Why Do Dogs Wink At You (With One Eye)? Explained

No, you did not imagine it, nor did you think it would be possible, but it happened. Your pet dog just winked at you, the way a buddy will.

Whether you’ve noticed it before or it is your first time, winking is not a behavior many people attribute to dogs.

Digging holes and fetching balls are more common, but winking seems so human, an act that should best be reserved for animated movies.

But, why do dogs wink at you with one eye?

Because winking isn’t a doggy stereotype, it is normal that you’d be curious about it.

Do dogs wink for the same reasons humans do? Could it be related to a medical condition?

If you find it fun to see your pet wink, you might also wonder if it’s possible to train your dog to wink on command.

Won’t it be cool for your pooch to wink at visitors?

This guide will explain this behavior in detail. As you move on to the next section, bear in mind that winking is normal behavior, unless it becomes too frequent

Why Do Dogs Wink at You?

There are many reasons a dog can wink at you, and the majority of them are harmless.

This behavior isn’t universal as not all dogs wink, but it does happen with many dogs for it to be labeled a doggy behavior alongside fetching balls and digging.

Here are some normal reasons a dog would wink:

1. Affection

Yes, your dog could be winking because it likes you. Just as you wink at your buddies, kids, and other loved ones, dogs sometimes wink because they are being affectionate.

Affection is a trait many dogs display towards their family and even other dogs.

Other signs of affection include wagging tails, licking, jumping, and barking.

2. Attention

Bichon Frise Dog Winking with One Eye

Another reason your dog could be winking at you is that it wants to get your attention. Other telltale signs also add up to show your dog needs your focus.

Erect ears, high tail, barking, whining, touching your feet, are some of these signs.

Dogs generally love attention, especially those bred to be companions. Winking could be your pooch saying “check me out”.

3. Submission

Ever come across two fighting dogs? Whether in reality or movies, the method is the same.

They size each other up, teeth-baring and tails are high. They also fix themselves in the eyes, not looking away.

This is how they show strength and dominance. If one dog looks away, it shows defeat. 

When a dog acknowledges you as the leader, it won’t want to stare at you directly for long.

While diverting its eyes, it could also wink to show its submission. Be careful of any dog that can stare you down without looking away.

4. Mimicking

Dogs are highly intelligent, and one day they do this is by imitating their owners. It could be trained to do so or it might do it automatically.

If you tend to wink at your pooch constantly, it might copy the behavior and return the favor. 

What to Do if Your Dog Winks Too Much?

Dogs can and do wink occasionally for many good reasons, but what about when a dog winks excessively?

That could be a cause for concern and might require medical attention. 

Some medical conditions can make a dog wink over time as a symptom. Entropion is one such issue.

It is genetic and causes excessive winking and blinking. It occurs when the eyelid turns inwards and rubs against the eyeballs, irritating.

Dog breeds like Pugs, Bulldogs, Chow Chow, Retrievers, and Spaniels are prone to this. 

Another medical issue that can cause rapid winking is blepharospasm, also known as an eye twitch. It makes the eyes blink or wink involuntarily.

According to research, blepharospasm is also tied to entropion as it is a symptom of it.

The former can also be a sign of corneal ulcer, anterior uveitis, blepharitis, corneal abscess, pannus, ectopic cilium, etc.

Therefore, when you notice your dog blinking repeatedly, consult a veterinarian. 

Can You Teach Your Dog To Wink?

Close Up of a Chihuahua Winking

It is possible to teach your dog to wink, both by getting it to imitate you and through verbal commands.

Dogs already prone to winking involuntarily are easier to teach, and using treats is a great way to motivate them. 

An expert, Dr. Conrad, agrees with this. According to him, “winking is a trick that can be taught.”

This teaching can be done using a mix of verbal and nonverbal cues.

The American Kennel Club proved that you can teach a dog to wink with a short video of a German Shepherd winking on command.

