Trying to understand our dog’s behavior isn’t always simple…
If you’ve seen your dog looking up – at the ceiling, at you, or just generally upward – it can mean different things. Some reasons are normal and nothing to worry about, while others might need more looking into.
This article answers everything you need to know.
6 Reasons Why Do Dogs Look Up
Let’s run through the main reasons why you’ll find your dog looking up. This section will focus on dogs that are looking up randomly whether it be inside or outside of your home.
1. They can hear something
When dogs hear something unusual, they’ll often focus themselves to further their hearing. If they sense that the noise is coming from far away, they may look up slightly in order to locate the source of the sound.
While not all dogs react this way to sound, many working and hunting breeds seem to demonstrate this behavior when listening to something far away.
2. They can smell something
Depending on the breed, dogs can smell anywhere between 10,000 to 100,000 times better than we can! That is absolutely incredible when you really think about it.
This means dogs are constantly smelling hundreds of smells in the environment that we have no idea even exist. If your dog gets a whiff of something it’s common for them to look up, squint their eyes, and try smelling it some more.
By doing this, they may be able to locate the smell or understand it better. And yes, dogs can smell things from outside, while they are inside.
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3. Habitual behavior (or OCD)
What might start out as something as simple as hearing a noise, if your dog is constantly looking up many times per day, then a habit might form.
Habitual behaviors, and even OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) can happen in dogs just like it can in humans.
If your dog has engaged in this behavior for more than a few weeks, it could have definitely have turned into a habit by now.
4. Bugs or insects
Although canine vision isn’t as impressive as their sense of smell, they can still see things like butterflies, bees, wasps, moths, and other flying insects.
Depending on where you live in the world, you may have a constant supply of flying insects around.
I’ve lived in South East Asia for quite some time, and it’s almost a pastime for dogs here to watch the array of flying insects we constantly have here.
5. They are emotional or defiant
This one might sound a little funny, but it’s true. Dog’s can feel annoyed, frustrated and stubborn, all of which can be expressed through body language.
If your dog is having a moment of defiance and stubbornness when you give them a command, they may literally raise their head and look away slightly, as if to say “I’m not listening to youuu!”.
If you didn’t know dogs were this emotionally intelligent, you do know!
6. Health issues
In some unfortunate circumstances, there could be a health/medical issue at play.
If your dog has recently injured their neck, back or spine it could potentially be causing them to hold their neck upwards, or in a way that avoids pain.
Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CDS) is a condition that causes dogs to remain in the same place/position for many hours at a time. This condition has been compared to Alzhiezmers, and reduces cognitive function. This can leave dogs disorientated, “zoned out”, and affects the way they interact with people and other animals around them.
Canine Syringomyelia is an issue where a fluid-filled cyst (called a syrinx) develops within the spinal cord. With time, the syrinx can get bigger, damage the spinal cord, and may cause dogs to hold their head in unusual positions.
There are many potential causes as to why a dog may hold their neck in unusual positions. Either the condition is forcing them to keep their head there, or they are holding it there to avoid pain.
This is why it’s important to speak to your veterinarian if you notice other symptoms including whining, reduced mobility, food refusal, and unusual behavior.
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4 Reasons Why Do Dogs Look Up At The Ceiling
If this behavior only happens inside the home, and seems to be the ceiling that your dog is looking at… Why?
This may sound silly, but dogs LOVE to sunbathe, so if they appear to be holding their head up while in direct sunshine through the windows, it’s likely just their way of lapping up the warmth.
While science hasn’t really confirmed whether dogs can “daydream” they certainly find themselves gazing for no reason. Sometimes, your dog may just have a random blip and “zone out”, meaning they aren’t actually looking at anything in particular. They may be thinking of their favorite treat, or just admiring the wonderful paint job!
Interesting: Why does my dog keep looking up? Solved
Cobwebs are everywhere, particularly in the corners of rooms on the ceiling. Your dog will certainly be able to see these, especially if they are casting an interesting shadow… On top of that, it only takes slight air-flow to cause the cobwebs to move (along with the shadow). This has actually happened with my dogs and stopped when I eventually cleaned properly!
Just like before, if your dog seems to enjoy staring at the ceiling a little too often it can develop into nothing more than a habit. It’s worth considering how long your doggo has been ceiling-gazing!
Why Does My Dog Look Up At Me? (6 Reasons)
If your dog is specifically looking up at you then it can mean a few different things compared to above. Let’s explain those now.
1. Your dog needs or wants something
The first and most obvious reason your dog may be staring up at you is that they need something. It could be that they need to be let out to do their doggy business, or that it’s getting close to their usual walk time or dinner time.
Some dogs communicate to their owners in different ways. Some may bark, whine, or paw at you. Others, may just come to you and stare at you.
2. Your dog is bored
Dogs love to be stimulated both physically and mentally. Even if you have already taken them on their daily walk, they may still require further mental stimulation and activity. Most breeds do.
Providing daily command training and focused periods of play time can help to keep your dog satisfied and content. If this was the original problem, more stimulation will help very quickly.
3. Your dog is showing you affection
Your dog could be showing you affection, or getting your attention so you can give them affection! There’s nothing more a dog loves than their owner’s approval, attention, and affection. And coming to stare directly at you, is a very effective and unsubtle way of achieving this!
Keep in mind, this could be happening if you aren’t quite paying enough attention to your dog throughout the day.
4. You’ve got food
If you are currently eating, or have recently eaten, your dog may think there’s something in it for them too! This is especially the case if you have given your dog a tidbit after coming to staring at you… This leads me to the next point.
5. You’ve accidentally reinforced this behavior
As I just mentioned, it’s very easy to reinforce certain behaviors. If your dog has received anything positive directly after staring at you, then they will remember this, and seek to do it again soon.
This is quite literally, positive reinforcement at it’s finest. Your dog comes to stare at you, you show them some approval and attention, and it’s as easy as that!
6. You smell of something (other dogs or animals)
Dogs have extremely powerful sense of smells, if you’ve been around other dogs, animals, or a friend’s pet, your dog will likely smell this on you when you come home. Some dogs will come and stare directly at you as if to say “what have you been doing, and who have you seen!”
Should You Be Worried If Your Dog Is Looking Up?
Ultimately, it depends on why your dog is looking up.
In general, most behaviors like this can be explained if you take a moment to consider the environment, the recent events up until that moment, and your dog’s routine.
The only time I would say this is something to worry about is if your dog is showing additional symptoms…
These would include: Unusual behavior, food refusal, dizziness, disorientation, lethargy, diarrhea, vomiting, or showing signs of discomfort or pain. In these situations then it’s best to consult your veterinarian asap.
Should You Stop Your Dog From Looking Up?
If the behavior seems to be happening every day then it is certainly worth investigating further. But still, in most cases, this is likely just a temporary act.
If you have identified the reason behind why your dog is looking up then you may as well correct it, should there be a logical solution.
After all, if it’s something your dog seems to be doing every single day, then a habit may be forming.
As explained above, consider your dog’s overall routine and lifestyle, the events leading up until when your dog stares, and any other clues as to what might be the reason. If the fix is clear, then yes, it’s best to stop the behavior.
If you can’t seem to figure this behavior out and you do want to stop it, you can still apply redirection training, although this wouldn’t be getting to the root cause. It may be worth you consulting your veterinarian and being referred to a local canine behaviorist.