Why Is My Dog Winking at Me?
You're hanging out on the couch with your dog when you glance over at him, and he lovingly winks at you. Say what? Did my dog just wink at me? Apparently, he did. Who knew dogs can wink?! "Winking is an intentional behavior with a variety of meanings," says Dr. Megan Conrad, a veterinary consultant at Hello Ralphie, a telehealth company providing virtual care to pet parents across the U.S. "However, it can also be unintentional," she says.
What do we think the wink means?
Depending on the situation, you can interpret winking in many ways. "Winking can be a sign of affection, that the dog is at peace, seeking attention, or possibly mimicking their owner if this is an action they do frequently," says Dr. Conrad. Dogs may even wink to signify submission to another human or dog.
If you're trying to decipher which of the possibilities your dog is communicating with his wink, his body language can work to clue you in. A tail that's high and wagging with ears that are erect shows interest or a request for attention. Dogs who crouch, roll on their backs, or slip their tail between their legs may be communicating that they are submissive.
What about winking as a sign of plain, old devotion, and affection? That's a possibility, too. Your pooch may just be checking in with you from across the couch with his playful wink-- a "how you doin?", "I love you this much" kind of moment.
Can we teach dogs to wink by winking back?
Dr. Conrad says a resounding yes! "Winking is a trick that can be taught" However, like with any other trick, the winking should be reinforced with a reward. Usually, when trying to teach a new behavior, the dog earns a reward every time he sits or stays, for instance. Eventually, he makes the connection between asking him to "sit" with a verbal command and getting a treat in return. When asking for a wink, a verbal command should be used and can be accompanied by a nonverbal action like the wink itself, explains Dr. Conrad.
A dog that winks on command makes for an amusing party trick but if your dog is prone to winking anyway, it may be simple to teach.
Can winking be a sign of something else?
Frequent winking, especially with the same eye could be a sign of something wrong. Dogs may be apt to close an eye frequently if they have pain, light sensitivity, or discomfort.
Another condition that can cause frequent blinking and a winking appearance is entropion, a genetic eye condition of the eyelid that affects breeds with plump faces and short noses like the Chow Chow.
Plus, just like humans, dogs blink or wink when they come in contact with an eye irritant like dust, dirt, or hair.
"If you notice discharge, increased or involuntary blinking (called blepharospasm), redness in or around the eye, or any injury, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian right away," says Dr. Conrad
Overall, winking is a normal and benign behavior commonly seen in dogs. If your dog is prone to the occasional wink, it won't take much to determine what exactly he's trying to communicate, and you may even have fun winking back or teaching him to wink on command.