If your dog has ever winked at you, or you have ever seen an adorable viral video of a dog winking, then you might just be wondering: why does my dog actually wink at me? The answer to this question might just surprise you, especially since there is actually no one answer to this very common query.
Why Do Dogs Wink?
One thing to keep in mind regarding dogs and winking is that we, as humans, have a tendency to frequently project human traits onto animals. This is true even when the animals are not necessarily behaving in a way that we, as humans, can understand. This can lead to people assuming that dogs or other animals are behaving in a human-like way, even when they are simply exhibiting a natural animal trait.
This doesn’t mean that your dog doesn’t have emotions or feelings, but it does mean that your dog communicates in their natural language and their behavior isn’t necessarily an exact reflection of human behavior.
Anatomy of Dog’s Eyes
You may be surprised that canine eyes are very similar to humans. Here’s some of the common terminology you may hear your vet talk about if they ever have eye or vision issues.
- Orbit – socket in which the eyeball sits.
- Sclera – the outer white part of the eyes
- Cornea – the clear part that protects the front of the eye, helps focus light in the back of the eye, and the part that actually lets the light in.
- Iris – controls the amount of light that is let in, also is referred to as the “colored” part, and makes the pupil smaller or larger
- Pupil – the black circle of the eye that dilates and constricts
- Lens – located behind the iris that helps with focusing
- Retina – senses lights and has receptors that are connected to optic nerves
There are other components to canine eyes, however, these are the most common that you will hear your vet discuss. The other parts include nerves, membranes, muscles, and glands.
Do Dogs Wink At You On Purpose?
Yes, with the caveat that the details will depend on the specific dog and circumstances. If there are no health conditions that are causing the winking, then yes, it is likely that your dog is winking at you on purpose. Why? There are several reasons.
You might be surprised to learn that dog winks are vastly different than human winks due to the context of dog body language. Dog body language and human body language are different.
Eye Contact Submission
One of the most critical ways that human and dog body language differs is through eye contact. We make eye contact in order to be polite; In order to show someone that we’re listening; And in order to express typically positive emotions.
By contrast, dogs view eye contact in a completely different manner. Dogs view eye contact as a type of social order domination. Dogs will stare at another dog in order to assert themselves as the dominant one. Likewise, if a human stares at a dog and makes eye contact, the dog will view that as the human asserting domination.
If a dog winks during eye contact, then this is the dog showing a sign of submission. They broke eye contact first, thus asserting their submissive stance.
Another reason why dogs might wink at you is because of their tendency towards imitation. Dogs, along with other animals, will sometimes imitate human behavior even though it doesn’t necessarily match dog behavior.
If you wink a lot, particularly towards your dog, they may pick up this gesture simply because you do it as well. In this case, your dog is not necessarily expressing any particular emotion, other than showing that they are picking up your body language and habits.
Health Conditions That May Cause Winking
In addition to the above behavioral reasons for winking, your dog may wink to do a health condition. The following are some common health conditions that can cause your dog to wink more often. It’s also worth mentioning that certain breeds are more proned to eye problems than other such as bulldogs, pug mixes, and those who are considered brachycephalic, along with breeds that have lots of hair around their faces like sheepdogs and poodles.
Glaucoma occurs when fluid builds up in your dog’s eyes. Some symptoms of glaucoma include access tier production as well as frequently watery eyes. This excess of production will cause your dog to blink; This can cause winking behavior if the buildup is excessive in one eye.
Yes, dogs can get pink eye just like people can! Pink eye is typically caused by a viral or bacterial infection and can cause your dog’s eyes to become very dry and itchy. If one eye is infected, this will cause your dog to wink.
Entropion occurs when your dog’s eyelid folds inward on itself, which makes the eyelid rub against the eye. This results in irritation and over time, ulcers that can cause a significant amount of pain. Dogs who have entropion will wink in order to soothe their eye irritation. This condition is fairly common in flat-faced and short-nosed breeds, such as pugs.
Medical dry eye–or Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca–occurs when your dog’s eyes do not produce the right amount of tears. Over time, this results in excessively dry eyes, which will cause itchiness and irritation. If your dog only has medical dry eye in one eye, this will often cause them to wink. By contrast, if you notice that your dog blinks all the time, they may have medical dry eye in both eyes.
What To Do If Winking is Excessive
If you notice that your dog is winking excessively, it is possible that there is a medical condition at work. You should first do a quick visual inspection of your dog’s eyes in order to determine if you can see obvious signs of the above health problems. If you can, contact your veterinarian and make an appointment.
If you cannot spot these symptoms but the excessive winking continues, you should bring them to a vet so that they can be examined. It is possible that you missed signs or that their condition is not visible to the naked eye.
If there is no medical condition at work and your dog has been cleared by its vet, it is possible you are making too much direct eye contact with your dog. This may cause them to wink in order to show submission. Practice avoiding direct eye contact with your dog to see if the solution resolves itself.
Why Is My Dog Blinking Weird?
Your dog may be blinking weirdly because they are imitating your behavior or because they feel you are making eye contact and want to show submission. Your pup may also be blinking weirdly because of a health condition. If you notice your dog blinking weirdly, look for signs of eye problems and contact your veterinarian.
Dogs can wink at you deliberately or because of health problems. A dog who winks at you deliberately is likely doing so in order to show submission or because they are imitating your behavior. Dogs may also wink at you because of health problems that cause eye irritation that causes them to “wink.”