Why do pets stare? More specifically, why does my dog stare at my wife?

I say pets, domesticated, because in the wild the reasons are obvious: is it a threat, it looks tasty, or new and odd, or maybe I can catch it, or I’m-eyeballing-you-Buster-so-beat-it.

All stuff that happens indoors also, of course.

But here’s the question, and the set-up:

I’m with my dog all day. My wife comes home, they express mutual ecstasy in meeting each other, she gets him dinner, we eat, and eventually she settles down on the couch to watch TV, and I lie down on nearby and read. Buddy curls up in front of the couch.

Almost always sooner or later Buddy will lift up his head, go into a happy pant (he’s a Golden–dog people know what this means) and stare at her. She locks eyes and says “what do you want,” “no you’re not put going to get a cookie” (to him).

I tell her he’s just staring at her because he’s grooving on the view. She says he wants a cookie. I say you’re wound too tight–and to my peril once said don’t be like your mother–that you can be loved and have nothing needed in exchange.

It’s a profound psychological standpoint that can make you understand a lot about letting go I said, being a family therapist with a smug tone of voice that made her rightly throw a sneaker at me.

But I’m right, Right? I don’t know about other pets, but could a dog fixate on something/one just cause it gives him pleasure?

Sometimes a see him smelling a bush and wonder that too, but that’s background for the OP.

ETA: I should add that Buddy is my service dog, and when outdoors off leash he will not travel more than 10 feet without stopping and staring, waiting for permission to move another few yards, or for any command, I suppose, so he’s well into communication.

Well, dogs ARE highly social creatures. The dog may be looking at her for approval.

Your wife is right, he wants a cookie. And I bet he ends up getting one.

“Hi! You’re awesome, because you feed me! Hey, I don’t know if you realized, but I’m ready for 2nd Dinner now!”

More interesting to me, at least, has always been the fact that dogs, and cats, and other animals, and people, look you in the eye. Why?

She’s beauuuuuuuutiful! Woof!

Certain dogs definitely bond with individual people in different ways. I can’t say why it is in this case but it almost certainly isn’t just a stimulus/response dynamic. He probably likes your wife or finds her interesting. Dogs are smart. It doesn’t take anything more than that.

Dogs aren’t the only animals that exhibit that kind of behavior. I bought my ex-wife a tiny male iguana when we first got married. He soon grew into a large male iguana who hated strangers, tolerated me and loved her like a kitten would. If she was holding him and I tried to take him away to put him back in his cage, he would get quite aggressive and you do not want a grown iguana to smack you across your face with his tail because that will make even a Navy SEAL cry like a little girl. I have read that is a common issue with male iguanas and female owners. They develop a crush on them.

I have a sweet male Chinchilla now. He only likes people that he knows and makes this weird hissing and spitting sound at others when they walk into the room. He loves cuddling with my daughters though and loves to watch them even when he is in his cage.

Why do you watch TV ?

To get a cookie!
I agree with TriPolar that your wife is right, and he wants a cookie. Dogs are creatures of habit. If he gets a cookie each night around a certain time when he looks at your wife, then around that time, he will look at your wife expecting a cookie. Maybe he wasn’t expecting a cookie the first or second time he happened to stare at your wife at that time, but now it’s part of his routine.

Dogs are opportunists and engage in many behaviours because they are rewarded for them. Doesn’t need to happen every time, but like a gambler at a slot machine, they’ll pull the handle over and over, hoping for a payout. There has to be something in the interaction with your wife that the dog finds rewarding, whether it’s the hope of a cookie from time to time, or a just being paid attention to or something else he likes - the dog has figured out that the staring behaviour gets him something he wants.

To accurately answer this question we need to see a picture of both your dog and your wife. :D:D:D

My dog and my brother’s dog, who both hang out at my parents’ house, stare at my mom a lot. The little one whines too. They stare and stare and stare and eventually they get fed. Either their prescribed foods or sometimes a share of whatever my mom is eating.

They rarely stare at my dad. Why? I think it’s because he gives them food all the time, without prompting. He’s a treat machine. Doesn’t require a stare.

Grammy takes some work, so that’s what they are doing. Working her.

Dogs don’t stare at people they love, they sniff them.

Your dog wants something. Possibly a cookie. Possibly a little light conversation (dogs’ conversational requirements are minimal). Possibly eye contact - usually safe with service dogs.

How long does this staring go on before the dog boots, thumps, or wiggles?

My 11yo Jack Russell Terrier stares almost exclusively when needs to go out. He came from a shelter about 1 year ago but it took me quite a while to figure this out. He will jump up on the couch and put his face in mine and just stare, or turn his head while he is laying on the couch and stare.

My previous dog (also a JRT) would sit on his butt, back straight, with his front paws dangling cutely in front of him, as both a signal that he wanted to go out and also for begging at the table. If I had my back to him, after a while, he would make a noise to attract my attention.

I wish they could speak just one or two words. The world would be easier.


It’s all well and good until they are subpoenaed by the cops.

My immediate first question on reading the thread title was “is your wife the one who usually feeds him?”

Alrighty then! :smiley:

But I had been thinking along the lines of this being a pre-dinner appeal. Since it happens after dinner, the next question would be if he might be accustomed to getting an after-dinner treat.

Alrighty then! :smiley:

And I bet he eventually gets one, too!

I don’t believe this is intrinsic behavior but something that’s been learned, although I don’t have a lot of experience with extremely sycophantic dogs like Goldens (and I mean that in the nicest way). If my Bernese Mountain Dog wanted something he was a good deal more explicit about it, none of this beating around the bush with coy stares.

He always knew when it was dinner time (he had some kind of internal clock) and if dinner wasn’t actually there in time and I happened to be in the kitchen, he would prostrate himself in front of his dish, head on his paws, like he was praying. I’m sure the fact that this position effectively blocked the main doorway out of the kitchen was just coincidence. :smiley:

I’m enjoying these responses, as I knew I would. (It’s also the second recent GQ where I threw up a *Bloom v. Bloom * and lost, and stood by helplessly as she read the iPad.) I’ll add my two cents in a bit, but…

What does “boots” mean? Is that a Brit?

When the cat stares at me, I generally stare her down. I figure she’s trying to think of the easiest way for her to get to my throat without me looking at her. She hates when I do that.

The Dawg around here has me well trained.