Home Dog Theories Dog Side Eye: What It Means and How to Respond

Dog Side Eye: What It Means and How to Respond

by Joel
Dog Side Eye

Your adorable dog might not be able to voice their feelings like we humans do, but their eyes – sparkling conduits of emotions – say it all. From those imploring eyes begging for an extra treat or a longer playtime to the infamous dog side-eye, every look carries its unique tale. It’s just about learning to interpret them correctly.

You can’t help but be smitten by the unexpected charm of a side eye from your tail-wagging pals, but what does this intriguing canine expression really imply?

What is dog side eye?

What is dog side eye?

The dog side eye, also called “whale eye” or “half-moon eye,” occurs when a dog turns its head away while keeping its eyes fixated on a person, object, or situation. This results in the whites of the dog’s eyes, or sclera, becoming more apparent, giving the impression of a sideways glance. The captivating half-moon shape of their exposed eye whites lends the name “half-moon eye” to this expression. For pet parents, the importance lies in understanding the message their furry friend is trying to convey.

While the dog side eye may leave you feeling intrigued or even amused, it is essential to recognize that it’s not merely a funny look your canine companion is pulling. More often than not, this expression carries notable implications regarding your dog’s emotional state.

What does it mean when dogs give side eyes?

What does it mean when dogs give side eyes?

Dogs primarily use body language, including facial expressions, to communicate with their human counterparts and other animals. Subtle eye shifts or a peculiar side-eye may seem trivial to us, but it’s a whole chapter of their emotional expression. So, when your dog gives you the side eye, what are they trying to tell you?

  1. Observation: Dogs are astute observers. Even when they appear to be lounging nonchalantly, their senses are keenly aware of what’s happening around them. The side eye can be a simple act of observation, a way for them to keep an eye on their surroundings without having to move their whole body.
  2. Anxiety or Stress: Body language can often hint at anxiety or stress, and the side eye is a part of this. When a dog turns its head away but keeps its eyes on a possible threat, it often indicates unease or fear. This is typically known as “whale eye,” where the white part of the dog’s eye, the sclera, is noticeably visible. Recognizing this early can help pet parents comfort and reassure their pet in stressful situations.
  3. Submissiveness or Avoidance: Dogs might use side-eye to demonstrate submissiveness or as an avoidant behaviour. For instance, if you’re scolding your dog for something, he might give you the side eye to show submission or to avoid direct eye contact.
  4. Anticipation: If your dog side-eyes you when you’re holding his favourite toy or snack, it could be a sign of anticipation or impatience. He’s interested in what you’re doing but is playing it cool.
  5. Seed of Mischief: Have you sometimes caught your dog’s side eye just before he darted off with your slipper or started digging up your garden? This may be a hint of playful mischief brewing in his mind.

How to interpret dog side eye

How to interpret dog side eye

To better understand your dog’s emotional and mental state, it’s essential to become an observant and empathetic pet parent capable of interpreting these fascinating visual cues correctly.

Reading All Signs Together

Concentrating solely on a dog’s side eye can lead to misinterpretations, as it is crucial to analyze your dog’s entire body language while taking note of the context. Pay attention to ear position, tail movement, body posture, and facial expressions to paint the whole picture. By assessing these elements, you’ll be in a stronger position to understand the meaning behind those captivating side glances.

Assess the Context

It’s essential to consider the context or circumstances surrounding your dog’s side eye. One must remember that each dog has different experiences and personalities. Thus, understanding the side-eye’s true meaning also requires considering your dog’s unique reactions to specific situations or environments. The side-eye given in response to fireworks might differ from the one given when anticipating a delicious treat.

Know Your Dog’s Personality

Familiarity with your dog’s unique personality traits and preferences can make it easier for you to interpret their side-eye correctly. Some dogs may be more playful and adventurous, while others could be introverted or cautious. Understanding and respecting their individuality will greatly enhance your comprehension of their behavior and emotions.

Observe Patterns of Behaviour

Monitor your dog’s behavior and keep a close eye on any patterns connecting the side-eye expression to specific situations, environments, or actions. By identifying these connections, you’ll be able to better recognize the underlying emotions behind your dog’s side glances.

Seek Expert Advice

If you’re struggling to understand your dog’s body language, or observe signs of anxiety, fear, or aggression, don’t hesitate to consult with qualified animal behavior specialists, trainers, or veterinarians. They can help you decipher your dog’s emotions so you can continue building a strong and healthy bond.


Why is my dog’s side eye not aggressive?

The main thing to remember when reading your dog’s body language is that they are not out to intentionally offend you. A growl might sound like it’s protecting the doggy from an aggressor, but receiving a growl from your pup doesn’t mean that he or she is upset. There’s likely no need to worry: just remember that dogs are known for being good at reading their handlers’ faces, and this behavior is only reinforcing that. The side eye isn’t aggression but instead curiosity and perhaps even affection.

Final Thoughts

Whether your dog’s side eye is thrown in humor, confusion, or even a little sassiness, let’s take it all in stride. Every interaction, every look lends a new layer to our shared understanding and mutual affection.

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