why do dogs wink

To us, humans, winking packs a lot of emotions when we do it.

There are so many meanings behind the act of closing our eyelids.

We could be either flirtatious, mysterious, trusting, or teasing when we wink.

Heck, we can be all in that one gesture! Who knows?

But what about our dog? Why do dogs wink?

If you’re not aware, yes, dogs can wink too.

I know! I couldn’t believe it myself too!

Seeing my dog wink for the first time was surprising, yet I was amazed by it.

I also became curious about it.

And so, I ask: why did my dog wink at me?

Now, I have the answers to that, and I want to share them all with you!

For this blog, I’m here to explain why dogs wink.

Sometimes we also misinterpret their winks, so we’ll discuss what that could be instead and what it means.

Do you want to train your dog to wink?

Well, stick around because, at the end of the blog, you'll learn how to train them.

Now, without further ado, let’s start!

why do dogs wink at you

Why Do Dogs Wink?

As Megan Conrad, DVM, points out:

Winking is often an intentional behavior with various meanings.

Out of all the possible dog body language, winking is a gesture that we least expect from them.

One reason is that dogs have adapted to wink less and use other gestures more as their body language.

Dogs would bark, flinch, snarl, or bow rather than make a wink.

It's rare for dogs to wink, but when they do, it should have a meaning, right?

So why do dogs wink? What does it mean when a dog winks at you?

Dogs wink either because that's their way to get attention from you or that's a mimicked behavior from you.

Let’s dive deeper into these two reasons below.

They Mimicked Your Winking

Do you often wink at your dog until one day, you see it wink at you, too?

Woah, what gives? Did your dog just copy you?

It turns out, it just did!

And this is no coincidence either, as science can back this phenomenon.

Results from a 2010 study show that dogs tend to mimic or imitate their owners.

Similarly, researchers at Michigan State University conducted a study in 2019 to know if owners help shape their dogs’ personalities.

In the study, lead author and researcher William Chopik, PhD., noted that:

When humans go through big life changes, their personality traits can change. We found that this also happens with dogs — and to a surprisingly large degree.

Both research points to your dog's ability to mimic your traits and gestures.

And if your dog can copy any of your behavior, then it can easily mimic your winking habits too!

But why Dan? Why does my dog wink at me?

Well, it could be that your dog simply wants to bond with you.

Gregory Bern PhD., at Emory University, conducted a study to learn what happens in the dog’s brain during human interaction.

Through MRI scans, his team found out that a dog’s reward center becomes active when the subject is all about its owner.

What this means for your pooch is that by mimicking the behavior of winking, they’ve found a way to bond with you.

Most probably, your dog will remember you whenever it winks!

Winking Gets Your Attention

Here’s a question for you: How do you respond when your dog winks at you?

In my case, I would hug my dog and get cuddly with it.

I mean, what’s not to adore with your dog’s irresistible charm when they wink, right?

Like me, a lot of dog owners couldn’t resist the cuteness of their pups and would just pamper them so much.

But, unbeknownst to us, our pampers encourage them to keep on doing that.

This aligns with positive reinforcement training, where we use rewards to get our dogs to do and repeat the desired behavior.

So the pats, cuddles, and praises we give after they wink are like breadcrumbs of rewards telling them to wink whenever they want attention from us.

RELATED: How to Teach a Dog to Sit with Positive Reinforcement

why does my dog wink at me

Is My Dog Really Winking at Me?

Have you ever stopped at your winking dog and asked, “Is my dog really winking at me?”

It could be that we misinterpreted our dog’s wink for something else.

For example, we easily mistake winking for blinking.

While winking is slower and usually intentional, blinking is almost instantaneous and involuntary.

Both gestures are entirely different from the twitching of the eyes, where the gesture seems uncomfortable and unnatural.

Seeing your dog wink is cute and all. But if your dog is repeatedly and unnaturally “winking” with the same eye, it might not be a wink at all.

What Your Dog's Wink Could Mean

Well, if that wasn’t a wink then what could it possibly be?

From a medical perspective, veterinarians like Dr. Conrad are looking at eye problems that need addressing.

Perhaps your dog’s eyes are in pain, irritated, or sensitive to light that it chose to blink its eyes or even shut them.

Some of the possible medical conditions that would explain your dog’s winking behavior are:

  • Eyelid Spasm
  • Eye Irritation
  • Entropion

eyelid spasm

Your Dog Is Experiencing Eyelid Spasm

If your dog’s repetitive wink has its eyelids twitching uncontrollably, it could be a case of eyelid spasm.

As the name suggests, eyelid spasms or blepharospasms are when your dog’s eyelids create involuntary jerking gestures.

