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Why Your German Shepherd Stares at You: A Owner’s Perspective

Last Updated: December 10, 2023

If you own a German Shepherd and he owns a pair of eyes, then you’re bound to catch him staring at you! Most dog owners want to know what’s going on in their pets’ minds, and nothing makes a dog owner more curious than catching their dog looking at them intently.

A German Shepherd stares at his owner in adoration, out of curiosity, or to indicate aggression. Most often, it is the dog’s body language that clarifies the true reason. An aggressive stare comes with stiff body language, while an attention-seeking one comes with an unmissably submissive posture.

In this article, you will learn more about how to decipher a German Shepherd stare, including the potential reasons, body language signals that correspond with each possible reason, and what to do in each case. By the end of this short read, you will feel like you understand your German Shepherd’s stare better.

Why Does My GSD Stare At Me? A German Shepherd staring at its owner.
The “I want to play!” GSD stare (by my GSD Willow)

Why Does My German Shepherd Stare At Me?

German Shepherds are pretty big and having one eyeing you can be uncomfortable. But don’t worry, he doesn’t think of you as food unless you are a chicken leg! Most reasons for German Shepherds staring at their owners are harmless and even cute. Let’s look at them in detail.

1. To Show Affection

This is true over 90% of the time in most cases and pretty much 100% of the time in Willow’s case. Dogs stare at their owners because they love them. Just like staring at someone you like releases oxytocin in humans, it also releases the same pleasure chemical in dogs.

When a dog can’t help but stare at you, he is doing so out of love. He just doesn’t have the means to discreetly creep on your photos on Instagram, so he is a little straightforward with his approach.

German Shepherds have a knack for sensing your emotions and can pick up on whether you’re happy or sad. So, if you’re feeling a little down, your dog will know and want to share some love.

2. To Get Your Attention

Dogs can build cause-and-effect connections whenever predictable sequences happen in the short term. If you have been giving attention consistently to your dog whenever you catch him looking at you, he might have figured out that staring results in attention. It is a politer version of barking in this context.

“I get the “8pm stare” every evening! My German Shepherd Willow will sit in front of me and stare intently. It’s her cue that it’s now playtime and no one else will do!”

World of Dogz

It’s funny how she only wants to play with me, not other family members. Dogs are absolutely creatures of routine!

Check out Willow in the below photo. Now that’s a stare to get my attention if ever I saw one. Looks like she wants to go for a walk!

German Shepherd Sat At Front Door
“If I sit here and stare, I might get an extra walk!”

3. Because Of What You Do When You Catch Him Staring

Extending the previous point, it is possible that your dog might not stare at you for attention but might do so to get hugs and affection.

Think about the last five times you caught him staring. How did you react? You most probably found it cute and hugged him. It is possible that he just wants to get the same reaction and is staring just so you respond the way you have been.

4. Because Of Mistrust

If the body language of your German Shepherd is intense and you feel uneasy when he stares at you, then the stare isn’t as innocent or adorable as most dogs looking at their owners.

Your dog might not trust you for some reason and might want to keep an eye on you. This doesn’t mean you are in danger, but it does mean that you have to earn your dog’s trust.

The German Shepherd breed is known for building an unbreakable bond with its owners – but you have to earn it first by treating and caring for him right.

Read more: Can a German Shepherd Have Two Masters? Only an Owner Will Know!

5. Because Of Curiosity

If your German Shepherd keeps staring at you after a severe change in appearance or soon after being adopted, he may be simply curious. Dogs are like humans in that they use their eyesight as an exploratory tool. Any time a dog fixates on a specific subject or object, he is curious about it.

But since staring can also have other implications, we cannot chalk all staring up to curiosity. That’s why you must be good at reading your dog’s body language – and learn how he communicates.

6. To Monitor You When He Is Alert

Have you gone for a walk and left your German Shepherd behind? Every time you leave the house but leave him behind, he perceives it as micro-abandonment.

Depending on how much separation anxiety your dog has, he might stare at you just because he is anxious about you leaving when he isn’t looking. When this is the reason for his stare, it is accompanied by anxious body language.

Learn Why Your Dog Stares At You In This YouTube Video…

How To Figure Out Why Your GSD Is Staring At You

Now that you know the different reasons for your German Shepherd’s stare, let’s look at other signs that point toward each potential possibility. In this section, you will learn how to tell if your GSD is staring at you because of adoration, curiosity, alertness, or anxiety.

