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Dog freezes and stares (at nothing, at strangers, on walks)

Our beloved four legged family members can have some strange behaviors at times. If you’ve noticed your pooch freezing and staring at nothing, you may be curious or even concerned. 

Do they see something you don’t, or is there anther reason for their weird habit? 

Why does my dog freeze and stare at nothing?

It can be disconcerting when your pooch freezes and stares at nothing. You wonder what they are paying attention to, and if there’s something wrong. 

In most cases, there’s a simple explanation for the behavior. However, it can be a sign of a serious issue.  

Sensing Something You Can’t

One of the most common reasons dogs freeze and stare is that they are taking in information that we aren’t privy to.

Dogs have a much better sense of hearing and smell than humans, so they may pick up on things you don’t. If they are staring in a specific place or tilting their head, they are probably looking or listening for something. If you see them lifting their nose in the air or sniffing the air, they’ve picked up a scent. 

The bottom line is that they are gathering more information about something via scent, smell, or sight. Even though it looks like nothing to you, it’s something they sense. 

Doggie Dementia

Doggie dementia, technically known as canine cognitive dysfunction, is a condition similar ot dementia or alzheimers in humans. If your dog is a senior, this may be the reason they are staring at nothing. 

Doggie dementia typically begins at about 9 years old. By 14 years old, 40% of dogs will develop the condition. 

Doggie dementia affects your dog’s ability to think clearly and remember. Common symptoms include anxiety, insomnia, pacing, disorientation, staring at nothing, and getting lost. 

Inappropriate vocalizations, including howling, barking, or whining frequently are another sign. House accidents and depression or avoiding social interaction are also common. 

The disorientation and confusion caused by doggie dementia may be why it causes senior dogs to stop and stare at nothing, but it’s not certain if this is the reason for the symptom.


Unfortunately, dogs can have seizures just as people can. When you think of seizures, you may picture a grand mahl. This type of seizure causes uncontrollable shaking or body movements, and often causes loss of consciousness. 

However, not all seizures are this intense. Some types of seizures will lead your dog to simply freeze and stare into space. 


One of the more benign, yet strange reasons a dog may freeze and stare is compulsion. Dogs can develop compulsive behavior. These include barking, licking, and even pacing. 

It seems as if the dog is unable to control their desire to perform the action, even if negative consequences occur. 

They can also develop a compulsion to stop and stare. If your pooch does this often, this could be the reason for the behavior. 

Positive Reinforcement 

The last common reason why a dog might stop and stare is positive reinforcement. Essentially, you can accidentally train your dog to do something you don’t want them to do. 

This is because they love your attention. When they do something you don’t want them to do, and you pay attention to them, they can learn that the behavior gets them what they want. 

This leads them to keep doing it, in order to get your attention. 

You may pay attention to them because you are confused as to why they are staring, or even worried, but it can encourage them to keep it up. 

Why does my dog freeze and stare at strangers?

There are a few reasons your dog may freeze and stare at strangers. 

Fear or Stress 

Freezing is often an indication of stress or fear. Have you ever heard the phrase “frozen in fear”? It can happen to dogs just as it can to humans. 

If your dog isn’t well socialized, they may be afraid of strangers. It’s also possible that they don’t like the stranger for some reason, which causes them to feel stressed. 


Dogs will also freeze and stare in aggression. In fact, this is very high on the list of aggressive body language. If your dog is freezing and staring in aggression, they may be close to biting. 

Why does my dog freeze and stare on walks?

If your dog is freezing and staring on walks, it’s likely a sign of stress. It’s possible that they sense danger. They may also be overstimulated, which can lead to anxiety. 

Another reason a dog can experience stress or fear on a walk is that they’ve had a negative experience in the area in the past. If your pooch had a fight with another dog, for example, they may freeze and stare when they get near hte location. 

Why does my dog freeze and stare at other dogs?

This is likely a show of dominance. Dogs will essentially have staring contests. Eventually, one dog usually looks away, allowing the other dog to establish dominance. 

What to do if my dog freezes and stares?

If your dog freezes and stares, it’s importnat to take the correct action. Of course, this depends on why they are freezing and staring. 

Aggression or Fear 

If aggression or fear are the reason for your dog’s behavior, remain calm. Try to remove htem from the situation. If they are aggressive towards a human or an animal, do your best ot put distance between the two. However, you should never put yourself between a dog and the target of its agression. This can result in accidental injury. 

Curiosity or Observation 

If you believe your pooch is simply using hteir super huamn senses to gather infroamtion, just give them a few moments. Once they’ve finished, they should begin moving and acting normally again. 

Medical Issues 

If you believe your pooch is experiencing a seizure, there’s little you can do in the moment. Just make sure that they don’t hurt themselves while the seizure is occuring. 

If the seizure has lasted 5 minutes or longer, or your dog lost consciousness during a seizure, you’ll need to get immeidate veterinary care. 

If your pooch hasn’t seen a vet for seizures, you’ll need to make an appointment for them. 

If doggie dementia is the issue, this also warrants a vet visit to confirm the diagnosis. Unfortunately, there’s little that can be done for this condition. 

How to get my dog to stop freezing and staring?

 How to get your dog to stop freezing and starng will dpened on the cause of the behavior. If there’s a medical issue, you’ll need to work with your vet to treat the problem. 

If it’s behavioral, an animal behavioralist is the best option. They can help you get to the root of the problem and stop the behavior. 

However, it would help to ensure that you have not been encouraging the behavior by giving your dog rewards when it occurs. It would also help to give your dog rewards when they do not freeze but they normally would. By doing so, your dog should learn that not freezing is rewarded, but freezing is not rewarded.