It’s a horror movie trope that has caused most of us a sleepless night or two. The protagonist is sleeping soundly. Suddenly, the monster slips into their bedroom. Instead of attacking immediately, it stands there watching them sleep. It’s unnerving. 

While you don’t have to worry about a monster sneaking into your room while you sleep, you might find your dog staring at you disconcerting as well. 

Why does my dog stare at me at night?

There are many reasons your dog may stare at you. Dogs use eye contact to communicate, just like humans do. The most common reason your dog stares at you is because they want something, but that’s not the only cause. 

Wants Attention

Your dog may stare at you at night because they want your attention. If your dog doesn’t get enough attention throughout the day, they will want you to play with them at night. 

Reading the Situation

Dogs are very observant. Your dog may watch you to see how you are feeling and what you are doing. They use body language to communicate, so they will watch your body language as well. 

Boredom

We’ve all uttered the words I’m bored at one time or another. Many dog owners aren’t aware that dogs can also get bored. Just like us, dogs need mental and physical stimulation. If they aren’t getting enough mental exercise during the day, they will stare at you at night because they are bored. 

Stress/anxiety

Your dog looks to you for comfort. If they are stressed or anxious, they may stare at you. This is also similar to human behavior.

When you are stressed or anxious, you may have a hard time falling asleep. If something scary happened during the day, you may play it over in your mind during the quiet hours of the night. 

Your dog may be staring at you simply because they need comfort or reassurance that everything is ok. 

Potty Break

If your dog hasn’t been to potty recently, this might be why they are staring at you at night. They are simply trying to tell you that they need to potty before they go to bed. 

Scared/Untrusting

Unfortunately, some dogs have trust issues or fear of people. This is particularly common with rescue dogs that have suffered abuse at the hands of a previous owner. Some dogs just have a high-strung personality and find it difficult to trust people even if they’ve been treated well. 

If your dog is scared or doesn’t trust you, they will feel particularly vulnerable at night. In the wild, dogs are the most vulnerable when they sleep. Your dog may be watching you closely at night time to determine if it’s safe to sleep near you.  

Love

This is the best reason why your dog may be staring at you at night. Just like humans, dogs use eye contact to show affection. We look into the eyes of our romantic partner lovingly. We gaze at our children with affection. 

Similarly, your dog will look at you with love and affection. You may notice that you can see an affectionate look in their eyes when they are looking at you. 

Things are generally quiet and more subdued at night, so your dog may have more time to express its love with a friendly stare. 

Why does my dog stare at me when I sleep?

Your dog staring at you when you are awake is one thing, but it can be disconcerting to wake up to your dog staring at you. You may be concerned about your dog or feel awkward about your dog watching you sleep. 

Hunger

If your dog wakes up in the night hungry, they will stare at you in hopes you will get up and feed them. Perhaps they don’t want to disturb you with a bark, so they are looking at you longing for a meal. 

Wants to Walk or Play

Dogs are meant to sleep at night, just as humans do. However, they don’t always keep the same schedule. Some dogs can be rambunctious when they wake up.

Maybe your dog wakes up earlier than you do and watches you while you sleep because they want to go for a walk or play. Puppies often wake up in the night ready for a play session. 

Bored

Your dog might be watching you sleep because they are bored. They may find watching you sleep entertaining. There are lots of small movements and noises that occur during sleep, so it makes sense your dog could find entertainment value in it. 

It’s also possible your dog is waiting for you to wake up so you can entertain them. 

Protection or Perceived Danger

Dogs are protective of their owners. Protective traits are stronger in some breeds, because it has been bred into them. German Shepards, for example, are great guard dogs because they are protective. While some breeds are well known for protectiveness, any dog can be protective. 

If your dog senses danger, it will watch you closely to make sure you are safe. Your dog may be aware that you are vulnerable when sleeping, and keep watch to ensure your safety.

Dogs in packs take turns sleeping, so there are dogs keeping watch at all times. Your dog may be taking its turn on guard duty.  

Loneliness

Your dog may be staring at you while you sleep because it’s lonely. If they haven’t had enough interaction during the day, they will stare at you while you sleep. They may be longing for attention and pets. 

