorbed by the body and cause abdominal pain.
4. Your Actions Startled the Dog
Do you talk in your sleep? Or do you sleepwalk at night? If yes, then this can be confusing behavior for the dog.
If the dog sleeps next to you or in the same room, you suddenly talking can startle the dog. You could have stirred or woken up startled yourself from a nightmare. Or you find yourself tossing and turning in the bed, unable to fall asleep.
This unexpected movement can wake the dog, and it may stare and try to understand what is happening with you.
5. It Senses Danger
A dog can also wake up from sleep if it hears strange noises from sources other than you. For example, it could be a door being closed loudly in the distance, a car passing by on the street, barks from the neighborhood dogs, or sounds from other birds and animals.
In the dead of night, these noises can travel farther from the source. The sound could also be loud in the absence of the ambient noise that is always around during the day.
These sounds may not wake or bother you. But, on hearing an unfamiliar sound, the dog could go into its loyal and protective mode.
If the dog senses any kind of danger nearby, staring can be its way to assess if you are okay or not.
6. The Dog is Bored
Do you take the pet out for walks regularly? Does it have toys and puzzles to play with? Does it have company during the day? Do you enjoy some quality time with it during the day?
If you answered negatively for most of the questions above, then staring could mean your dog is simply bored. Dogs like being around people. Depending on the breed, they need a certain amount of exercise and mental stimulation to keep healthy.
Staring could be the dog’s way of seeking attention or some kind of engagement from you.
What you could do is take the canine out for a walk at night before bed. This way, it gets in its quota of exercise and also spends time with you. The exercise will also help get the dog a good night’s sleep, which could translate to no more staring at night.
7. It Wants to Play with You
Sometimes the dog may want to spend time or play with you and would be waiting for you to get up. As mentioned above, dogs are social creatures and like being around family.
It would help if you were careful of constant staring, as dogs can use this behavior to manipulate you. For example, you have already taken the dog for a walk, played, and cuddled with it. But it still wants to play some more with you.
In this case, it may continuously stare, hoping you will wake from your nap, give into its stare and do what it wants.
If you have plenty of time with the dog during the day, you must learn to stay strong and ignore its manipulative stares. On the other hand, if the pet is not stimulated enough, you should consider options like doggy daycare.
8. It Wants to Protect You
If we look at the pet’s ancestors, guarding is a trait that came naturally to them. For example, these ancestors traveled in packs and ensured each other’s safety. So, when most of the dogs formed a huddle and went off to sleep, there would be a few dogs standing guard to protect the pack from any possible danger.
There are dog breeds that are fiercely loyal and protective – for example, German Shepherds, Doberman Pinscher, Belgian Malinois, Cane Corso, and Akita, among others. These dogs are popularly used as guard dogs.
So, if you are a parent to any of these protective breeds of dogs, chances are you will find them staring at you while you are asleep, being your protector. You do not have to train the dogs to do so specifically. It is a trait that comes pretty naturally to them.
It considers you family, and it will show its love and loyalty by watching over you.
9. The Dog is Nervous or Anxious
When in an unfamiliar, uncomfortable, or stressful situation, your dog will look toward you for comfort. If the dog has anxiety, depression, or is not socialized enough, it will depend more on you.
So, for example, at night, a large honking sound of thunder can be a trigger for the pet. You may not stir from your sleep, but the dog could wake, nervously look around and then at you, unsure of how to proceed with the situation. If it is too scared, it may inch closer to you or cuddle to seek comfort.
This behavior can also often be seen in rescue dogs. The dogs will remember if they have had bad experiences with their owners before. As a result, the dogs might feel vulnerable and nervous and thus stare at you at night.
In such cases, you need to work on building a bond of love and trust with the pet. Focus on creating good memories and providing them with a safe environment to live in.
10. The Dog is Dealing with Health Issues
Now, we have seen several reasons why does my dog stare at me when I sleep above. But this is a reason that requires your utmost attention.
If your dog used to sleep well through the night, but now you catch it staring at you at night, the reason needs to be investigated. It may be trying to tell you it is in pain and cannot sleep. Health issues like arthritis can make it difficult for the canine to find a comfortable sleeping position.
In senior dogs, dementia is a condition that can cause a reversal of day and night. The dog may sleep through the day and be awake during the night. The phenomena would be confusing for the dog as well. And it will stare at you while you are sleeping to make sense of what is happening around it.
Staring can be both beneficial and negative. For example, when you and the dog stare into each other’s eyes, it can lead to the release of the love hormone, oxytocin. In addition, a few minutes of mutual staring can help strengthen your bond with the pet.
On the other hand, staring could mean your dog is scared or anxious. And you will have to work towards finding the triggers and neutralizing them.
Why does my dog stare at me when I sleep? As a new pet parent, this behavior can be weird, confusing, and even creepy.
Be assured, though, staring is a common way for dogs to express their love, affection, and loyalty. They want to ensure you are okay, and looking over at you at night is their way to do so. Or it could simply mean the dog is hungry or wants to poop.
If the dog does not get out or interact with you much during the day, staring could be its way to seek some form of engagement.
If staring is a new behavior, then getting the dog checked by the vet would be wise to ensure it is not in pain or a health condition, keeping it wide awake at night.
Elena Gherman is a highly skilled and knowledgeable animal care expert. At the start of her career, she gained practical expertise with multiple animals. In addition to that, she works as a DVM veterinary editor for Joy Pet Products, which focuses on offering reliable information on pet health and wellbeing. She meticulously reviews each piece of writing before it is published to make sure pet owners get the most precise and updated information possible.