I have tried this game with MockDog, but I always chicken out and get freaked out if I stare too long, because I’m SURE that she’ll do this.

Am I right to be nervous? Do dogs hate being stared at directly? Mockdog is the sweetest and would never hurt anyone, but it still freaks me out to stare into her eyes. Especially when she’s in major play-mode.

Dog experts – please weigh in.

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  • Lori E

    Shoot, if I stared at my dog like that he would take it as an open invitation to lick my face repeatedly and to jump all 45 lbs of him onto my lap. Now blowing in a dog’s face?? NEVER. They get all bitey and want to then lunge at YOUR face. Not fun.

  • ER

    Well when I have a staring contest with Chuck it usually results in him licking my face! He’s a sweetie!

  • Tina B

    No domesticated pets like to be stared at. It makes them quite uncomfortable. I think it’s a dominance/aggressive thing, and in a home, WE are supposed to be the dominant ones, and staring unblinkingly at a dog or cat is taken as an aggressive act by them. (Daughter has been watching a show that is about a guy who deals with extremely aggressive cats and turns them into pussy cats. He says that about staring without blinking.)

  • burning eyeballs

    Direct eye contact in the animal world is considered a dominance challenge. Domesticated animals, unless already aggressive, will not freak out. Most times they look away.

  • Victor

    What Tina B and Burning Eyeballs said. Remember the boxing rat video you posted several months ago? It’s basically a rat staring contest for dominance. I’d like to see the entire video and not just a gif, because there may have been warning signs from the dog before he smacked the bejeebers out of the guy who deserved it.

  • Victor

    Victor here again. You may have heard of the video from a few months ago where the news anchor was bitten in the face. In the video I noticed some of the warning signs before the bite, and in the news video below, an expert analyzes the dogs behavior just before the bite. If you’ve never seen the video, note you never actually see the bite, but you do see the dog lunge and attack the anchor (who obviously doesn’t know dogs) and it makes me jump every time. Please note some of the behavior exhibited by the dog is, at times, normal (lip licking, for example–she calls them tongue flicks), but taken together, I would have known to get away from the dog (The video of the bite is disturbing, even though you never actually see the bite):

  • Lori E

    Yikes. Scary video. I always ask permission before allowing my boys to pet someone else’s dog and even then I am always on guard. ESPECIALLY when they utter “why, my dog has never bitten anyone…” Um, yeah and I don’t want my kids to be the first!! This video is a good reminder…

  • Hannah955

    As other posters have said, staring=challenge in the canine world. Definitely NEVER stare at a dog, any dog, unless it is your own dog and you have established without any question that you are the alpha in the relationship. And even then, why would you stare at your dog, unless it had done something wrong and you were letting it know. Because your dog will take it as a correction for something he has done wrong.

    About dominance/challenge/aggression: people train their kids to approach strange dogs by putting their open hands out to let the dogs sniff them first.

    First, I would never let a child approach a dog until I had read the dog’s body language to make sure the dog was receptive to being approached. Regardless of breed, if you don’t get that signal, don’t approach. If it’s a pit bull giving off friendly signals, let your kid approach (pitbulls are among the most human-friendly dogs ever invented, they used to be nicknamed “America’s nanny dog”). If it’s a black lab giving you the stinkeye, don’t approach!

    Second, it’s not whether the human’s hand is open or closed that matters. It’s whether the hand (and the person it is attached to), is higher/taller than the dog.

    Because one thing that dogs take as a sign of dominance or aggression is other animals being taller than they are. A dog might challenge another dog by going over and putting his chin on his back (and, in an extreme insult, following that up by mounting him!)

    So, when I approach a dog, I squat down so that I am smaller and not looming over the dog. That makes me less intimidating. And I put my hand out *under* the dog’s chin. A hand approaching from above the head is scary/challenging. A hand under the chin is a lot less threatening.

    Also, do not put your head close to a dog’s head, that can sometimes trigger a lunge and/or a snap. And with kids, try not to let them squeal and flap their arms around; to a dog, that looks like prey behavior!

    If I’m approaching a shy dog, and the owner says it’s OK, I will crouch down next to the dog, rest my hand down near the ground, and look away all “yada yada, I’m not even aware there’s a dog next to me” so that the dog can sniff at me without having to deal with me directly. If the dog becomes more confident, I will make brief eye contact but then look away. Maybe sneak my hand out for a little pet under the chin if I think the dog’s OK with it. I like the challenge of getting a shy dog to open up to me!

    I’m kinda nuts about dogs. My friends know that if we are going someplace, they have to allow time for me to stop and pet every dog I see – and if they are in a hurry, they’re always scanning for dogs approaching so they can distract me before I see them!

  • Hannah955

    Lori E – word! People saying their dog has never bitten anyone is a big red flag to me.

    But the biggest red flag is anybody who says to their dog “be nice.”

    I have never met a dog whose owner said “be nice” who didn’t have an issue with other dogs!

  • Hannah955

    (I always seem to post in threes!)

    Just watched the video of the dog bite that Victor posted. The news anchor needed 70 stitches and a skin graft on her face. Wow.

    Here’s video with more footage leading up to the bite, and then the reporter’s reaction off-camera.

    I have to say, I missed a lot of the cues that the behaviorist picked up on. I didn’t see the bite coming until a split second before it happened, when the dog bared its teeth and lunged.