Each dog has a different personality and different needs for attention. One dog may be perfectly happy with an occasional pet, while another dog needs a few hours of cuddle time. 

It’s important to know your dog’s needs and do your best to fulfill them. However, giving your dog too much attention can cause separation anxiety when you aren’t there. 

Separation Anxiety

If your dog needs to keep you within sight at all times, they may have separation anxiety. A dog with separation anxiety will get upset when their owner is away. 

For some dogs, this means they whine or destroy things when left at home alone. For other dogs, it means they get upset anytime their owner isn’t within sight, even if they are in another room of the home. 

If a dog has separation anxiety, it will stare at you to ensure that you are still there. They may find it hard to relax and sleep because they are concerned you’ll leave them alone. 

Bonding

Oxytocin is one of the brain’s happy chemicals, and the one responsible for creating tight bonds with those we love. 

Oxytocin is most well known for its role in the bonding between mother and child. However, it’s also present when you speak to a friend, hug a family member, or pet your dog.

Your dog’s brain releases oxytocin when you pet them as well. When they stare at you lovingly, this also releases oxytocin. Your dog might be watching you sleep because it releases oxytocin, which makes them feel happy and closer to you. 

Is it bad if my dog stares at me?

It’s not necessarily bad if your dog stares at you. It depends on the reason why they are staring. 

Good Reasons Your Dog is Staring

If your dog is staring at you because they love you, this is a good thing. You can simply smile at the occasional stare. If your dog is staring at you because they are protective, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. However, if it happens frequently, you may need to consider whether your dog feels safe and secure. 

Problem Reasons Your Dog is Staring

Some reasons your dog is staring indicate a problem. If they are staring because they are bored, hungry, lonely, or need to go potty, there’s an issue that needs to be addressed. 

If they are staring because they are stressed or anxious, this is also a problem. 

Boredom Staring

If your dog is staring at you because they are bored, you’ll need to give them more stimulation during the day. They may need more exercise. Take them for a walk in the evening or play tug of war. 

Puzzle toys work well for mental stimulation. You place a treat in the toy, and the dog has to solve the puzzle to get to the treat. You can also let your dog watch tv. It’s not a replacement for real interaction. However, watching tv can help stimulate their brain and keep them entertained, especially when you are out of the house. 

Hunger Staring

If your dog is staring at you because they are hungry, the solution seems simple. Feed them! However, if they are staring in the middle of the night, obviously this isn’t an ideal mealtime. 

If your dog is staring because they are hungry, pay attention to when it occurs. You’ll likely notice it’s near the same time each day. If giving them a meal at this time is appropriate, consider adding another meal. If it’s not a good time to feed them, change their schedule or the amount they are given at meals. 

Potty Stare

Puppies can hold it for an hour for every month of age. At 8 months, a puppy can hold their pee and poop for 8 hours, which is the maximum you should expect from any dog. 

If they need a midnight potty break, you may need to feed them earlier in the evenings. If you don’t take them for a walk or potty break right before bed, you should start doing so. 

Lonely Stare

If your dog is staring at you because they are lonely, there are a few things you can do. One option is to spend more time with them during the day. If you are away from home for many hours each day, you can video chat with your pup. You can also hire a sitter to walk them and give them some playtime. 

Another option is letting them sleep with you. This gives them time with you at night, which may be just what they need. 

Why does my dog stare at me in a creepy way?

Feel like you stepped into a horror movie because of the way your dog stares at you? You aren’t alone. Many people find their dog staring at them creepy. 

Only Seems Creepy

Creepiness is subjective. One person will find clowns utterly terrifying, while another will simply find it whimsical. Some people can’t stand to see a spider, while others keep them as pets. 

When your dog is giving you a creepy stare, remember that it’s your interpretation of the way your dog looks at you. It’s unlikely your dog is intentionally trying to creep you out. 

Dominance

Dogs use staring as a way to establish dominance. The subservient dog will lower its eyes, deferring to the alpha dog. Your dog may stare at you in an attempt to become the pack leader. 

If your dog has a naturally dominant personality, this could be the cause. If your dog is new to the household, or you haven’t taken steps to assert dominance, this is likely why you are getting a creepy stare. 

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.