Why Does My Dog Look Back At Me On Walks

Why Does My Dog Look Back At Me On Walks?

Last Updated: August 20, 2023
correct answerThe Short Answer is:

Dogs may look back at you while you are walking for three reasons: First, let’s talk about reassurance. You might find that your dog is looking at you for reassurance if the place where you are walking is new. The second reason why your dog looks back at you on a walk is because of a routine. Last but not least, your dog may look at you as you are walking because they have just done something naughty and they are checking to see if they have been caught.

In this article you will know the answer to the query “Why Does My Dog Look Back At Me On Walks?“.

Have you ever noticed that your dog tends to look at you often whilst out on a walk?

Why Does My Dog Look Back At Me On Walks

Then do not worry as there could be a number of reasons why your dog is acting like this.

There is a good chance your dog is communicating with you. Find out what they might be trying to tell you and why.

3 reasons why your dog looks back on walks

My experience has taught me that dogs may look back at you while you are walking for three reasons: reassurance routine and expecting to be corrected. 

First lets talk about reassurance.

You might find that your dog is looking at you for reassurance if the place where you are walking is new.

The driver does not know which route you want to take so he is waiting to hear from you that you want to change the route.

It is exciting for them to go to a new place and they rush off ahead of you to explore but they do not want to stray too far from you and they want to keep in touch by making eye contact with you. 

Another way to reassure your dog is if they meet another unfamiliar dog on a walk and they need a verbal cue from you to let them know they are okay.

The youngest of my dogs is like this. When she sees another dog approaching us she often looks at me if she sees it coming towards her.

There are probably many other examples of how a dog needs to look at us for reassurance when we’re out and about. 

Another reason why your dog looks back at you on a walk is because of a routine.

The dog normally speaks to you at this point on the walk. 

It might be a command to “wait” when nearing a road for instance.

In other words it might be a command such as “go on then” if you are approaching a river or stream. 

I’m curious to know whether you are aware that at this point you normally interact with your dog.

Or if like me you sometimes find yourself distracted on your dog walk and cannot figure out for the life of you why your dog is staring at you.

Although you have forgotten what you usually do your dog hasnot!

Last but not least your dog may look at you as you are walking because they have just done something naughty and they are checking to see if they have been caught.

A second example from my own experience is that my dogs sometimes take the opportunity to snack on horse poo when we walk across a field with horses.

When I walk towards where they are snacking after they are done they raise their heads and look at me as if to ask “Did you watch me?” Are you going to yell at me?”

Many times I did not realize that my dogs were eating horse poop until one of them looked at me from a stooped position!

Here are some reasons why our dogs sometimes look back at us while out for a walk. The time has come to move on and see if we can figure out why some dogs walk ahead of us on walks.

Why is eye contact important between an owner and their dog?

In order for mammals to communicate and understand one another eye contact is crucial. 

No matter whether it is between two people a person and a dog or two dogs the same applies. 

For the purposes of this article lets stick with eye contact between an owner and their dog!

Oxytocin known as the “love hormone” is the hormone that makes people feel good when they are in a romantic relationship or when they gaze into the eyes of their newborn families.

The longer the owner stares into their dogs eyes the stronger it becomes!

Dogs and humans’ eye contact isnot just about getting those warm and fuzzy feelings; its importance goes far beyond that.

A study conducted by the University of Helsinki shows that your dog reading your facial expressions is not just a matter of love – it is a matter of survival.

Presented next to each other were two photos. The first photo shows a “happy” man the second shows an “angry” man.

Dogs spent more time looking at pictures of angry men- because they perceive these expressions as threats and therefore need to monitor them more closely. 

Why else do dogs stare at their owners?

It is common for dogs to stare at their owners or family members while waiting for something to happen.

In order to engage in some kind of interaction.

The starting position is your dogs “standby”. 

Similar to your TV which is just waiting for a response from the remote and will respond instantly many dogs are just looking forward to their next interaction. 

