Looking for Signs of Potential Aggression in a Dog’s Eyes

Looking for Signs of Potential Aggression in a Dog’s Eyes

by / Wednesday, 14 July 2021 / Published in Dog Bites, Tips
A close-up of a dog's eye.

When you’re interacting with another person, their eyes can tell you a lot about how they feel and what they’re thinking. You might be able to tell that a person feels nervous, uncomfortable, happy, or relaxed just by looking at their eyes. The same can be said of dogs. 

Since dogs don’t verbally communicate with humans, it’s important to look at the dog’s body language to understand how they feel. When it comes to signs that a dog might be feeling nervous, uncomfortable, angry, or otherwise ready to attack, their eyes can provide a valuable warning sign, whether you’re the owner of the dog and need to know if you should get the dog out of a situation or if you’re encountering a dog for the first time and you want to be sure you’re approaching a friendly dog. 

Direct Eye Contact

While people often see eye contact as being polite, it can be a touchy matter with dogs since some dogs may perceive this as a threat, especially if it’s prolonged eye contact. Some people train their dogs to make direct eye contact with them, but not all dogs react positively to direct eye contact, especially if it’s with a person they’re not familiar with. If you’re meeting a dog for the first time, it’s best to err on the side of caution by avoiding direct eye contact. If a dog is looking directly at you with a hard, fixed stare, that is a sign that the dog is feeling aggressive.

Pupil Dilation

If dogs are stressed out because they feel like they are in a dangerous situation, their pupils dilate so that they can take in more light and better watch their surroundings. If you see a dog with dilated pupils, keep your distance and avoid making any sudden movements. 

“Whale Eye”

One of the most common telltale signs that a dog is feeling uncomfortable and may lash out is what many animal experts refer to as “whale eye.” Whale eye occurs when a dog is anxious and tries to direct their eyes away from a situation, revealing the whites of their eyes in a crescent, half-moon shape. Whale eye isn’t necessarily a surefire sign that a dog is about to attack. For example, many people who work in animal shelters might see this because a dog has recently been through a traumatic event and is now in an unfamiliar situation. But it is still a sign that a dog is stressed out and uneasy, so it’s best to keep your distance. If you are a dog owner and you see this in your dog, it’s a good sign that the dog should be taken out of the situation. 

Contact a Michigan Dog Bite Lawyer

If you’ve been attacked by a dog, one of the most important things you can do is get in touch with an experienced dog bite lawyer so that you understand how the law applies to your situation. At Goodwin & Scieszka, you’ll be able to talk to a lawyer who has helped many dog bite victims in the state of Michigan just like you. Contact us today to get started.

Image: iStock / Upyanose

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