alt="dog giving side eye to owner"

Understanding Dog Side Eye: All You Need To Know

What Can Dog Side Eye Tell Us?

Have you ever wondered why your dog is giving you the side-eye?

Like most things your furry friend does, it can appear cute and funny. But that cute side-eye your pooch casts may mean more than meets the eye…

The dog side eye look is commonly referred to as whale eye and it’s an indication that something is bothering your dog.

So, let’s find out exactly what whale eye is, why it happens and what steps can we take to bring peace back into the world of our best friend.

What Is Whale Eye?

Our dogs communicate through body language and whale eye is no different!

Whale eye is when you see the whites of your dog’s eyes become more visible. The inner or outer sides of the eye take on a half-moon shape, resulting in it also being known as half-moon eye.

When whale eye occurs, you’ll notice your dog has its head turned away slightly, but its gaze will be fixed on someone or something. This is what coined the expression, the side-eye.

It becomes visible when your dog locks his gaze on whatever is in its sight, whether it be a person, toy, or (surprise, surprise) food.

Whale eye is not a good thing, as it’s a sign of anxiety and stress. Meaning that your canine companion is on edge.

Why Do Dogs Give The Side Eye?

We all want to keep our dogs happy and relaxed, which is why whale eye is a sign that we need to be aware of.

But why does our dog cast the side-eye? Why are they feeling stressed?

Let’s explore the reasons.

Whale eye can occur:

  • When your dog is guarding something jealously. (Think favourite chew toy or trusty bone.)
  • When it’s devouring its food. (Beware the canine guarding their carcass!)
  • When your pooch feels threatened. (Their space is invaded, a new dog appears, or a stranger is around their loved ones.)
  • Your dog is stressed and feeling defensive. (Nervous in their surroundings or too many external stimuli.)
  • Your pal is feeling uncomfortable. (Grooming, nail cutting, petting in places they don’t like)

It’s important to know when your buddy is exhibiting whale eye so that you can take appropriate action where necessary.

Because a nervous dog is the one most likely to snap…

Side Eye Or Side Glance?

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Photo by charlesdeluvio on Unsplash

In saying that it’s important to remember that not all sideward glances indicate fear or aggression!

There’re two things to take into consideration with whale eye:

It may not be whale eye at all.

Your dog may be just glancing innocently!

As we all know, our furry friends are full of curiosity and like to keep tabs on what’s going on around them.

The key is to focus on their body language, are they relaxed or on alert?

It can be tough to notice

Spotting your pal’s half-moon eye can be tricky.

It may be difficult to see, the lighting may be poor, or perhaps your dog averted their gaze.

This is where we need to watch for the accompanying signs of anxiety:

  • Is their hair standing on edge?
  • Are they avoiding eye contact?
  • Are they licking their lips or displaying other anxious ticks?
  • Are they letting out a growl or noise of discontent?

Know your dog and know their anxious signs: because once it’s identified, we can go about dealing with it.

What To Do When Your Dog Has Whale Eye

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Photo by Jack Brind on Unsplash

We’ve spotted our furry friend’s whale eye; we know what it is and we know why they’re showing it.

Let’s look at steps we can take to act on calming our canine cuties.

1/ Give Them Space

The first thing we do is back off and assess the situation. Dogs give off certain body language that they want to be picked up on.

So, it’s up to us to analyse the situation and see what’s bothering them.

Let’s give them space and check out what’s going on around us, the answer is usually hiding in plain sight.

2/ Check For Triggers

Now that we’ve given all parties space, let’s suss out what’s causing this cautious behaviour.

Is there space being encroached on? Is their favourite toy threatened? Or is someone messing with their strategically hidden bone?

Once we identify the root of the problem, we move on to nullifying it.

3/ Remove the problem

If whale eye becomes apparent out and about, let’s gently lead our friend away from any perceived threats.

Any chew toys or bones that are the cause of the tension need to be taken away, before giving your dog time to readjust.

If you’re the cause of the worry, then be mindful of this and ensure that whatever company you have remains calm as you help your pup to settle.

If worried about aggressive behaviour, remove your dog from the vicinity immediately and consider behavioural training.

4/ Support don’t scold!

Just because your dog is acting funny, doesn’t mean this is a time that you give out!

Your dog is trying to communicate with you and convey its feelings of distress. This is where you need to be supportive and gentle with your companion as you help them to relax.

Dog side eye may be an ominous sign of unease, but it is entirely natural! Dogs are protective and territorial by nature and there are always reasons behind certain behaviours.

Follow the above steps and the whites in the eyes will gently recede as your doggy calms down and is at peace once again.

Final Bark

Whale eye can be a sign that not all is well with your dog. So, make sure to keep your own eyes peeled for when it happens.

A great way to keep whale eye from happening is to make sure your dog is healthy and happy. A great way to provide mental stimulation is through a monthly BusterBox full of delight!

Check out our post on why we’re the best dog treat box in the UK & Ire and see for yourself the packages we promise.

Be sure to keep your eyes peeled on our BusterBox blog and continue your journey in understanding our amazing animals.