Why Does My Dog Wink at Me?

Written by Kelvin | Updated May 6, 2021

Why Does My Dog Wink at Me?

The eyes are the window into the soul. While this is a common saying in reference to humans, we’d also like to think that this could apply to our dogs as well. When we spend so much time with our pets, we can’t help but attribute human-like behaviors to them. Winking, in particular, is an action we use to communicate a greeting, joke, or secret. If you find your dog doing this and often ask yourself, “Why does my dog wink at me?” then you’re in the right place! In this article, we will be detailing why your dog may be winking at you and determine whether or not they are communicating a message to you.

Why does my dog wink at me all the time?

As much as we’d like to believe that our dogs are joking or being friendly with us by winking, this is not always the case. There can be several reasons why your dog is winking at you, which includes, but is not limited to, the following:

Eye-related Problems

Any sudden onset of new behaviors or symptoms is a legitimate cause of concern for pet owners. Seeing your dog wink may be cute, but it could be an uncomfortable or even painful experience for them. Your veterinarian will be able to evaluate the cause and treat it accordingly.

One of the reasons that your dog could be winking is due to an irritation to the eye from an external irritant (dust, hair, etc.) or physical trauma. You may notice your dog rubbing or scratching the area for relief.

Blepharospasm, the abnormal twitching of the eyelid, may cause your dog to wink inadvertently. This symptom is often a result of a more serious eye issue.

Entropion is another possible reason. It is when the eyelids flip inward, causing the hairs on the eyelid to come into contact with the surface of the eye. As a result, dogs will constantly wink or blink to help relieve the discomfort.

Dry eyes, also known as keratoconjunctivitis sicca, cause excessive blinking. This condition is due to reduced tear production and causes the surface of the eye to be extremely dry. It can affect one or both eyes.

Submission

In the animal kingdom, eye contact is interpreted as a threat contrary to standard human communication. When dogs make eye contact with each other, it is often a test of dominance. Breaking away from this staring contest is a form of submission. Most likely, your dog doesn’t want to challenge you. You might notice that they will wink and look down or away if you try to look at them.  

It attracts your attention

Every owner should know that dogs love attention. They can’t get enough of it sometimes! Being the intelligent species they are, they will usually catch on to certain behaviors that bring out a desirable reaction from us. If you previously remember a time when you were excited that your dog winked at you, perhaps they are now winking even more to get your attention and spend quality time with you.

Imitation

Your dog could simply be copying your winking behavior. A 2017 study showed that dogs’ facial expressions are affected by human attention. Dogs’ facial features have morphed over time for improved interactions with humans. Imitation is one-way dogs utilize this trait to better understand how to behave in certain situations. While they sometimes seem aloof, your furry friend may be watching you closer than you think.

What does it mean when a dog blinks at you?

Dogs also blink as a way to communicate with humans or other dogs. Compared to staring, which occurs when they feel scared or threatened, blinking is their way of showing friendliness and that they mean no harm. However, it is important to note that interpretations of dog body language can vary depending on different contexts. The below situations discuss a few possible interpretations out of many.

Situation #1: The dog is communicating discomfort

Sometimes when a dog is in a situation that they don’t like that may or may not be threatening to them, they will blink to show that they are not comfortable with what is happening. Usually, the blinking is accompanied by the appropriate body language, such as stiff posture.

Situation #2: The dog is trying to avoid conflict

Dogs are incredibly smart and can sense unwanted situations from a mile away. They will often blink and turn their head away from what they perceive could be the source of the conflict. 

Situation #3: The dog is attempting to deescalate a situation

When faced with a threatening situation, dogs will blink to try and deescalate the situation. To further emphasize this point, they will blink several times and lick their lips, yawn, and flatten their ears. With this type of body language, the dog is trying to show the other party that they come in peace and are not trying to harm.  

Can dogs learn to wink?

Dogs can definitely learn to wink. If you have read this far, then more likely than not you figured out that your dog is capable of winking in some capacity. You can further hone this skill and train them to wink on command just like any other trick. First, try to get them to wink. Owners have reported success with touching or tapping their dog’s head. Once you found a way to get them to wink, continue to repeat your desired command each time, followed by praise and treats. Your dog will eventually associate the command with the action and wink whenever you’d like them to. This trick will surely delight you and others that meet your dog.

Final Thoughts

Winking for dogs can mean anything from an actual eye problem to simply copying our behavior. Dogs have evolved over time to understand the importance of facial expression in human communication. They are better equipped than many animals to interact with humans down to how they move their eyes. Along with winking, they also blink to communicate how they feel. Even though not all dogs deliberately wink, you can train them to wink on command. They are more likely to wink if they see that you enjoy it as well.  

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