Why Do Dogs Wink? What Does It Mean Exactly?

why do dogs wink at you?

One of the cutest facial expressions your dog will ever make is winking at you. Indeed, the image of a dog winking is sure enough to spice up the day of any dog owner out there.

But apart from lifting our spirits, a dog’s wink is also thought-provoking. For instance, it’s likely to get us pondering what vibes our canine friends might possibly be trying to put across.

But just why do dogs wink?

Simply put, a dog’s wink isn’t a show of cuteness to their owner. Instead, it’s a facial expression our canine friends wear when they’re trying to avoid aggression or ward off a perceived threat. 

Many dog owners have often wondered if their dogs wink at them in response to a deed, or as a way of drawing their attention to something. As a result, they often try to find out if winking is part of the canine’s innate personality.

Indeed, a dog winking at you may get you asking yourself, do dogs wink on purpose?

We’ll address that question later on. But as a responsible dog owner, knowing how to respond to a dog’s wink is paramount in terms of helping relieve the anxiety and tension the dog might be going through.

Read on to uncover more truths about a dog’s wink.

How Dogs Communicate With Their Eyes

Have you always been wondering to yourself, “why does my dog wink at me”? Well, the chances are that you don’t already understand the numerous ways dogs communicate.

First and foremost, it’s important to understand that the way humans communicate is quite different from how dogs communicate.

Humans generally utilize verbal and sign language to put across their ideas and emotions, while dogs utilize facial expressions and body posturing. But that’s not all.

cute black boxer dog winking

How dogs utilize their facial expressions is also quite different from how humans do. Humans utilize eye contact as a sign of respect and admiration. We may also wink at our human friends to draw their attention to something but in a friendly manner.

However, for our furry friends, eye contact is predominantly used to express aggression and sheer dominance. You may have noticed that if two dogs don’t like one other, they’ll often freeze and stare directly into each other’s eyes.

The same also happens right before a dog fight breaks out. The dogs would normally stare straight into their opponents’ eyes and hold their gaze, with each dog hoping the opponent will blink first and break the deadlock. It’s usually their own way of asserting their dominance.

👉 Therefore, when your dog winks at you, it may be trying to send very negative vibes. Of course, your canine friend isn’t likely trying to get into a fight with you, but it still pays to decode the message in that cute wink.

You should remember that even when a dog is clearly excited to be around you, it will hardly make eye contact. And even if it does, it will only stare into your eyes and hold the gaze for a few seconds. That’s their own way of submitting to their owners.

The following is a recap of the various ways that dogs use their eyes to communicate;

1. Indication of happiness and a desire to play.

2. Holding eye contact implies challenging the object of attention to a duel.

3. Breaking eye contact means the dog is being polite and avoiding confrontation.

4. Wide and upturned eyes is associated with anxiety and uncertainty.

5. Narrowed eyes followed by fixated staring is a sure sign of aggression.

There are numerous other ways dogs communicate and as the dog’s owner, decoding those messages is key to fostering a harmonious relationship with your furry friend. But why do dogs wink at you even when they aren’t apparently trying to be submissive?

The following section shall attempt to address that question in detail.

More Reasons Why Dogs Wink

1. Human Imitation

Dogs have learnt many forms of human behavior right from the time they were first domesticated.

Dogs are quite intelligent and have been known to imitate the various things that happen around them. And before it even gets to the winking stage, you’ll often notice that your dog mimics other more obvious human behaviors.

The most common ones among many dogs include running when their owners run, and sitting when their owners sit.

husky dog laughing

With time, the dog may begin to explore other more intricate forms of human behaviors, such as winking. Puppies tend to imitate human behavior more readily than adult dogs. So, why do dogs wink back at you?

As we’ve already seen, it’s their own way of imitating their human friends. Some dog owners may take imitation negatively. But according to experts, it’s a sign that your pooch is highly intelligent. A dog that’s excellent at imitating their owners is remarkably easy to train.

