3 min read (Articles narrated by Mabel)
Have you heard of the term, dog “whale eye” before? It’s an unusual term, but it’s a fairly common behavior for dogs. Dogs can’t communicate with humans using words, so we have to find other ways to get our points across. A whale eye is one of the subtle ways that we let our humans know something is wrong.
What Does Dog “Whale Eye” Mean?
“Whale eye” refers to when your dog looks off to the side or moves their head slightly so the white of their eyes is showing. The white part of the eye usually looks like a crescent moon shape when this happens. This action can also be called a “half moon eye.”
However, whale eyes can be different for every dog. For example, brachycephalic dogs like me often have the whites of their eyes showing at all times because our eyes stick out more than other dogs. Other dogs might have simply learned how to look around without moving their head. So, when I refer to “whale eye,” I’m taking about when it happens out of the ordinary. After all, it might seem like such a small cue, but it can often mean something significant.
Why Does it Happen?
When a dog has a whale eye, it often means they’re feeling anxious, stressed, scared, or uncomfortable. Oftentimes, it will accompany other anxious behaviors, such as yawning, licking, or growling. You might not notice these subtle cues if you’re not looking for them, but it’s important for you to pay attention to your dog’s behaviors. Your dog will often try to tell you something using small actions like a whale eye.
If your dog suddenly has a whale eye, look around for potential stress factors. The most common cause is being smothered with attention. Children (and some adults) will often pet dogs excessively without being aware of warning signs. This could lead to a dangerous situation if not corrected. Uncomfortable dogs could nip or bite even if they’re usually well-behaved, but they’ll always show some warning signs first whether those signs are obvious or not.
Other factors could be unfamiliar situations, scary sounds, or changes in routine. Some dogs are certainly more fearful than others (like my brother, Taco) but all dogs can get nervous at times. So, pay attention to your dog’s surroundings to help determine what’s causing their whale eye. Some examples could be thunder, unfamiliar dogs, or vet visits.
What Should You Do?
If possible, you should try to fix the problem if your dog has a whale eye. For example, if they are being smothered by children, teach the kids how to properly give your dog space. If your dog is nervous about another dog walking toward them, then walk in a different direction to avoid added stress for your pup. Catching these stress factors early on will stop someone from getting hurt.
In some cases, you can’t avoid the stress factor completely. You can’t control the weather and you can’t stop going to the vet. So, in those situations, it’s just important that you’re there to comfort them. Give them extra cuddles and treats to let them know they’re doing a good job. After all, we can’t always avoid things we don’t like, but scary things are definitely better with our loved ones by our side.
So, make sure you pay close attention to your dog’s behaviors from now on. Many times, they could be as subtle as a whale eye, but that doesn’t make them any less important. Understanding your dog’s body language is the key to keeping them and everyone around them safe.
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