You’ve probably seen your dog wink at you now and then, and you’re wondering – did they do that on purpose?! Does my dog actually know how to give me a cheeky wink? So why do dogs wink at you? Is it intentional, and if so – what does it mean?
In this article, we’re taking a look at winking in dogs, what blinking with one eye means, and whether you should be concerned if your dog winks at you all the time.
Why do dogs wink at you sometimes?
Have you ever wondered if your dog is trying to talk to you? And if winking is one of the ways they’re trying to do that? Our dogs can’t speak, but they have developed different ways of communicating with their owners using physical movements and gestures.
The science behind your dog winking
Winking can be interpreted as a sign of affection, or that your dog is relaxed and comfortable. It could also mean they’re trying to get your attention, or simply mimicking you as an owner. Sometimes, the winking gesture can also be a sign of submission to another dog or human.
Is your dog winking while their tail is wagging, their ears are pricked up, or their head is tilted? This body language can signal they’re trying to get your attention. But if your dog rolls on his back, or has his tail between his legs, this can be interpreted as submissive body language.
Winking as a submission tactic
Dogs can also wink because they don’t want to get into a fight. Unlike humans, eye contact between dogs is a sign of aggression. You might often see two dogs staring each other down as a dominance test and waiting to see who submits first – so by a dog breaking eye contact (even momentarily) it can defuse a potentially aggressive situation and prevent fighting.
In your household, you’re seen as the leader of your dog’s pack. So when they wink at you, it can also be a sign that they know they’re part of the pack, and accept you as the leader. Your pup might just be trying to keep the peace (even though they don’t need to!).
Winking to get our attention
Just like those classic “sad puppy eyes“, dogs have learned to get our attention when we watch them, by performing facial expressions like winking or raising their eyebrows. This facial language has evolved over hundreds of years of domestication to tug on our heart strings. Our canine friends know how to get us to give them snacks – and we can’t resist!
Winking as a copycat behavior
Another reason dogs wink at you might be the fact that they’re imitating your behavior. Your pup is really intelligent and can start to mimic your body language the more time they spend with you.
Have you ever noticed your dog get up when you get up? Yawn when you yawn? Or getting excited when you do? These can all be behaviors that are caused by your pup mimicking you.
Winking because they’re happy!
It could simply be just that your dog looks over and gives you a happy wink now and then, for no reason other than that they love you, they feel at peace, and they enjoy your company.
Can I teach my dog to wink?
Winking is a behavior that can be taught to your dog, like any other simple trick or training. If you’re trying to train your dog to wink at you, make sure you’re patient and that you always have treats on hand for positive reinforcement.
If your dog already winks, this can be an easy behavior for them to learn and perform on cue to a simple command.
How to teach your dog to wink
Dr. Caroline Coile, author of the dog training books Beyond Fetch and Silly Dog Tricks says teaching your dog to wink is fairly easy. Here are the steps:
- Say “Really?” to your dog
- Touch your dog’s whiskers on the side of their muzzle. Make sure this is always on the same side of their face that you want them to wink with.
- Your dog will automatically blink the eye on the side of their muzzle that you touched
- Give him a treat!
Keep practicing these steps until your dog winks before you touch their whiskers. Soon your dog will learn that when you say “Really?” they will give you a cheeky wink in return!
Check out these recommended dog training books if you want to teach your dog some more new tricks:
Should I be worried if my dog winks all the time?
If your dog is always winking or blinking, this may not be as cute as you think, and it could mean your dog is suffering from a genetic problem of the eyelid called entropion.
There are two types of entropion in dogs. Depending on the symptoms – your dog could either have primary or secondary entropion.
- Primary entropion is usually caused during your dog’s development, or it can be caused by congenital defects that make their eyelid flip inwards and cause irritation to the eyeball.
- Secondary entropion is caused by environmental issues or other health problems
Dog breeds that are most prone to entropion:
- Chow chow
- Shar pei
If entropion isn’t treated, your dog can end up with ulcerated corneas, and potentially go blind. So if you notice any excessive winking, blinking, weeping, or soreness around your pet’s eye – make sure you consult your vet.
Symptoms of entropion
- Watery eyes
- Light sensitivity
- Eye discharge (possibly containing pus or blood)
- An eyelid that’s visibly rolled inward
- Thickened skin around an eye
- Your dog always has their eye half open
- Corneal ulcers
Treatment for entropion in dogs
Your vet can easily diagnose entropion. They will perform a thorough eye exam on your pet to rule out other problems such as distichiasis or blepharospasm that could be causing your dog to wink all the time.
If your vet confirms your dog has entropion, they will schedule surgery. This is the only way to solve your pet’s eye problem.
The vet won’t operate if your dog is still a puppy, as they need to be the right age for this surgery to be successful. In this case, they will opt for different procedures that can bring your dog temporary relief until surgery is an option.
Entropion surgery is fairly common, and the prognosis for your dog’s full recovery is excellent – so you have nothing to worry about!
What is entropion surgery in dogs?
The procedure for fixing entropion in dogs is for your vet to remove a section of skin from your pup’s affected eye. This will prevent the eyelid curling inward.
This surgery is frequently carried out in two parts as an initial major surgery, and then a follow up corrective procedure. The healing process takes around 2 weeks.
As it can be a genetic defect, entropion in dogs is not always preventable. The best thing you can do is get your dog checked as soon as possible when you notice any eye problems, so that this condition is not causing your dog undue pain or distress.
If your dog is one of the breeds listed above that is commonly affected by entropion, make sure to regularly check their eye health and get your vet to regularly give them checkups.
Blepharospasm is a spasm or involuntary blinking of your dog’s eyelids. It will look more like a twitch than a wink. This can be caused by involuntary muscle function in your dog, or when their eye is irritated.
Symptoms of blepharospasm
- Eye twitch
- Closing one eye repeatedly
This blinking, winking, and twitching isn’t something your dog can control, and you may notice other symptoms that go along with this.
Treatment for blepharospasm
Your veterinarian can easily diagnose a dog that has blepharospasm, due to the fact the involuntary eye twitching is usually very obvious. To diagnose the underlying cause, your vet will run a series of eye tests, which may include a Schirmer test or eye staining test to examine your pup’s eyelids, eyeballs, and tear ducts.
The treatment for your dog’s blepharospasm will depend on what your vet discovers. They may prescribe topical eye drops or ointments – but if it’s more serious, your dog might need surgery to fix these issues.
Prevention of blepharospasm
Always ensure your dog’s eyes are healthy and safe. If your dog is in an environment with excessive dirt, dust, or airborne debris – or they love sticking their head out the car window – this can cause environmental irritants to make their way into your dog’s eyes and under their eyelids.
If your dog’s eye gets infected or irritated, it can injure your dog and cause blepharospasm. So prevention is much better than surgery in this case.
When to see your vet about your dog winking
When you notice your dog winking excessively, it’s always a good idea to check their eyes at home, and then consult your vet. The sooner you notice any eye problems, the more likely it is that you can avoid any expensive vet bills – and you’ll also be helping your dog avoid other potential health problems by getting their eyes checked out early.
In summary – why do dogs wink?
Winking is a normal behavior that most dog owners notice at some point. If your dog is inclined to wink at you a lot – you can probably teach them to do this on command, which is a neat trick!
Just remember that if your dog winks excessively, and this behavior is accompanied by other symptoms such as red, weeping, or sore eyes – that you should see your vet in case your dog has painful eye problems that need to be checked out.