Dog Side Eye: Unraveling the Mystery Behind This Canine Expression

Dogs possess a remarkable ability to communicate with humans and other animals through a range of body language cues. One particularly captivating behavior is the “dog side eye,” also known as “whale eye.”


This facial expression, where a dog glances sideways, often revealing the whites of its eyes, never fails to pique our curiosity. But what exactly does this intriguing dog expression signify?

Decoding a dog’s side eye necessitates careful interpretation of the context and consideration of the accompanying body language. It can convey a variety of messages, such as confusion, stress, or even serve as a warning sign of potential aggression.

Key Takeaways

  • Dog side eye, or whale eye, is a form of canine communication that can convey different emotions depending on the context.
  • Analyzing accompanying body language and the situation is crucial for accurate interpretation of the side eye.
  • Recognizing this behavior can help humans respond appropriately, fostering a positive and healthy bond with their dogs.

Why Dogs Give The “Side Eye”

why does my dog give the side ey

Canine Communication

Understanding furry companion’s behaviors and body language is crucial for every dog owner. One behavior that often surfaces is the dog side-eye, sometimes referred to as the “whale eye.”

Although your dog may seem to express something through their eyes, the true meaning isn’t always as straightforward as it appears. Generally, the side eye can indicate uncertainty, anxiety, or a sense of threat. I

t can also serve as a way for them to communicate with you, perhaps to seek attention or show a desire to play. By attentively observing the context and your dog’s overall body language, you’ll gain insights into what they are trying to convey. This understanding allows for a stronger bond and better care of your beloved pet.

Non-Verbal Cues

Dogs rely on non-verbal cues to communicate with both humans and other animals. One component of the side-eye is the shape of the eye. When the whale eye occurs, the inner or outer sides of the eye take on a half-moon shape. You’ll notice your dog has its head turned away slightly, but its gaze will be fixed on someone or something.

Some other non-verbal cues include tail wagging. For example, a helicopter tail wag is a happy wag, while wagging more to the left signifies facing something negative. Observing these cues alongside the side-eye can provide a clearer picture of your dog’s emotions and needs.

Remember to be patient and attentive to your dog’s body language. Understanding their non-verbal cues and side-eye behavior can help strengthen the bond between you and your furry friend.

side eye dog causes

They’re Uncomfortable or Shamed

One reason dogs display the side-eye is to communicate their discomfort or dissatisfaction with a situation. For example, if you approach them too quickly or make a sudden noise, they may give you the side-eye as a way to say, “I don’t like that.”

Understanding this form of communication can help you better attend to your dog’s needs and wishes.

They’re Distracted

Another possible explanation for the dog side-eye is that they are simply watching you while keeping their head pointed in another direction. This behavior could demonstrate their awareness of their surroundings and display their attentiveness to your presence. Monitoring your dog’s body language, including side-eye, can give you a wealth of information about their emotions and state of mind.


Your dog may make the side eye face to communicate emotions like displeasure or dissatisfaction. For instance, if you move too quickly towards them or make a sudden noise, they may give you the side eye to say, “I don’t like that.” This expression can also occur when your dog feels threatened, such as when their space is invaded, or a new dog or stranger is around their loved ones.

Another emotional reason for the side eye is guarding behavior. Dogs can display the whale eye when they’re jealously guarding something, like their favorite chew toy or bone. You might also see this behavior when they’re eating their food, as they want to protect their meal from potential threats.

Health Conditions

Aside from emotional causes, there are health conditions that might lead to your dog giving you the side eye. Vision problems or eye discomfort can make a dog feel the need to look sideways. Also, certain health issues, such as neurological disorders or facial pain, may cause your pet to display this unusual gaze.

In such cases, it’s essential to observe your dog’s behavior and consult your veterinarian if you suspect health problems to be the cause of the side eye. Proper diagnosis and treatment can help alleviate any discomfort your pet may be experiencing, and in turn, potentially reduce instances of the dog side eye due to health issues.

