Interpreting your dog’s “soft eyes”

Yes, it is true that on occasion we can all blink for a camera. These dogs though are intentionally softening their eyes (and in a couple cases also turning their heads) to let us know their harmless intentions.

When you think about what we do with photography, it makes sense that it can seem a bit threatening or intense to our dogs.

I know that in the photo below where Bui is both turning his head away and offering a blink, the photographer was likely saying, “LOOK, HERE! COLLEEN, STAND UP STRAIGHT! PULL YOUR SHOULDERS BACK!” So, we have a human who is talking loud, acting more excited than usual AND pointing some foreign object directly at the dog.

It’s hard to know if Bui is blinking as a result of the camera, situation OR if Petey (the Beagle) who just shot his attention in that direction caused Bui to give a head turn and soft eye.

Soft eyes on the blinking Retriever

Remember, dogs communicate with each other using DogSpeak and as they approach one another it is polite to soften your eyes and avoid looking directly at one another.

If two dogs are lying down close to one another, they will often offer a combination of a turned away head and softened eyes to defuse and make their intentions known.

Likewise, this dog below (not the same dog as above) has a photographer and probably a parent behind the camera staying, “Fido! SIT! STAY! HEY, LOOK!” Notice he also has his mouth closed, which tells us he’s a bit more on alert and potentially nervous.

Dog with closed mouth: more nervous?

Here I am with Bui again. I am loving him up! I’m leaning on him a bit, grabbing his head and looming over top. Might I be more rude!? Bui is a lover, but notice his lifted/bent paw and closed eyes.

Relaxed dog

Last, we have a video. There is no sound, but I assume from the dog’s ears and head, that the person behind the camera is repeatedly asking the dog to give her his attention. BOTH the dogs in this video are offering softened – blinking eyes. The little dog would appreciate an end to the limelight.

There you have it. It’s not just a flash causing your dog to blink in photos. He’s trying to tell you, “I’m cool. Do you have to stick that thing in my face?”

Looking for more ways to better understand and communicate with your dog? Check out all of Colleen’s DogSpeak columns…