dog averting gaze

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Have you ever wondered why your dog looks away from you, even when you’re trying to make eye contact? Dog owners often ponder this question, and it’s important to understand the reasons behind this behavior.

Dogs communicate primarily through body language, and eye contact can hold different meanings for them compared to humans. In this article, we’ll discuss why dogs look away from their owners, the various reasons behind it, and how to improve communication with your canine companion.

Understanding Dog Body Language

Before we dive into the reasons behind a dog looking away from you, it’s important to understand their body language. Dogs communicate in various ways, including eye contact, tail wagging, and ear positioning.

Eye contact

Dogs use eye contact to establish dominance or show submission. Prolonged eye contact between two dogs can lead to aggressive behavior, as it can be seen as a challenge.

Tail wagging

While humans often associate tail wagging with happiness, dogs use it to convey a range of emotions, including excitement, nervousness, or even aggression.


The position of a dog’s ears can also indicate their emotional state. Ears held back or flattened against the head usually signal fear or submission, while ears held erect and forward indicate alertness or aggression.

Why Dogs Look Away from Their Owners

Now that we understand some basics of dog body language, let’s explore the reasons dogs might look away from their owners.


Dogs have a social hierarchy, and looking away from you can be a sign of respect. In the dog world, direct eye contact can be perceived as a challenge or threat. By looking away, your dog is acknowledging your position as the leader and showing deference to you.


Similar to respect, a dog looking away can also be a sign of submission. This behavior is usually accompanied by other submissive body language, such as ears back, tail tucked, or crouching down.

Fear or anxiety

If your dog feels uncomfortable, scared, or anxious, they might avoid eye contact with you. This behavior can be triggered by various factors, such as a new environment, loud noises, or unfamiliar people.


Sometimes, dogs simply get distracted by something more interesting in their environment. This doesn’t mean they’re ignoring you, but rather that their attention is focused elsewhere.


Lastly, your dog might look away from you if they’re bored or disinterested in what you’re doing. This could be a sign that they need more stimulation, either mentally or physically.

dog looking away

How to Improve Communication with Your Dog

Now that you understand why your dog may look away from you, here are some tips to improve communication and strengthen your bond:

Positive reinforcement

Use treats, praise, and other positive reinforcement techniques to encourage good behavior and strengthen your bond with your dog.

Consistent training

Establish a consistent training routine with your dog to reinforce desirable behaviors and build trust. Remember, patience and repetition are key to helping your dog learn and understand your expectations.

Building trust

Spend quality time with your dog by engaging in activities they enjoy, such as playing fetch, going for walks, or cuddling on the couch. The more time you spend together, the stronger your bond will become, and the more likely your dog will be to pay attention to you.


In conclusion, it’s essential to remember that dogs communicate differently than humans. A dog looking away from you isn’t necessarily a sign of disrespect or disinterest. Instead, it can indicate respect, submission, fear, anxiety, distraction, or boredom. By understanding your dog’s body language and working on improving communication through positive reinforcement, consistent training, and building trust, you can strengthen your bond and better understand your furry friend.

Frequently Asked Questions

Written by Tom Cashman

I have grown up with pets for almost fifty years. My family has strong ties to the animal shelter community in Chicago. Currently I have two cats: an orange tabby named Zelda, and a gray mixed named Zander. Like all of my pets, they were adopted from a local animal shelter. Pet Zone represents my passion for sharing with the pet community.

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One Comment

  1. I often just dismiss the looking away as a shy dog. Thank you for sharing the different perspective of it.