The command could be “dinner” or “pick up the lead for a walk.”.

There are two reasons for this constant state of readiness.

In the past forty thousand years dogs have lived with humans.

In addition most breeds of dogs were developed to perform a specific function whether it was to herd sheep guard livestock or hunt game.

A dogs owner had to be in constant contact with the dog in order to fulfill these working roles. 

In what way does all this new knowledge help us understand our dog when we are out and about on our walks?

Four reasons why some dogs walk in front of us

When we consider the reasons for our dogs walking in front of us there are many.

What exactly does it mean to have something in front of us? 

Were we talking about dogs that off the lead like to walk two to five meters ahead of us? 

Our legs get almost tangled with dogs walking directly in front of us.

However I would like to state the obvious first.

Walking at a slower pace than a dogs natural pace is unnatural for most dog breeds. 

Therefore it is only natural that these dogs would be ahead of us.

There are certain exceptions- senior dogs plod along at a snails pace and many toy breeds can not keep up with us because they are so small and their legs are so short! 

1. Lack of training 

Dogs that are constantly ahead of their owners while walking do not know any different because they havenot been trained. 

We come across these dogs all the time as dog owners. 

Furthermore these dogs have very poor recall skills while their owners tend to keep their eyes glued to their phones and not watch their pets!

2. Familiarity

If a dog is walking ahead of us off a lead it is because they know the route well they know what their owner expects on this walk and thats what they do.

The dogs walk ahead of their owners for most of the route. 

3. Protection 

When they detect a threat dogs with a strong protective instinct might walk in front of you for parts of the walk. 

A person or dog has startled their “spider sensors” and they move out in front of you to guard against a threat coming towards them.

German Shepherds and Doberman Pinschers for instance have a very protective disposition.

It is possible for any breed of dog to behave this way particularly if they are highly strung.

Jack Russells and Border Collies have behaved this way in my experience. 

4. Lack of attention

To begin I would like to address dogs that walk in front of their owners but are so close that they put the owners at risk of tripping over.

Although partly due to insufficient training I believe that these dogs are so starved for attention that they walk like this in order to be told off since they are not getting it in any other way. 

This brings us very close to the closely related question of why some dogs walk behind us.

Three reasons why some dogs walk behind us

In general dogs tend to walk behind us instead of in front or beside us for three main reasons.

1. Can’t keep up

I mentioned one of our reasons earlier.

Since they cannot walk as fast as we can some dogs walk behind us.

In general this isnot the case for most dogs but it is for very old dogs and for small dogs.

In her fourteenth year my Golden Retriever walks at a quarter of the speed she once did.

Walking is still her favorite activity but it takes her a long time!

2. Training

In addition these dogs have been trained by their owners to walk behind them.

This is a little strange because a dogs classic “heel” position is beside him not behind him.

3. Fear

In the last section I discussed dogs who are very protective of their owners sometimes taking an “offensive” position in front of them when they detect an approaching threat.

There are some dogs who are so scared they walk behind their owners using them as a sort of shield.

Often it is because these dogs have been attacked while out for a walk that they require this level of protection.

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Amanda Dogs Trainer

Amanda (Author)

With over a decade of experience, Amanda is a distinguished dog trainer. Her expertise in canine behavior has transformed countless lives, fostering harmonious human-canine connections. Through compassionate and personalized approaches, she empowers owners to understand and connect with their furry companions, creating a legacy of joyful tails and transformed lives.

Osvaldo Maciel Dogs Trainer

Osvaldo Maciel (Content Reviewer)

Osvaldo Maciel, a stalwart in the field with 14 years of experience, is a revered dog trainer. His journey is defined by a profound understanding of canine behavior, shaping unbreakable human-canine bonds. Osvaldo guides owners to connect with their beloved pets, leaving an indelible mark of happiness and transformation. His legacy shines through the countless lives he has touched.

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