As dog owners, it seems we spend a good portion of our time trying to decode our pet’s behavior. Often with good reason. Many behaviors can range from an odd quirk or normal behavior to signs of a medical problem. Dogs rely on us to decode the messages they are sending.

Some of these messages are simple. When a dog goes to the door and barks, he wants to go outside. Sometimes it’s an odd behavior like looking up. Is your dog trying to tell you something? Showing signs of a medical problem? Or simply being a dog? 

Why does my dog keep looking up?

There are several reasons why your dog may keep looking up. Often, it’s because they’ve found something interesting in the air or the sky. However, it can be a sign of something more serious. 

Noise

If dogs hear a noise above their head, their curious nature demands they investigate it. While they don’t see colors the way humans do, they are excellent at picking up motion. It’s possible that they are watching something that’s difficult to see. Even if they don’t see anything, they may keep looking up just in case something appears. 

Annoyed With Owner

Dogs experience emotions. They don’t have complex emotions like anger and blame that people do. However, your dog can certainly be annoyed or upset with you. 

Some dogs will literally “turn their nose up into the air” as a way to show their displeasure. It’s a haughty gesture that can be quite amusing to watch. 

Some dogs may even do this when they are in trouble. In this case, it’s often accompanied by them turning their head to ignore you or feign innocence. 

Insects

Some dogs seem to view insects as a source of fascination or even a toy. Dogs can catch flies and even wasps with surprising agility. If your dog is looking up and there are insects flying around, it’s probably planning its attack.

Seizures

Partial seizures cause a partial loss of consciousness. Your dog will seem to zone out and stare blankly. Their eyes may rotate upward, and they may lose consciousness briefly. 

These seizures differ from full seizures, which cause convulsions and often a significant loss of consciousness. Partial seizures are milder, but should still be evaluated by a vet. Conditions including epilepsy and cancer, both of which require prompt treatment can cause them. 

Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CDS)

When a dog has CDS, they will stay in one place for hours at a time. It’s essentially the canine version of Alzheimer’s. Like Alzheimer’s, the condition is becoming more common. It affects about 14% of dogs 8 and over, and 28% of dogs 11 and over. 

CDS causes damage in the brain and declining cognitive function. Disorientation is one sign. This means your dog may roam around the home with no purpose or direction, or may stare at a wall or look up. 

They may also have changes in the way they interact with people, changes in sleep habits, and difficulty with house training. 

Why does my dog look up at the ceiling?

You find your dog looking up at the ceiling. Do they see something you don’t? Are they just zoning out? 

Noise

If your dog hears a noise, they will want to identify the source. This could be a squirrel or birds on the roof, or just the house settling. Your dog may look at the ceiling and watch closely hoping to see what is above them. 

Quirk

All dogs, and people for that matter, have their quirks. Your dog may simply enjoy looking up at the ceiling or the sky. It may seem a little strange, but it’s part of individuality.  

Stargazing Syndrome

When your dog seems to get stuck looking up, this is known as stargazing syndrome. Stargazing syndrome can occur due to OCD or seizures, or it can simply be a quirk. 

OCD

Yes, dogs can develop OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) just as humans can. The behaviors are different, but the basis is the same. The dog performs repetitive behaviors that they don’t seem to have the control to stop. 

Looking up or staring at the ceiling can be a sign of OCD. Other signs include sniffing or licking the air. They may also snap at the air. It looks like they are attempting to catch flies, but there are no flies there.

Why does my dog look up at me?

Your dog looking up at you can be adorable. It’s generally a form of communication, although decoding what the message is can be a bit of a challenge. 

Affection

Sometimes your dog is simply looking up at you out of affection. Just as humans look into each other’s eyes when they are fond of each other, your dog will gaze into your eyes lovingly. Most owners find it charming. 

Desire for Attention

Your dog might look up at you because they want attention. Some dogs will paw at you or bark at you to let you know they want your attention. Others will simply look up at you. It’s their way of saying, “hey, pet me”. 

