Why Does My Dog Look Back at Me When We Walk?

Have you ever been walking your dog and they look back at you for a moment? You wonder to yourself why your dog is looking at you like a person would. Are dogs just like us? Do they have deep thoughts, feelings, and emotions?

So, why does my dog look back at me when we walk? Your dog looking back at you could mean they’re either trying to get your attention, communicate with you, or express their emotions in a way they think that you understand. Dogs are like us and there’s something they’re trying to tell you.

We’ll go over all the possible reasons a dog could be looking at you while also explaining how dogs communicate in general. While you don’t fully understand what your dog is trying to say most of the time, we hope that we can help you at least understand what they’re saying some of the time.

Why Do Dogs Look at Us in General?

French bulldog
French bulldog | image by stanze via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

To dogs, they see eye contact as a way to communicate. Since speech between humans and dogs isn’t something we can do, it’s clear that our eyes are the second best thing. When dogs look at us, they want to either tell us something, ask us something, or bring our attention to something.

How Dogs Use Emotion

If you’ve ever noticed dogs being aware of your emotions, then we should also have a keen sense for their emotions as well. Emotions are a great way to communicate, after all. Have you ever noticed that dogs can tell when we’re upset with them? If you’re someone who is afraid of dogs, they can also pick up on this as well.

But just like they can pick up negative emotions, they can also tune in with our positive emotions. Taking your dog on a walk is a great activity for bonding and it’s not strange for your dog to look back at you. In fact, it’s flattering. Either they want to make sure you’re still there with them or they simply want to tell you how they feel.

How Dogs Use Eye Contact

Dog using eye contact
Dog using eye contact

Your dog looking at you could also mean they’re trying to tell you something. Eye contact is a great way to communicate, especially with animals. Direct eye contact means they’re trying to get your attention. Just like with cats, if a dog is sitting by their empty food bowl and staring into your soul, it probably means they want something to eat.

Unfortunately, we can’t know just by a dog looking at us what they want. Some dogs use eye contact to communicate what they need while others communicate only what they want. This is why it’s common for your dog to sit around the dinner table right at your feet. They hope that by doing so, you’ll feel bad and give them some of your food.

If your dog has learned this behavior over time and knows this is how they get what they want, they won’t stop just because you stop rewarding them. They’ll find new behavior to get the same reward.

Similar to how you can train a dog to learn a new trick, dogs also use eye contact to seek out cues or commands. Most of these aren’t noticeable to us, but dogs can quickly notice them. For example, if they hear the sound of a bag opening, they could associate that with a treat. Dogs will seek out any opportunity to be rewarded and react positively to positive reinforcement

Dogs Will Tell Us How They Feel

While eye contact is important in any form of communication, pure emotion is also a great communicator. It’s a common idea that you shouldn’t have a staring contest with dogs like you can with cats.

Why is this exactly? To some dogs, staring is considered an act of dominance and aggression. If you’re staring at your dog and they stare right back at you with a hard look, it’s time to back off and avoid eye contact.

A Dog’s Tail

There are other indicators for how a dog communicates with emotions. Tails, for example, are an easy identifier of their emotions. Here are some common ones:

If your dog’s tail is held between their legs, they feel afraid or submissive
If your dog’s tail is held high and still, they feel alert and dominant
If your dog’s tail is also high but instead wagging, they feel happy but alert
Finally, if your dog’s tail is held straight out, they feel curious but neutral

A wagging tail is a common sign of happiness. If you’re on a walk and your dog looks back at you with a wagging tail, this is an easy way to tell they’re happy. Learning these common indicators can be an easy way to understand your dog’s thoughts and feelings.

A Dog’s Mouth

Just like with people, the mouth is a great place to look to see subtle emotions. Although dogs can’t smile in the same way people can, you’ll notice some dogs (such as the Golden Retriever) do grin. Their tongue will normally hang out of their mouth and they’ll pant somewhat evenly.

You can also tell if a dog is anxious or afraid by their mouth as well. This behavior can be recognized if their mouth is closed or if their mouth is slightly ajar, but their lips are tense. Licking their lips nervously or even yawning are both common signs of anxiety in dogs.

Finally, anger is the easiest emotion to notice in a dog’s behavior, as their mouth will be open, but their lips will be drawn back. If you notice this behavior, you should immediately stop what you’re doing and give them their space. Don’t provoke them any further.

Your Relationship With Your Dog

Dog sits on wet ground
Dog sits on wet ground | Image by zoegammon from Pixabay

If your dog is staring at you often, this is also an obvious indicator about how much your dog loves you. It’s common for your dog to look at you for no reason at all, simply to express affection. In fact, this specific exchange between a human and their dog releases oxytocin, which is commonly referred to as the love hormone.

It’s the same exact hormone that’s released when a mother looks at her newborn baby.

To dogs, it’s comforting to know we’re there and that we’re there to stay. Dogs who feel happy with their life and feel love for their human companions are known to stare often. This is probably the most likely reason your dog is staring at you on a walk. They’re excited about the walk but mostly excited that you’re going on the walk with them.

Your Dog Wants Some Direction

If your dog is staring at you, even more specifically on a walk, this could also be a sign they want you to tell them what to do. Maybe you’re on an unfamiliar route that your dog hasn’t gone on before and they aren’t sure which way to go. While some dogs simply take off in whichever way they feel like, other dogs are more relaxed and would like you to tell them what to do.

More often than not, dogs will stare at you for direction if they’re in the midst of some sort of physical activity, like playing fetch or some form of training. You should take note of how their eyes look next time you notice this behavior.

It’s easier than you think to tell the difference between love, curiosity, and a request for specific directions. Maybe you could take the lead when you notice this to set them at ease.

Did Your Dog Notice Something?

It’s common knowledge that dogs have incredible hearing and senses. Some people even claim dogs can even sense the supernatural in houses claiming to be haunted. Whether or not this is true, it’s definitely true that dogs can sense things much easier than people can.

Dogs can hear sounds up to 50,000 vibrations per second while humans can’t hear sounds that are greater than 20,000 vibrations per second. It would make sense that your dog can pick up on things you can’t, or at least pick up these things much faster.


Just like with most dog behavior, there is no simple answer. But to summarize, your dog could be looking at you for any of the following reasons:

Your dog loves you and is trying to tell you that
Your dog is unfamiliar or unsure which direction to go in
Your dog noticed something and is trying to tell you what it is
Your dog is trying to talk to you using eye contact

Knowing this, you can decide for yourself which is the most accurate for you and your dog. Similar to human beings, if you’re looking for it, emotions are easier to identify than you think. The key to having a great relationship with your dog is understanding and good communication, even if you both might communicate in different ways.