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The Meaning of Squinting

How to tell the difference between happy energy and the "whale eye." 

By
Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA,
March 9, 2012

Q: What does it mean if my dog is squinting? I can’t tell if he’s smiling at me or angry.

Squinting, the way you might squint when you smile, generally reflects relaxation or happy excitement. But watch the whites of a dog’s eyes for clues to a very different frame of mind. Sometimes, the whites are visible just incidentally—for instance, a resting dog may be disinclined to move his head to look at whatever’s caught his interest. More often, though, a dog showing the whites of his eyes is anxious and may even be about to snap.

Trainers call this look “whale eye.” The whole package includes tense facial muscles; the dog’s mouth may be tightly closed, or you may see teeth, with a curled lip or a snarl.

Commonly, whale eye marks a dog who’s been backed into a corner or who’s guarding a food bowl or a prize chew. Approach only if a dog bite is on your shortlist of experiences you’d like to have that day. If you need to move the dog immediately, try inviting him to go for a walk. Once he’s gone from the spot, his prize should be cleared away. And your next call, of course, is to a good behavior specialist.

 

Want to raise a happy dog who loves to play and cuddle -- but still comes when called and doesn't chew up your favorite shoes?

Then check out The Dog Trainer’s Complete Guide to a Happy, Well-Behaved Pet!

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

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