Why Does My Dog Stare at Me When I Sleep?

dog staring at the owner

The reason your dog stares at you while sleeping is because they’re bonding with you. They view you as the pack leader and want to know what your next move will be. They see it as their job to develop a connection with you and protect you. Dogs that stare at their owners when sleeping also tend to follow them around the house.

Dog’s don’t come with instruction manuals, but they definitely come with their fair share of odd and quirky behavior.

It can be difficult to read your dog and translate what they are communicating to you. A common questionable behavior that some dog’s exhibit is staring at you while you sleep.

If your dog exhibits this behavior, you’re probably wondering why. Here are the top eight reasons dogs stare at their owners when sleeping.

Reading the Room

Dogs are extremely in tune with body language and the general aura in which you present yourself. It’s the same reason dogs tend to act more cautious around nervous people. They pick up on the energy.

When you find those curious eyes locked on you during your slumber, your dog may be analyzing the situation. They want to observe your body language the moment you wake up.

If you’re a restless sleeper or wake up frequently, it may mean that your dog wakes up with you and becomes hyper-focused on what your next move will be.

Protective Instincts

It’s no secret that our loyal four-legged friends are always looking out for us, especially when it comes to protecting us from the evil UPS man.

Protecting and watching over their “master” is a trait that dogs have had for thousands of years. Dogs are the most efficient type of alarm system around an open fire at night.

You may not be too concerned about a grizzly bear or a competing tribe sneaking into your room at night, but these traits lie deep within the dog’s genetic code.

They might not understand why, but will feel compelled to watch over you. This is especially true if you are in a vulnerable state, such as sleeping.

Trust Issues

If you or anyone you know has ever had experience with rescue dogs, you know it isn’t always a seamless transition when introducing them to their new home. A dog that suffers from trust issues will come with a variety of odd quirks.

Your new dog may not trust you yet. Without that trust, a dog will avoid any situation that makes them vulnerable around you, which includes sleep.

Staring at you while you sleep is a sign of anxiety. They will keep an eye on you until a solid connection can be established.

The key here is consistently working with your dog, slowly but surely establishing a network of trust.

Adjusting to a brand-new environment can be scary. Put in as much effort as possible to make them feel comfortable, safe, and loved.

Pent Up Energy

Sometimes the answer is more straightforward than you think. It’s entirely possible that your pup is just bored!

Dogs require copious amounts of physical activity. Some more than others, depending on the breed.

If a dog isn’t receiving enough exercise during the day, this can lead to restlessness at night. With nowhere to burn this residual energy, it might lay awake all night.

As long as you provide your furry little friend with lots of walks and plenty of exercise, you shouldn’t have anything to worry about.

Seeking Attention

Dogs are masters of manipulation. It’s hard to resist that adorable face they cleverly wear so well. Your dog understands that the longer they stare at you (or beg), the more likely it is that they will receive a delicious treat.

That can be exactly what your confident canine is attempting. They don’t care that you’re sleeping. To them, it’s time to play! They figure the longer they stare at you, the more likely it is that you will get up and engage with them.

If you seek to curve this behavior, it’s important to resist any contact. While petting your dog in bed is perfectly fine, it may mistakenly entice some playtime.

I know telling you to resist petting your dog feels like a near-impossible feat, but it’s essential in resolving this issue. The last thing you want is your dog associating 3 am with playtime.

Bonding

It’s entirely possible that there is nothing wrong at all. Your dog may simply be admiring you.

In a wolf pack, starring can be considered a threat. A challenge to authority, and oftentimes it provokes violence. But this is not always the case.

Dogs also use starring as a means to bond with one another…that includes you!

Interestingly, when a dog stares into the eyes of his loved ones, the brain releases a chemical called oxytocin. Also referred to as the “cuddle hormone,” this chemical reaction is directly correlated to the social aspects of their development.

A kind, warm stare will also remind them of their puppyhood. More importantly, their mother. This can trigger immense feelings of love, which they may be mirroring while staring at you.

Don’t worry, they aren’t plotting your demise…unlike cats.

Obsessive Fixations

Our four-legged friends can be little weirdos sometimes. They can develop strange fixations on inanimate objects, locked with a gaze that can potentially last hours.

This behavior usually isn’t a call for concern. But in severe cases, if not treated properly, it will morph into a severe compulsive disorder.

If you suspect your dog is a victim of this disorder, keep a close eye on them so you can accurately diagnose and proceed with the appropriate treatment.

Potential Health Issues

The reasons your dog stares you down throughout the night may be connected to underlying health conditions.

Dementia is a disease that affects the cognitive aspects of the brain. Side-effects may include abnormal fixations and compulsive behavior.

Arthritis attacks joints and muscles, making it potentially difficult for your dog to find a comfortable position to settle.

Hypothyroidism is a disorder in which the body has a difficult time metabolizing food and nutrients. This can lead to a lack of sleep, along with other potentially harmful side-effects.

Should You Visit The Vet?

The truth is, you won’t always be able to directly comprehend what your furry companion is trying to tell you.

It’s important to observe their body language and draw accurate assessments about issues you think may be occurring.

If you think something serious may be wrong with your dog, call a professional.

But there are a plethora of reasons your dog stares at you while you sleep. Most likely, it isn’t serious.

Remember these key points:

  • Plenty of exercise
  • Work patiently with their trust issues
  • Avoid late-night roughhousing
  • A few extra pats on the head never hurt

If your dog is staring at you while sleeping, enjoy the bonding experience. Know that they love you as much as you love them.

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