Signs That Your German Shepherd Adores You

If your German Shepherd is staring at you out of love, which is most often the case, his body language will display affection and adoration. Your German Shepherd licks you more often, is pretty close to you in proximity, and displays interest in cuddling or coat-rubbing. 

If he shows any signals that contradict adoring body language while staring at you, you can be sure that the reason behind his stare isn’t pure love. But this shouldn’t be taken as a sign of malicious intent. After all, curiosity is still a valid reason, and it isn’t negative.

German Shepherd Staring
“Come and Play!”

Signs That Your German Shepherd Is Curious

You can discern the curiosity of your German Shepherd from context. For instance, whenever he stares at you after you’ve made a significant change in your appearance, the context points towards curiosity.

Alongside a curious stare comes curious body language, the hallmark of which is raised ears and frequent sniffing. You can read more about understanding German Shepherd’s ear positions here.

Signs Your German Shepherd Is Anxious

Anxiety can also lead a dog to stare as a cry for help. But this type of stare differs from that of adoration or curiosity. It comes with submissive body language.

If your dog constantly rolls over, has drooping ears, and lets out submissive yelps while staring at you, he might suffer from separation anxiety. In that case, he stares at you because he thinks you will leave if he looks away.

Signs That Your German Shepherd Is Alert

An aggressive stare doesn’t need much decoding. It is pretty evident from the domineering posture and a raised tail. Understanding what different tail placements imply regarding a German Shepherd’s mood and emotional state is crucial. 

If everything about your German Shepherd’s body language screams that he is in an aggressive state, such as raised hackles, you cannot assume that any direct stares reflect adoration. That’s not to say that your GSD doesn’t love you. It just suggests that love is not a major factor in that case.

Signs That Your German Shepherd Wants A Reaction

It is possible that your German Shepherd stares at you because he likes how you react when you catch him staring. When this is the case, there are no universal body language cues.

In contrast, your dog engages in a set of attention-seeking behaviors that work for him. When you cannot help but give him a lot of attention, you can be sure that he is playing all the tricks he can to charm you. Staring at you is most likely one of those.

Black German Shepherd Staring

What To Do When Your German Shepherd Stares At You

When you find your dog staring at you, try to broadly categorize the stare as a negative or a positive and react accordingly. Generally, dogs stare at you out of adoration or because they are territorial. Depending on whether the stare is aggressive or love-seeking, you can reward your dog with a hug or de-escalate the situation.

  • Staring out of adoration – If your dog has neutral or positive body language and is staring at you out of adoration, you can give him a treat, pat him, or even hug him to further reinforce the positive relationship he has with you.
  • Staring out of curiosity – If your dog shows curious body language and stares at you, you can engage him in a quick game. This can snap him out of his curiosity and help him see that you notice him.
  • Staring to seek attention – If your dog wants attention and is staring at you for that reason, you should give him attention. It is better to reward such attention-seeking behaviors than destructive ones like chewing furniture.
  • Staring to guard resources – If your GSD stares at you with stiff body language when you get close to his food bowl or toys, you should de-escalate the situation and engage in long-term strategies to get your dog to be less territorial. You should also re-establish your dominance, which is good for you and your dog.
  • Staring out of anxiety – If your German Shepherd has separation anxiety, you should hug him whenever you find him staring at you. Of course, this doesn’t cover hard stares with stiff body language.
  • Staring to understand – Sometimes, your dog looks at you because he thinks you are talking to him. If you catch your German Shepherd looking at you while you’re talking to someone else, you can just pause and talk to your dog. Engaging him in a small game and giving him a treat can be a great step.

Final Thoughts

Your German Shepherd stares at you because he loves you or he loves something that he thinks you are coming to him for. The stiffness of your dog’s body language gives it away.

If the stare is hard and his posture is aggressive, be alert and de-escalate the situation. And if your dog is staring at you out of positive emotions, you can simply engage him and reward him for being a good dog.

Sharon Waddington
Sharon Waddington is the founder of World of Dogz. With over 30 years of experience working with dogs, this former Police Officer has seen it all. But it’s her trusty German Shepherd, Willow, who steals the show as the inspiration behind this website. As Sharon’s constant companion Willow has played a pivotal role in shaping her passion for dogs. Recently, Sharon has become deeply passionate about the plight of rescue dogs and is an active advocate for dog rescue, striving to make a difference in the lives of dogs in need.

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