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Why Dogs Wink: 3 Possible Reasons

Why Dogs Wink: 3 Possible Reasons

When it comes to an animal being able to study the physical expressions and emotions of humans, there is no critter skilled more than the dog. 

Even more incredible than this understanding is the fact that dog’s can communicate back with people based off of those social cues.  

When a dog tries to convey something to their human, they can manipulate a number of muscles, some of which are around the eyes. Have you ever noticed your dog wink at you? Why is that? 


Why Does a Dog Wink?

The simple answer to this question is that your canine friend might wink for a number of reasons. This includes showing that he or she is content with you, they are participating in a “monkey see, monkey do” situation, or because of a medical issue. 


Why Do People Wink?

To start things off, let’s get on the same page about what a wink means to us as humans. Interestingly enough, this can change depending on where you live!

In Western culture, a wink is used to convey feelings of interest. It can also be a form of mockery. Other places around the world consider a wink to be far too forward. In fact, India, Australia, and Asia all have this belief about it. 

Humans clearly have their own meaning behind the act of winking, but what about dogs? 


Do Dogs Wink to Each Other?

To understand if dogs mean the same thing when they gesture towards a human with a wink, we must first study the interactions between canines. 

The act of winking wasn’t solely discovered by humans. What we mean is that dogs have been known to wink at each other in the appropriate situations.

When two dogs are face-to-face, it is very stressful. The appropriate way for Fido to meet another dog is not directly head on, but rather from the side.

Have you ever seen one of those sniffing wars where dogs will create an arc? That’s because it is less threatening.

Winking can be a way to convey that they are uncomfortable or simply that they don’t pose a problem.

Now let’s focus on dog-to-human interactions in relation to winking.


Dogs Winking to Show Happiness

In the previous section, we highlighted that winking can be a way to ease tension when faced with another dog, but does the same apply between humans and canines? 

It’s been argued that it is actually the opposite! Whenever you see Fido giving you a purposeful wink, they could be using the gesture to tell you that they’re quite happy.

Another thing to note with dog-to-dog interactions is that staring is comparable to a challenge. The first to break eye contact, or to turn their body, wins. 

The intentional blink of one, or even two eyes, is associated with an appeasing behavior. By winking at you, your dog is noting how comfortable they are. They don’t feel the need to stare you down. Instead, you’re given a wink!


Doggy See, Doggy Do: The Copy Wink

We touched on the fact that dogs are one of the most observant animals when it comes to watching and studying how humans interact.

Have you ever wondered why Fido knows what you’re going to do before you even do it? Well, a part of it is due to their skills in perception. 

Let’s use an example! Imagine that you were sitting on the couch and decided that it was time to walk Spot.

If he was paying attention, he might notice you glance over at the leash before you even stand up. Dogs are able to watch us with such finesse that we don’t even realize it half the time. 

But, how does this relate to blinking?

Not only do dogs watch our every move, but they also copy a number of them. Some canines have picked up the habit of “smiling with their teeth” while others blink one eye.

But, what is the advantage of going through these motions? The answer is quite simple. 

If your dog were to wink at you, what would you do? The average person would likely make a big deal out of it, thus resulting in a lot of praise. By copying our little gestures and movements, dogs get what they want most, our time and attention! 


The Unintentional Wink

We’ve discussed the possibility of a dog winking to communicate a sense of being content, and also a way of bribing us into giving them attention, but are there any other reasons?

Although not as common, we must address the final option. A wink may not be a wink at all, but rather a sign of something unfortunate. 

Now, we don’t want you to be concerned if you see your dog wink. One time does not signify that they need to be rushed to the vet. If you’re dog starts winking more frequently, then consider this option. 

Let’s take a look at a few of the specific conditions that may cause a dog to wink unintentionally. 


Dry Eyes

Known by your vet as Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca, the drying of your dog’s eyes can be due to a lack of tears produced within the tear glands. This can happen in both eyes, but it has also occurred in just one, thus creating a winking dog. 


Pink Eye

Conjunctivitis is not fun, regardless of if you’re a dog or a human! Although not the same exact thing that we see in humans, it still causes eyes that are irritatingly dry and sometimes itchy. A wink may happen because of how uncomfortable it is. 


Something in the Eye

Your dog may not have a specific disease or condition at all. In fact, a small amount of dirt, dust, or any other irritant may be the source of your dog’s sudden winking habits.

You may be tempted to cure it yourself, but we strongly suggest seeking out the care of a vet so that the eye is not damaged. 

As cute as a wink may be, all of these problems can be the root of something bigger.


Winking Dogs: Final Verdict

Dogs have been able to study a number of our facial expressions and cues to the point that they can actually benefit from adopting them into their own non-verbal language.

Your dog could be winking at you to show that they are at peace and do not mean any harm. Another potential is that they want to copy you for the end result of getting gushed over.

Which, can you blame them? And lastly, the unfortunate possibility of your dog winking due to discomfort is a real thing as well. Keeping an eye on the context and frequency of your dog’s wink is key!

Frequently Asked Questions About Dogs and Winking

What does it mean when an animal winks at you?

The meaning of a wink can differ between species, but they all seem to have a similar meaning. Cats will similarly slow wink at you to convey that they’re quite happy to have you as their human!


How do you tell if your dog loves you?

It doesn’t take much to see if a dog loves their human being. They’ll want to stay close, display an enthusiastic greeting upon reuniting, have a wide wagging tail, and try to initiate play. 


Should I wink back at my dog?

If a dog uses a wink to communicate happiness, shouldn’t it be given back? The answer is absolutely! Winking back at your dog is a way to calm them down and to say that you’re comfortable in their presence.