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2. Sign of Happiness

We already pointed out that a dog staring at you and holding their gaze is likely trying to be aggressive. We also mentioned that when it doesn’t hold that gaze for more than a couple of seconds, it implies that the dog is submissive.

Now, picture this – how many aggressive dogs out there would want to play? Aggression is marked by tension, anxiety, and uncertainty.

Therefore, no aggressive dog would be disposed to play. That means when a dog is staring straight into your eyes, it’s likely not happy. But when it winks, then the dog is playful and want to have fun.

Winking is so much associated with happiness that a playful dog will usually wink repeatedly at their owners. That is especially true when you wink at the dog and it winks back at you. So, do dogs wink to communicate?

Yes, they do, and the message could range from happiness to anxiety. In case you’re in doubt as to whether the dog is happy or not, here are signs that will help to clue you in.
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3. A Possible Health Condition

When there’s no other logical explanation as to why your dog winks, then there are high chances it may be suffering from a medical condition.

In most cases, disease-related winking often results from a medical condition that affects the dog’s optical nerves.

Entropion is one of the most common medical conditions that’s associated with winking in dogs. This genetic disorder causes canines to wink and blink repeatedly, and is more common among dog breeds with short muzzles and squishy faces.

Cute Shiba Inu Dog
Entropion causes the eyelids of a dog to flip towards their eyes, thereby leading to involuntary winking. While entropion generally affects both eyes, the winking is usually more profound in one eye.

So, maybe you’ve always been wondering, why do dogs wink with one eye? Well, you’ve got your answer right there.

The worst part about this condition is that dogs which suffer from it will likely blink more rapidly, ostensibly to alleviate the pain and discomfort associated with the winking. If not treated with the urgency it deserves, entropion could lead to severe vision problems.

Therefore, your best bet is to schedule an appointment with your vet if you suspect an underlying medical condition behind your dog’s wink.

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How to Train Your Dog to Wink

Winking is a harmless behavior and it’s something we will love our dogs to do more repeatedly. Thankfully, you can train your dog to wink so that in future, you won’t be found wondering and asking yourself, why is my dog winking at me?

Teaching your dog to wink is achieved via what’s known as behavioral training. In this training, you follow a set routine to try and impart a new behavior in your canine friend.

For starters, ensure the training program is broken down into various achievable milestones. One advantage with training your dog to wink is that dogs generally love to please their owners. Therefore, you will find the training not only fun but also easy.

It’s even easier to train a dog to wink because in a dog’s language, the behavior is associated with submission. And in most cases, your pooch is likely already submissive to you.

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To begin with, take the dog in an open space or enclosed room; one that’s free from distractions. Distractions could be anything, ranging from unsettling sounds, the presence of other pets, or even dog toys. You want the dog to accord you its undivided attention.

On the first days of training, just wink at your canine friend but expect no winking in return. You may also implement a command that the dog will now associate winking with.

For instance, when you wink, you can spell out the words “Wink”, or “Flirt”. At this stage, the dog is still trying to make sense of this new behavior you’re trying to teach it.

With time, you’ll notice that your dog starts to wink back at you naturally. This is the time now to unleash positive reinforcements. Whenever your pooch winks at you, give it a treat.

The treat must be something the dog loves but which it usually receives only as a reward for good behavior. The treat will serve as a motivation and before you know it, your pooch will eventually take to winking.

Needless to mention, it’s easier to impart winking behavior in puppies as opposed to adult dogs.

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Conclusion: So, why do dogs wink?

As we’ve seen, winking is mainly associated with submissive behavior. In rare occasions, dogs wink to imitate their human friends.

Winking may also be a sign of an underlying medical condition. Perhaps the most important thing to remember is the pattern of winking, and how your dog behaves when it winks at you.

For instance, if the winking is too frequent and visibly involuntary, it could be suggestive of an underlying medical condition.

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Passionate lover of dogs and proud owner of a friendly, mischievous and energetic golden retriever named Beethoven! I’m incredibly excited to share my experiences on how best to care for your beloved pet. The more we know, the happier we and our canine friends will be!

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