Don’t you just love how expressive dogs’ faces are? Their little eyebrows seem to communicate so much. The lip that gets snagged on that wayward tooth in a comical grimace. That sideways glance conveys epic levels of shade.
If you’re not sure what I mean, side-eye, or whale eye, is when your dog looks at you out of the side of their eye. Their head may be slightly turned away from you, but their eye is ON. YOU. And it speaks volumes.
Do a quick Google search, and chances are good that you’ll be served a hilarious list of dog side-eye memes. Funny it may be on the internet, but what does it mean in real life when your dog looks at you from the side of their eye? Is it as shady as it seems? Or is there something more that lies behind that look?
Call it what you will – doggie side-eye, dog whale eye, stank eye – your doggo is clearly trying to tell you something. Let’s dig into what doggie side-eye really means.
- Why do dogs give the side-eye?
- Got side-eyed? Here’s how you should respond
- Popular side-eyes from the internet
Why do dogs give the side-eye?
Sure, the doggie side-eye memes are funny, but you should probably pay attention if your dog is shooting you the side-eye.
Whale eye in dogs is usually a warning that your doggo is about to get all kinds of aggressive with you. Either they're being protective of something, over a bone or a toy, or they feel threatened in some way. Either way, your dog is laying down a hard boundary.
So, what should you do when your doggie gives you a side-eye? If your dog shoots you one of these looks, it’s wise to stop whatever you’re doing and back away. Your dog is communicating that they’re not enjoying the situation, and you should respect that.
Ignoring this warning will result in a defensive response from your dog, which will leave you both feeling bad about the situation. If you take the warning and give your dog the space they're asking for, you’ll avoid a confrontation, your dog will feel that their boundaries are being respected, and he will feel understood.
Read more: How to Understand Dog's Body Language
Other body language associated with doggie side-eye?
In canine body language, things rarely occur in isolation. So, a look might accompany a posture or another physical signal to back it up.
With side-eye, it could simply be your dog catching your movement out of the corner of his eye, or it could be Rover’s way of telling you to back right off.
If you want to be sure your dog is really serving you the side-eye, you should pay attention to your dog’s general body posture; a dog feeling threatened will have a rigid or tense posture.
Other signs that your dog may be feeling stressed include:
- Licking repeatedly;
- Pacing or agitated movements;
- Barking and whining;
- Frequent blinking;
- Cowering, avoidance, or hiding;
- Shaking or trembling.
If you’re close enough to see your dog’s eyes, these can tell you a lot too. A happy and comfortable dog will have the iris (the colored part) of their eyes visible. According to research, an anxious dog will have dilated pupils, but a dog giving the side-eye will have part of the whites of their eyes visible.
It must be noted, though, that seeing the whites of a dog’s eyes is not always a sign of the side eye. Some breeds of dogs, usually those with squished faces like boxers, bulldogs, and pugs, have the whites of their eyes visible a lot of the time, so in these cases, you’ll need to assess body language to be sure.
In reality, it’s simply not possible to watch your dog 24/7, so it can be helpful to use an interactive pet camera when you’re not home or even just out of the room to identify what may be triggering your dog’s aggression and side-eye. This awesome technology allows you to observe your dog without your presence in the room to influence the situation, which could reveal a great deal that may help you understand the situation.
Got side-eyed? Here’s how you should respond
If your dog is giving you a side-eye, they are communicating a boundary. By respecting that boundary, you teach your dog they can trust you. Consistently respecting their boundaries will go a long way in building a great relationship between you and your dog.
Here’s how to respond when your dog gives you a side-eye:
- Back off: your dog is communicating with you the best that they can. Back up and assess the situation to understand what’s bothering them.
- Look for the root of the problem – are they feeling encroached upon? Are they being protective of something, a bone, perhaps?
- Resolve the problem. Remove the cause of the tension to avoid the possibility of aggressive behavior. If it’s a bone or a toy, lead your dog away or distract them while you remove it. Help your dog to feel understood and respected.
- It’s important not to raise your voice or get angry with your dog. Help them to relax and feel comfortable again.
Popular side-eyes from the internet
We now know what dog side-eye means and are hopefully well-equipped to deal with it in real life. We’ve covered the serious stuff, so now we can kick back and enjoy some of the pure gold that the internet serves up when you search for dog side-eye memes. No doubt you’ll recognize more than a few of these!
- Controversial? We don’t think so.
- Is this the time to come?
- You mean the limited-edition brand-new designer ones? Nah…
- Read the room, Susan. Read the room…
- Say what?
- That ain’t right!
- Tell me summin’ I don’t know;
- Are you for real?
- What the…?
- I can’t unknow things…
- Advice for life;
- You heard it here first;
Some of these are comedic gold, but now that you know all about side-eye in dogs, did you notice how many of these memes feature flat-faced breeds like boxers and pugs? Were you able to identify what the dogs in the memes might be trying to communicate to their owners?
What is whale eye in dogs?
Whale eye in dogs refers to that sideways glance your dog gives you that makes it possible to see the whites of their eyes. It usually indicates a dog that is not at ease and possibly stressed. Sometimes the eyes even seem to be bugging out a little.
Usually, a dog serving this kind of side-eye is not a happy or relaxed dog, but in some breeds, especially those with flatter faces, seeing the whites of their eyes is common and not necessarily a result of side-eye.
Is it bad if my dog is giving side-eye?
A dog giving side-eye in conjunction with other body language cues that he is stressed or anxious about something is not a good thing. But like all bad things in life, it’s also an opportunity.
If your dog gives you side-eye, it’s a chance for you to build trust with your dog by stopping whatever you were doing to illicit the side-eye and help your dog feel that they can trust you to respect their boundaries.
If you choose not to back away from your dog’s side-eye, you’ll likely get an unpleasant and aggressive response from your dog.
My dog always has a whale eye!
If you have a dog like a boxer, pug, or bulldog, you may see a whale eye more often than in other breeds.
It’s probably not whale eye, or side-eye, at all. Dog breeds with shorter snouts and squished-up faces tend to show the whites of their eyes more frequently purely because of the structure of their faces.
In these breeds, you’ll need to look for other body language cues to confirm that it is a side-eye and not just a sideways glance.
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