Remember, your dog uses body language to communicate with you, and understanding the underlying causes of their behaviors, such as the side eye, can help you better care for and support your pet’s well-being.

Interpreting Dog Side Eye

dog giving the side ey

In Different Breeds

The meaning of a dog’s side-eye can vary depending on their breed. Some breeds, like the Greyhound or the St. Bernard, have a naturally expressive gaze, making it easier to understand their emotions.

However, other breeds with flatter faces or smaller eyes, such as the Pug or the Bulldog, may make it harder to interpret their side-eye signals. Regardless of breed, it is essential to observe other body language cues alongside their side-eye to get a better understanding of their feelings.

In Puppies vs. Adult Dogs

Puppies and adult dogs may also display different intentions with their side-eye expressions. Puppies, being inexperienced in their communication, might accidentally give a side-eye while learning to navigate their new environment.

On the other hand, adult dogs are more likely to use the side-eye as a deliberate form of communication — either to express misgivings about a particular situation or to seek attention from their owner.

Being aware of your dog’s life stage can help you respond more accurately to their facial expressions and better understand their emotions.

How Humans Should Respond

What you Should Do if Your Dog Gives the Side Eye

When you notice your dog giving you a side eye, it’s essential to understand what this form of communication might mean. It’s crucial to pay attention to the context and your dog’s body language to determine their emotions and intentions.

If you spot your dog exhibiting a side eye and their body is relaxed, it might simply be a form of engagement or curiosity. In this case, you should continue observing your furry friend and respond with positive reinforcement, such as treats, praise, or a gentle pat.

On the other hand, if your dog’s body language is tense and they show signs of discomfort or anxiety while giving you a side eye, it’s best to give them some space to feel secure and calm down. Avoid sudden movements or loud noises, as these might exacerbate the situation. You can also try speaking softly to reassure your pet and gradually build trust over time.

Finally, if you’re unsure of what your dog’s side eye means or you have concerns about their behavior, consider consulting with a professional dog trainer or veterinarian who can provide expert advice on the most appropriate course of action. Remember, being attentive and responsive to your dog’s signals will go a long way in fostering a strong bond between you and your beloved canine companion.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why do dogs show the whites of their eyes?

When your dog shows the whites of their eyes, also known as “whale eye,” it is a form of communication. This expression can be an indication of different feelings, such as stress, discomfort, or uncertainty. Make sure to pay attention to your dog’s overall body language to better understand their emotions.

What does a dog’s sidelong glance signify?

A dog’s sidelong glance may have different meanings depending on the situation and the dog’s mood. It may indicate curiosity, suspicion, or even playfulness. However, it could also suggest that your dog is feeling stressed or threatened. Always consider contextual factors to accurately interpret your dog’s eye movements.

Which breeds are known for giving side eye?

Some dog breeds are more prone to displaying side eye than others due to their facial structure or temperament. Breeds with more expressive faces, like Pugs, Bulldogs, and Boston Terriers, might exhibit side eye more often. However, any dog may display side eye depending on their individual personality and circumstances.

Is a dog’s side eye a form of communication?

Yes, a dog’s side eye is a form of communication. Dogs use their eyes to convey different emotions, intentions, and even warnings. When your dog gives you the side eye, they’re trying to tell you something. Make sure to closely observe their body language and consider the situation to understand what they’re trying to communicate.

Why do some dogs display side eye more than others?

Some dogs might display side eye more frequently due to their personality, breed, or past experiences. Factors like genetics, socialization, and overall temperament can contribute to how often your dog uses side eye as a form of communication. Remember that every dog is unique, and their expressive cues might differ from others.

What emotions can be expressed by a dog’s side eye?

A dog’s side eye can express various emotions, such as curiosity, playfulness, stress, or even aggression. It’s essential to pay attention to your dog’s overall body language, vocalizations, and the context they’re in to better understand the emotions behind the side eye. This will help you build a stronger bond with your dog and handle situations appropriately.