Border Collies are known for their intelligence, but one thing that some dog owners might not know is why these dogs love to stare at things. These intelligent canines have an intense gaze that is often compared with a laser beam. A Border Collie’s stare can hypnotize its prey and focus on just one thing until it gets what it wants or needs. This behavior sometimes makes you wonder if your Border Collie is trying to tell you something through his intense stare! With patience and training, you can teach your pup how to properly use this skill so he doesn’t become fixated on the wrong things, like squirrels in the garden!
So you may be wondering ‘why does my border collie stare at me?’.
Border Collies were bred to stare, stalk and nip at the heels of sheep. This nipping behavior is used to herd the flock into the desired location. For this breed to herd effectively, they need to have a focused concentration on their task. This is why they were bred to stare at the flock of sheep until it moves in the desired direction. As Border Collies herd sheep, they use their intense stare to make sure that no herds of sheep go astray. If a sheep darts in the wrong direction, the Border Collie will run straight at it and nip it on the heels until it turns around. This type of behavior is called the “eye,” but some owners aren’t a fan of it because they think that their dogs are being aggressive. In reality, this is the Border Collie’s way of communicating without making actual physical contact.
Your Border Collie may be giving you the eye as they are looking for food or treats, or alternatively, they just want some guidance or attention from you.
The background behind the staring behavior
Border Collies are known to be workaholics. They are focused on accomplishing their chores and need frequent activity and movement to be happy. Their instinct to herd sheep will come through with their desire to use their stare to command their flock to obey them, using a trick mimicking what packs of wolves would have done in the past.
Whilst many Border Collies no longer live to work, they’ve maintained this tendency to stare, a trait passed down the generations.
If a Border Collie starts staring at you, this can often be seen as intimidating. This type of behavior is often displayed when the dog wants something. Dogs, like humans, use eye contact to negotiate and can come across as pleading when they stare at their owners. This intense, hard stare is a common Border Collie behavior that can put some dog owners on edge.
Staring as a form of communication
A Border Collies will use their stare as a way of communicating with you – this may be to get something they want – food leftovers, or wanting to grab your attention to play. They will also use this stare to study and understand you, and subsequently learn how they can get exactly what they want from you!
Owners frequently remark on staring during play. For example, as their border collie is waiting for the ball to be thrown in a game of fetch.
When does a Border Collie stare?
There are several reasons as to when a Border Collie might stare at something. It could be waiting patiently to be given the next command, wanting to herd whatever they’re staring at, or looking for danger.
If they are bored, they will find things to stare at – something to concentrate on that may end becoming an obsession for them.
If they are alerted to a presence, such as a postman arriving, they will stare in that direction and follow it with their eyes when they move too.
If they want to go and greet someone, they will stare at them intently.
If they are given a command, such as to sit, they will stand and stare at their handler until the command is carried out.
If they want a treat, they well…stare at you to get the treat!
Your Border Collie may stare at your other pets or start looking to stare and herding children, this could be a concern. Make sure your dog isn’t threatened by other pets, but always pay attention to what they are staring at – do not punish or reprimand them for simply looking at another pet or a child.
Is staring a bad behaviour in Border Collies?
Staring is something that Border Collies do to communicate. Most of the time when a dog is staring, they are giving you their undivided attention and telling you that they want your attention. It can also be an expression of anger or agitation but usually not in domestic, non-working collies. This, therefore, means that for the most part, staring should not be considered a bad behavior – as most dogs do it at certain times to some extent.
However, there may be a concern if your Border Collie becomes more dependent on using this stare, or uses it a lot to try and manipulate you into giving them what they want.
If the staring behaviour is directed at other dogs, there is more of a concern. Some Border Collies will fence-stare (in other words, stare at the dog on the other side of the fence, which is a sign of aggression in most circumstances). In these cases, it may be helpful to teach the dog that they do not have to stare at the other dog to gain their attention. They may also do this to prove their dominance, or maybe trying to protect you and the family. If this continues, you may want to consider some form of socialization training for your Collie.
You should always look to use Positive reinforcement training – teaching them commands like fetch or rollover can be used to quickly entertain your Collie and prevent them from getting bored or maintaining that stare.
Also, keeping your Collie fit and healthy, and full of exercise will calm them down and prevent staring from becoming a regular thing. Regular walks will also give them the mental stimulation they require. Plenty of outdoor activities, and in particular physical activities, are always a useful way of limiting the time that a Border Collie might have to utilise their piercing stare.
What are the different types of Border Collie ‘eye’ or stare?
Many breeders believe that Border Collies are born with a particular type of stare or ‘eye’, inherited from their parents.
Some of the common types of stare:
Sticky eye stare – A dog who gives the ‘sticky eye’ will fixate on another animal or person and try to stare them down or keep their gaze, unless of course the other animal or person breaks the stare first. This is considered an impolite stare and is not always welcomed by humans, especially children, who may find it scary or intimidating.
Strong eye stare – a continuing amazing stare, often with a fixed or unblinking eye. This is usually combined by a crouching, pouncing position – a trick Border Collies used in the past when intimidating their flock. This continuous stare can be quite disconcerting if they are doing it with a human being!
Loose eye stare – a slow scan, moving the eyes from side to side or up and down looking at an animal or person. This type of eye is not considered rude and does not send out threatening messages. It is considered a more open and welcoming stare than the previous two types.
No eye – a complete lack of staring, often accompanied by a relaxed, neutral facial expression.
Border collies are a breed of herding dog that has been bred to help humans control their livestock. They stare at what they want, and if the prey doesn’t break eye contact first, then it’s considered theirs! Border Collie ‘stares’ can be classified into three types: sticky eye (unwanted), strong eye (continuing) or loose eyes (slow scan). It’s perfectly natural for them to stare based on their heritage, but if you feel that the staring may be becoming too much, you can always look at various techniques and training to stimulate them more if required.