Wanting Something 

Your dog might also look up at you because they want something. Food, a toy, or going outside to use the bathroom are common reasons. Since dogs can’t speak, they must rely on their vocalizations and body language to communicate. 

Why does my dog look up and sniff?

It’s a bit of a strange sight to see your dog raising their head and sniffing. It often looks like they are sniffing the air, and in fact, they probably are. 

Dogs Sense of Smell

Dogs have an incredibly sensitive sense of smell. They have 300 million olfactory receptors, compared to 6 million in humans. The area of the brain that processes scent is 40 times more powerful in dogs than it is in humans. They can smell many things that humans can’t. 

Dogs can smell many things, from drugs to cancer with the right training. They use their sensitive noses to communicate with each other and to learn about their world. 

Investigating

If your dog smells something interesting, they will want to investigate. They are curious animals. They may continue to sniff the air, or look up to see if they can identify the source of the smell. 

Smells Other Animals

Your dog might smell another animal. They can identify animals by their scent, including other dogs. They may pick up the scent of another dog, a prey animal, or a predator. 

Smells Food

Your dog may smell food. Remember dog’s noses are very sensitive, so they can smell food from a long way away. Obviously, smelling food will get your dog’s attention. 

Why does my dog look up and lick?

Your dog looks up and licks. It seems odd. Do they smell food? Is it just a strange quirk? 

Hunger

When a dog is hungry, they will lick their lips. They may lick their lips if they smell food in the air, or simply because they are thinking about food. 

Anxiety

Licking is a common coping mechanism for anxiety. Licking is comforting to dogs, and it releases oxytocin, a feel-good hormone. If you notice your dog looking up and licking when they are nervous, this is likely the reason. 

Other signs your dog is anxious include whining, pacing, and frequently licking themselves. 

Investigation

Dogs don’t just use their nose to explore their world. They use their mouths as well. Your dog may lick in an attempt to taste the air, particularly if they smell something interesting. 

Nausea

Licking air seems like a strange cure, but it might be an effective one for dogs. In fact, excessive licking is caused by GI issues in 60% of dogs. Acid reflux and pancreatitis are common culprits.

If your dog is experiencing GI issues, they may have nausea or vomiting, but not always. Other signs of GI issues include loss of appetite and soreness of the abdomen. 

Seizures

Symptoms of partial seizures will depend on the area of the brain affected. Air licking or biting at the air can be symptoms of seizures. 

OCD

Licking the air can also be a sign of OCD. It often begins as a way to cope with stress. Over time, it moves from an occasional habit to a compulsion. 

If your dog is licking the air for long periods of time, make notes of when they do it. Note any events or environmental changes before they began. You should also video your dog licking the air. This can help your vet make a diagnosis. 

Why does my dog keep looking up at the sky?

Does your dog enjoy looking up at the sky? Are they bird-watching? Searching the night sky for constellations? 

Interesting Objects in the Sky

Just like noise, if your dog sees something in the sky, they will likely watch with rapt attention. Some dogs are fascinated by birds. Some seem to enjoy cloud watching. From the dog’s point of view, anything it can’t smell or put into its mouth is mysterious. All the more reason to watch the skies. 

Birds and Airplanes

Dogs enjoy watching objects in the sky. They may be preoccupied with birds and airplanes. They have good movement eyesight, so they can see objects flying in the sky. They can also hear noises from animals and planes in the sky. 

Stars and Moon

Some dogs are also fascinated by the stars and moon. This is originally where the term stargazing comes from, but looking at the stars and moon doesn’t indicate a problem in itself. If your dog is looking for an extended period of time and not paying attention to anything else, then it’s important to discuss the behavior with your vet. 

Perhaps they love the way the moon and stars look in the sky. Dogs have excellent night vision, after all. Or perhaps they are pondering their place in the vast universe that they are a part of. 

Author

I created and currently manage Pet Dog Owner, the website you can go to when you have questions about your dog's behavior. It is my hope that you find Pet Dog Owner to be a helpful resource. It is also my hope that it will help you to improve your relationship with your dog. You can read more about me and my website here.