Understanding the Secret Language of Dogs: Reading a dog’s eyes

Looking at a dog’s eyes, you can see how they vary the size and shape of their eyes as well as their gaze

By Laura Pakis, Certified Professional Dog Trainer and Blogger,

Relaxed and happy

Some dogs have round eyes, while others are more almond-shaped. No matter what the shape of the eye, in a relaxed state the dog’s eyes will be their normal shape.  The dog will also look at you with a relaxed facial expression.

Frightened or stressed

If your dog’s eyes seem smaller than they usually are, this can also mean he’s feeling frightened or stressed. Dogs who are in pain or not feeling well often look as though they’re squinting their eyes. Dogs who submissively grin may also squint their eyes.  When looking at him, the dog may avert his gaze, signalling to you that he is submissive. It can also indicate that he’s worried about interacting with you. He could be afraid of people or not very confident about dealing with people.  You may also notice that you see a good deal of the whites of his eyes (the sclera).

Aggressive or threatened

Eyes that appear larger than normal usually indicate that a dog is feeling threatened in some way.  This dog may be aggressive.  Aggressive dogs tend to have enlarged pupils as well.  If this dog stares directly at you with a tense facial expression, you should consider this to be a threat.  Should you be in close proximity to such a dog, it’s wise to slowly look away. Looking away is what dogs do when they don’t want to appear threatening.

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