In modern times, dogs have become beloved members of our homes, and as such, we are often looking for meaning in their behaviors. Dogs use body language and eye contact to communicate with us, so why dogs wink.
When a dog winks at you it is a sign of submission and respect. It is common for dogs to wink or blink their eyes at their owners. Winking will usually occur when your dog is most relaxed and comfortable with their surroundings. If your dog’s eyes are wide open it means they are anticipating your next move.
If you are interested in learning why dogs wink and other ways they use their bodies to talk to us, read on. We’ll discuss eye communication, winking, ear position, and much more.
Why Do Dogs Wink At Their Owners
If you’ve ever seen a dog wink, you probably wondered if they did it on purpose and what it meant. When dogs are communicating that they are happy and playful, they may wink at you. However, the most common explanation is that your dog will wink as a sign of respect and feeling comfortable in their environment. From personal experience, I find my dog winks at me whilst chilling out in his bed. Interestingly he also blinks heavily when I have a plate of food that I am tucking into…. hmm I wonder what he wants.
Winking is a behavior that many owners and experts will discuss with differing opinions. It is common for humans to project their own views onto situations as we know it often means something if someone is winking at you. Despite this, it is plausible to think that winking is a way of dogs communicating as we do it ourselves, but you should always assess every reason before jumping to the conclusion that your dog is communicating a secret code to you.
If you notice that your dog is winking a lot, it could be more than a communication tactic. Some health reasons for winking include:
- Irritation in the eye. This may be accompanied by face rubbing on furniture or carpet. It’s quite common for dogs to get dry eyes and you can often tell as the white areas of the eye turn slightly red. Here is a great article on caring for your dog’s eyes – “PDSA Dry Eyes In Dogs”
- Flipping of the inner eyelid. Dogs have two sets of eyelids, and if the inner one flips inside out, the hair on the lid can irritate the eye. Dogs are also very hairy animals and often you will see small hair on their eyeball. This can sometimes be irritating for them or they won’t even notice.
It’s always important to consult your vet if you think your dog’s eye blinking is down to a health problem. even having a chat on the phone with your vet may calm your concerns.
How Does a Dog Use Its Eyes to Communicate
The eyes are the window to the soul, or so the saying goes. This is true for humans and it is true for dogs. Dogs use their eyes to let us know how they are feeling and when they want to tell us something. The eyes are one of the main ways dogs use body language to communicate with humans.
Eye contact is different when it comes to dogs. When a dog meets a new dog or human, they will generally only make brief eye contact with them while they are deciding how to interact. When a dog makes prolonged eye contact, they are most likely trying to establish dominance. Dogs can also perceive longer eye contact as a sign of dominance, this is discussed more thoroughly here
Paying attention to a dog’s eyes is a good way to determine its demeanor. If it is avoiding eye contact, it is best to assume that the dog is stressed or afraid and you should not come near. If its eyes are open and soft, then you can be fairly confident that the dog is friendly and wants to say hello. Approaching a dog out on a walk is something that many people do, especially if your own dog is ready to play. Here is a guide to understanding dog walking etiquette and some tips on handling meets and greets. “Helpful Tips For Dog Walking Etiquette”
You may also find that during walks your dog will stop and freeze in position. Now, this could be for a number of reasons, but most likely they are staring at you as a way of communication. I have learned that my dog will stop and freeze on a walk normally just past a stick. Yep that’s right he wants me to throw the stick for him and so he stands next to it. Other times he if he wants to go a particular route he will stop by that pathway and tempt me into walking that way, much to my dog’s disappointment this does not work. For more information on why your dog freezes during a walk, check out this article. “Why Does My Dog Freeze On A Walk”
Should You Wink Back At Your Dog
If your dog is staring and winking at you, then you may wonder whether you should reciprocate with a wink back. To be honest, this is entirely up to you, once again I must reiterate that a dog winking at you does not always mean the same thing. On one occasion your dog could wink because they are telling you how much they love you, another maybe because they are sleepy, or possibly because they have something in their eye.
It is up to you to determine whether your dog is communicating with you and so with the possibility that they are winking to communicate. Giving them a wink back might mean the world to them, so just do it. It could be interesting to see their reaction, do they get up and come over or just ignore you and fall asleep.