“it’s something we had certainly never thought before, but this German Shepherd Dog has proven anything is possible. Not only does this dog wink, but he does so on command.”


How to Teach Your Dog to Wink With a Command

1. Understand what the trick entails

The winking trick is based on a learning method known as the classical condition.

This method was brought to light by Pavlov and involves linking a word or person to a particular action.

For example, dogs can drool when they see their owner with a food bowl or identify a leash with exercise. 

2. Pick a word

One common word used by dog owners is ‘really?’ instead of an obvious ‘wink!’ as it would give the impression that you and your dog know a particular secret.

It makes the trick fun for viewers. Whatever word you choose should be simple for your dog to recognize.

3. Use a nonverbal cue

The common nonverbal cue for a winking trick is touching the dog’s whiskers, targeting the side you want it to wink with.

When you do this, your pet will wink automatically. 

4. Give it a treat

When it winks, give your dog a treat. This serves to encourage the pooch and also make it associate the action with something good. 

5. Practice

Consistency and repetitiveness help your dog learn faster. It should get to the stage where it winks before you touch its whiskers.

The Dog’s Eyes Explained

The dog’s eyes function like that of a human, as experts show. They capture light to enable vision and give the dog a means to view objects, other animals, and people.

The eyes pick images like cameras do and relay these images to the brain. 

The socket which holds the eyeball in place is termed the orbit. It is made up of bones, muscles, nerves, blood vessels, and tear glands. 

The whitish part of the eye is the sclera. The sclera is covered by conjunctiva, a thin membrane that also covers the inner eyelid and gets to the cornea.

This cornea acts as protection to the eyes and helps the retina function. 

Other parts of the eyes include the Iris which controls the light that the eyes receive. It does this by enlarging or reducing the pupil, another core part.

Then we have the lens, the retina, and the optic nerve. 

A dog’s eyes have some advantages over that of the human as they see better in the dark and can see around 240°, as opposed to 180° of humans.

Other than that, there are no big differences. Dogs can only contact eye-related diseases that are common with humans like cataracts and progressive retinal atrophy.

Commonly Asked Questions

Why do dogs wink back at you?

Dogs are known to be intelligent and can mimic behaviors. If you wink and your dog winks back at you, it might be copying you.

Why do dogs wink at you with one eye?

Dogs wink with one eye for numerous reasons. It could be a sign of affection, a need for attention, or just a way to show submission.

Do dogs wink at you on purpose?

Dogs could either wink on purpose or automatically. When happy or in a bid to get your attention, it could wink. Imitation can also be on purpose.

However, submissive winking may not always be voluntary, as well as excessive ones caused by Blepharospasm.

Why does my dog stare and blink at me?

Staring and blinking could have the same significance, but this is usually when they follow.

When a dog stares and then blinks, it could be a sign of submission.

However, if it stares without blinking for long, then watch out for other signs of aggression. 

Final Thoughts

Dogs are some of the coolest pets to have, mainly because of their high intelligence and the different ‘human’ behaviors they can portray.

Winking is one of such, and though it is not as popular as barking, digging, or fetching, it is done by dogs for many reasons.

The first thing you should be sure of is that the winking isn’t tied to some medical condition.

If your dog is winking uncontrollably, then it is no longer fun. Get it treated immediately.

Other than that, you can encourage your pooch to wink by training it. It is a good parlor trick, after all.

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References & Notes:

Authored By

Ben Pierce

Ben Pierce is a canine behavioral and nutritional specialist, professional dog trainer, and the CEO of Puplore. A former military working dog handler, Ben founded Puplore to provide owners with breed-specific information and to act as a go-to guide to health, nutrition, care, and to help them find the confidence they need to step up to the plate and become the best pup parents they can possibly be. A firm believer in treating all animals with kindness and compassion, and that positive discipline is paramount in achieving a harmonious canine-human relationship, Ben’s former and present careers have enabled him to become a leading light in his chosen profession and business.

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