    I think what really triggered the bite was her putting her face so close to the dog’s. He was surrounded by people all of whom loomed above him, he was not familiar with any of the people, he was on a very short, tight leash, and he felt trapped. In that situation I would not have put my face anywhere near that dog’s face.

    I hope the dog didn’t pay the ultimate price for the reporter’s stupidity. Not to mention, the two guys with the dog (firefighters who had rescued it the day before?) … they were clueless.

  • Hannah955

    Sorry, this is a record for serial posting, even for me! But I found an update on the anchor dog bite story that shows video of the dog being rescued the day before, and shows the anchor post-surgery. The dog was NOT put down, I’m happy to say.

  • Victor

    Hannah, you totally rock! Srsly.

    You know what kills me? My dog is a beagle-pointer mix, about 45 pounds, and is THE MOST BEAUTIFUL DOG IN THE WORLD! So, of course, people think they can approach her.

    (Dog people,though, when they hear I have a beagle-pointer mix either laugh or say, “I’m so sorry.” She’s smart but high-strung, with a very strong prey drive (but she knows the rats are off-limits).)

    There are some neighborhood kids who listen to me when she’s in one of her moods and stay away at my warning. Then there are the kids who come running toward her, and their parents could give one of my rat’s butts about their kid. So I yell, really, really loudly, “GET AWAY FROM MY DOG!” because I want the neighborhood to hear that I gave a warning, and if the kid doesn’t stop immediately, I run like hell. Fortunately, Joy likes to run, so she’s all, like, “Yay! We’re running!” instead of knocking over the stupid kid.

    Here’s video of Joy during Snowpocalypse, playing in snow that’s past her shoulders. As you can see, she totally loved it:

  • Hannah955

    Victor, thanks for the compliment – right back atcha.

    Joy is so funny in that video – like a jackrabbit bouncing around in the snow. And following her nose everywhere it led her.

    I have heard that you cannot ever let a beagle off leash because they are so focused on smells they will take off after a scent and the owner simply cannot recall them. Is that true?

    I found/rescued a beagle mix last week, he was on a sidewalk as I was driving by and something about his body language made me think he was in trouble, so I circled back and it was obvious he was lost and scared. Then he bolted into traffic and we lost him. We drove around, found him again, I got out and he stopped and I thought he woudl come to me but he bolted again. We drove around for ages, finally gave up, and as we were leaving, a few blocks later we saw a good samaritan sitting on the sidewalk keeping him company (but he hadn’t yet secured him) – we hopped out with a leash and a can of stinky dog food we just happened to have in the car, and we got him! Took him to the shelter, put my name in just in case nobody claimed him, then posted an ad on craigslist. The owner called me at 1:30 in the morning July 4th. Unfortunately the pound was closed, she couldnt’ get him back until July 5th. She emailed me photos of him home on the couch, happy.

    I had forgotten to take down the craigslist ad, and someone who saw it emailed me a link to another ad on craigslist for a LOST dog, the morning of July 6th, it was obviously my guy – AGAIN. The owner had called my cell the night before but hung up. Turns out she had just moved, thought her yard was secure, it wasn’t, he got lost at midnight about 12 hours after she got him back the first time. Fortunately he ended up at the pound AGAIN. Lucky dog!

    Anyway, when I brought him into the pound, they have a tree outside and you can imagine how “fragrant” the base of any tree outside a shelter will be, and this dog just went NUTS sniffing it.

    I don’t think I could deal with having a dog with such a strong nose!

    So Victor, are you “ratinabox” on youtube? Do you own/foster rats? I think that is so cool!!! (Not sure Mockarena will agree.)

    Today as I was walking in the park I saw a little rodent stick its head up from a hole at the base of a tree, so I went over and saw all these burrows among the tree roots, and two little faces, each sticking up out of a different hole, watching me with shiny black eyes. They kinda looked like rats to me but to be honest I am not up on my rodent identification ๐Ÿ™‚ They were little, like the ones in your videos.

    Do rats build burrows in the wild?

    BTW Libby building her nest? Cutest video ever! And, my last dog, best dog in the world, was named Libby.

  • Victor

    Technically, my gf is ratinabox. That was also our old Rat blog, which you can find if you google it. We had an international following, but it was hard keeping up with the blog and rat fostering. We currently have 23 rats, of which 3 are fosters.

    As for beagles–can’t say if it’s true. Joy slipped her collar once and disappeared (this was before obedience school) but we found her being cowed by a cat. I was upset.

    Actually, she got out the back gate just a few weeks ago, and was looking up at the neighbor’s fence. She did come when called, but…yeah, if she gets on a scent, particularly a bunny, waving a steak in front of her isn’t enough to get her attention.

  • King of all Photographers

    Didn’t read the whole thread but I know canines have a dominance order — alpha dog to omega dog. Saw a show about wolves once and the omega dog is given “kid” duty — is the beloved pup handler for the wolf pack, but he is definitely low dog on the totem pole and runs around constantly with his tail between his legs in a show of submission.

    I imagine staring at a dog is a challenge and only a completely cowed dog would accept it, and if they do, it doesnt speak very well for its self-esteem.

  • el pato

    is that alec baldwins dog? cause if it is, i would have smacked him too!