What Your Dog’s Body Language Means
Eye contact and winking are not the only ways dogs can tell us how they are feeling. As we know, dogs are not able to speak and must use other means to communicate with us. These can be vocalizations, such as barking, whining, or yelping. Body language also helps humans understand what dogs might be feeling and what they need. An article that may interest you is – “Can Dogs Sense bad People – Understanding Someone’s Intentions”
Some of the body language that dogs use include:
Tail wagging is one of the most obvious ways that dogs use their body to express their feelings. Dogs wag their tails to show happiness, nervousness, anxiety, excitement, and if they are feeling threatened. Learning to recognize which emotion a dog is feeling through tail wagging is important.
When a dog is in a neutral emotional state, its tail will most likely be in a resting position, not moving much. A nervous dog will drop its tail down between the legs and wag it slightly. If your dog is excited, it will hold its tail up high and probably wag it vigorously. An aggressive dog’s tail will have a stiff tail.
Dogs use their whole body to communicate with humans. Some common body positions you may see dogs take include:
- Bowing: When a dog has the front of their body lowered and their rear up in the air, they are usually inviting you to play with them. The tail will be up and wagging and their mouth will be open, most likely showing the tongue.
- Freezing: As highlighted previously dogs can freeze for many reasons, although you should sometimes be careful when you see a dog freeze that you do not know. Dogs are most likely to freeze when they are alert or guarding something. If you’ve ever approached a dog while it’s eating, you may have noticed them freezing and protecting its food bowl. A dog can become aggressive when on guard, so give it space to relax.
- Rolling Over: If a dog rolls over and it is not playing, then they are expressing submission. This often happens when a dog meets another dog that is higher in the hierarchy. They are showing they are not a threat. When a dog does it to you, you are the top dog. Watch the tail though, as a stiff tail could mean the dog is scared.
The ears are another way that dogs show their emotions. Most dog breeds are able to move their ears in many different positions and you can tell a lot from how the dog moves them.
- Pulled-Back: If a dog has its ears pulled back, it could mean a number of things. If a dog is fearful its ears will be pulled far back and the dog will displaying other body signals. When the ears are pulled back and the dog is panting, it could be a sign of nervousness. If your dog pulls its ears back around another dog, it can be a sign of courting.
- Perked Up: When a dog’s ears are perked up, the dog is showing that it is alert. Dogs will perk their ears when they are paying attention to what’s happening around them. Dog owners will often notice perked ears when they speak to their dogs, are doing anything with food, or playing with their dog.
- Tucked Down: When dogs are sad, you may notice that their ears are tucked down close to the side of their head. This can happen when they are afraid or when they have done something they know is wrong.
- Natural Resting Position: You know your dog is happy and relaxed when its ears are in a natural resting position.
Dogs raise their hackles when they are experiencing a number of emotions. The fur on their back goes up and is an involuntary reaction to whatever is happening to them. The technical term is piloerection and is similar to goosebumps in humans. You will most commonly see a dog raise their hackles when they are:
Raised hackles don’t necessarily indicate aggression, but you should be careful around any dog exhibiting these signs.
Most of the ways dogs use body language are also used by wolves and are deeply ingrained. This is not the case with facial expressions. When dogs were domesticated, they adopted facial expressions as a way to communicate with humans
One way of using their faces is with their eyes, which we have already discussed. Other ways dogs use facial expression to communicate include:
- Tilting their head when they are curious
- Lowering their head while looking at you. This is a sign of submission.
- Yawning, which cannot only indicate tiredness but stress.
- Licking their lips, which can be another sign of submission or a sign of anxiety.
- Smiling, which is not a signal of happiness but of excitement.
- Snarling, which most likely means anger.
When dogs are communicating their emotions, they will usually use a combination of different body languages, so it’s important to recognize what they all can mean.
Your Dog Can “Talk” To You
Now that you know what winking and other body language mean, you can pay attention when interacting with a dog and have a better idea of what they want. Understanding what your dog is trying to communicate can lead to a closer bond and an even better connection with them. Next time they wink at you, wink back!
For more interesting articles all about dogs check out our homepage. This article may be of interest to you too – “Do Dogs Have Accents”