The Eyes Have It: Using Eye Contact to build the bond Between you and your dogs

by Puppy Palace 16 may

The Eyes Have It: Using Eye Contact to Build the Bond Between You and Your Dogs

Volume 348 | Issue 6232
17 April 2015

Just like people gazing into each other's eyes, eye contact with your dog is a bonding event. You will feel happier, and likely, so will the dog.

But it’s more than that as well. When your dog gazes into your eyes, it's not just an adorable moment—it's a significant form of communication. Eye contact plays a crucial role in how dogs and humans understand and connect with each other.

Let’s explore the importance of eye contact between humans and dogs. And share some tips on how to use it effectively in your relationship with your furry friend.

Humans bond emotionally as we gaze into each other's eyes—a process mediated by the hormone oxytocin. Nagasawa et al. show that such gaze-mediated bonding also exists between us and our closest animal companions, dogs. They found that mutual gazing increased oxytocin levels, and sniffing oxytocin increased gazing in dogs, an effect that transferred to their owners. Wolves, who rarely engage in eye contact with their human handlers, seem resistant to this effect.

The Science Behind Eye Contact

Research shows that when dogs and humans share a mutual gaze, both species experience a surge in oxytocin, a hormone associated with social bonding and trust.

Takefumi Kikusui, an animal behaviorist at Azabu University in Sagamihara, Japan, reported in Science the physiological responses in humans and dogs when they gaze into each other's eyes.

This mutual feedback loop, akin to the one shared between human mothers and their infants, underscores the deep-seated bond between humans and dogs that has evolved over thousands of years.

Understanding Canine Eye Contact

It's important to understand that direct eye contact is often seen as a threat or a sign of dominance in the canine world. So, when your dog makes eye contact with you, it's because they trust you and consider you a part of their pack.

A relaxed and gentle gaze from your dog indicates contentment and trust. However, a hard, intense stare, especially when accompanied by a stiff posture or bared teeth, could signifiy a challenge or threat.

Encouraging Positive Eye Contact

Training your dog to make eye contact can strengthen your bond and improve obedience. Here are a few steps to guide you:

  1. Start with a Treat: Hold a treat near your eye and use a cue word like "watch" or "look." When your dog makes eye contact, even for a second, reward them with the treat. Repeat this process regularly.
  2. Increase Duration: Gradually increase the time your dog needs to maintain eye contact before they receive the treat. This encourages them to hold your gaze for longer.
  3. Practice without Treats: Once your dog consistently makes eye contact on cue, practice without the treat. Remember to reward them with praise or petting.
  4. Use Eye Contact in Training: Incorporate eye contact into other training exercises. It can help get their attention and reinforce commands.

Respecting Your Dog's Comfort

Remember, not all dogs are comfortable with direct eye contact. Some may find it intimidating, especially those with a history of abuse or neglect. Be patient and consistent, and never force your dog into eye contact. With time, they will learn that making eye contact with you is a positive experience.

Eye contact is just one of the many ways dogs communicate with their human companions. Understanding and responding to these signals can significantly enhance the relationship you share with your four-legged friend. So, the next time your dog looks into your eyes, remember—it's not just a gaze, it's a conversation.



Dog lovers at the Puppy Palace NH