Unsurprisingly, this can happen to humans and a lot of mammals too!

So, what’s causing the eyelids to have spasms?

Well, the thing is, doctors and vets alike can’t pinpoint the exact cause for blepharospasm yet.

Anecdotal evidence points to stress, fatigue, and palpitation as the primary causes of eyelid spasms.

Other experts speculated that abnormalities in the basal ganglia—a part of the brain responsible for motor control—are what’s causing it.

Luckily for your dogs, a lot of blepharospasm cases tend to go away as they come.

In fact, eyelid spasms in dogs only last for minutes or hours!

RELATED: 9 List of Dog Eye Problems

eye irritation causes blinking

Your Dog Is Having Eye Irritation

If you see your dog excessively blinking rather than winking, your dog could have an irritated eye.

Eye irritation in dogs can vary, ranging from minor discomfort to a full-blown eye complication.

All these cases, however, can make your dog squint or even blink a lot.

Unfortunately, owners do mistake their dog’s irritated blinking for cute winking.

With that, their pooches’ underlying health concerns that came with the excessive blinking will also go unnoticed.

But don’t worry, it’s easy to spot a dog in distress!

Usually, when your dog blinks their eyes from irritation, it also comes with other signs and symptoms.

Some of the symptoms of eye irritation that you need to look out for are:

  • Excessive and rapid blinking
  • Redness in and around the eyes
  • Frustrated squinting of the eyes
  • Change in eye appearance (cloudiness, color changes, etc.)
  • Teary eyes or tears building up in the eyes
  • Pawing at the face
  • Swelling and noticeable inflammation around the eye
  • Eye discharge

RELATED: Dog Eye Allergies: Symptoms, Causes, Remedies

Your Dog Is Suffering from Entropion

Another medical condition that can make your dog blink excessively is entropion.

Ryan Llera, BSc, DVM, and Ernest Ward, DVM, defines entropion as:

…an abnormality of the eyelids in which the eyelid rolls inward. This inward rolling often causes the hair on the surface of the eyelid to rub against the cornea resulting in pain, corneal ulcers, perforations, or pigment developing on the cornea which can interfere with vision.

Essentially, entropion in dogs can also irritate their eyes, which causes excessive blinking of their eyes.

RELATED: 9 Scary but Treatable Dog Eye Problems You Should Know About

dogs winking

Should I Be Worried with My Dog's Winking?

All these medical conditions related to your dog’s winking are alarming.

And trust me, it’s enough to make anyone sweat bullets whenever their dog winks—and yes, that includes me!

Ultimately, if there are no signs of eye irritation with the wink, we shouldn't get too worried about it.

In the case where the winking is accompanied by a symptom, Dr. Conrad suggests:

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.

Can I Train My Dog to Wink?

In case you are wondering, yes you can train your dog to wink.

But it’ll take you a lot of time and patience before you can get your dog to wink at your command.

After all, winking is something that dogs don’t usually do, so it becomes an extremely specific task for your dog.

It would also help if you incorporated positive reinforcement in your training with your dog.

Remember one of the reasons why your dog winks? The one where your dog winks because it wants your attention?

Yes, that’s right!

Every praise and affection that you give to it feels like a rewarding experience for your dog.

Now, you can take inspiration from that and make your praises intentional to achieve the desired behavior from your dog.

To give you an idea of how to make your dog wink, here are the steps to train them:

  • Make your dog wink by touching their whiskers
  • If they wink, capture the desired behavior by marking it and immediately giving it a treat
  • Build familiarity with the command until your dog winks every time you touch its whiskers
  • Add a verbal cue like “wink” and say it while touching the whiskers
  • Repeat the command sequence until your dog has mastered it
  • Gradually remove the touch so that your dog will rely on the cue for command instead

With enough practice, your dog can now wink at your command which can be impressive when shown to peers!

RELATED: 25 Dog Tricks: List of Most Difficult Tricks and Commands to Teach Your Dogs

a dog winks at you

Why Does My Dog Wink At Me: Conclusion

Our dogs are such adorable creatures!

And they look even more charming when they smile, goof, and just do silly dog things.

Here I thought there was nothing that could top those until my dog winked at me.

Now, I think the winks are the cutest thing that dogs can do.

But still, it’s important to know what’s behind their cute winks.

It could be that your dog is trying to communicate something to you, maybe even bond with you.

Worse, is when your dog’s wink has some underlying health conditions that you shouldn’t overlook.

But unless there are no visible symptoms around or in your dog’s eyes, then there’s nothing to worry about!

Hold up!

Are you curious about your dog’s other unusual behaviors?

Then check the links below and read more about the explanations about them!

Related “Why Do Dogs” Articles: