Furry, witty, and loyal, dogs are undoubtedly man’s best friend and great companions to most pet owners. If you own a dog, you must have noticed their eye movement and wondered if they blink just as we humans do. To answer this question favorably, we need to understand the mechanism behind blinking in dogs.
So, do dogs blink? Yes, dogs blink to keep their lenses moist or get rid of foreign irritants in their eyes. But there is more, dogs blink to communicate as well, and we will discuss why in a moment.
Why Do Dogs Blink?
A dog may be in distress, stressed, or feel threatened by its environment. If that is the case, the dog will most certainly fixate upon the source of worry and stare until it feels safe.
A direct stare mostly precedes dog fights and is considered socially offensive. So what sets apart a friendly eye contact? A direct opposite of a stare; blinking benevolently.
When dogs blink, it is simply a display of friendly eye contact. Dogs often blink as a way of saying, “I come in peace, I mean no harm!”, which also means they are comfortable, relaxed and by no means pose a threat.
An affable blink is often accompanied by looking away, a relaxed jaw, and reduced body tension. All of which are signs of peace and comfort.
Dogs also blink to avoid conflict. If a strange dog comes running to yours, your dog may look in the opposite direction, an exaggerated blink to break off the ill-mannered approach.
When approaching a new dog, blinking is one way to dispel any negative energy the dog may feel about a stranger entering their environment.
The blinking puts them at ease, as it opposes nervous or aggressive displays from the dog, making bonding easier because they realize how little a threat you are.
4 Top Reasons Why Your Dog May Be Blinking:
1. Health Issues & Medical Problems:
While blinking in dogs is perfectly normal, it may also signal an array of health challenges regarding their eyes. In some cases, blinking is due to an irritant in their eyes.
Common irritants can range from dirt or chemicals (ex. when chemical droplets in the air get into their eyes). The irritation may also be the result of scratches and a host of other factors.
Regardless of the cause, your pet dog would most likely blink in irritation, and this is evident by how much they will close the problematic eye. Dogs will also rub on furniture or a rug in a bid to rid their eyes of irritants.
Entropion is also a known eye condition that can leave your pup with an irritated eye. It is popular among results seeking to answer the question of why dogs blink?.
The brachycephalic dog breeds (these are dogs with a smushed short face such as Boston terriers, pugs, French Bulldogs, etc.) are more susceptible to Entropion.
A telltale sign of entropion is when your pup’s lower or upper eyelid catches or flips itself inward, rolling the little hairs of the eyelid right onto the surface of the eye.
As with most eye-related concerns – it comes with a great deal of discomfort. Some are quite problematic and can become health emergencies.
If your dog seems uncomfortable accompanied by frequent blinking, contact the nearest vet to relieve your pup of pain or discomfort.
Your vet will examine your pup to learn more about the condition to provide some relief and prevent any further damage to the eye.
Blinks may also be an indication of a condition known as blepharospasm. Blepharospasm is characterized by a spasm of the eyelid, creating a twitch-like movement commonly mistaken for a blink.
2. Submission Tactic:
Dogs have evolved to use their facial expressions in the most ingenious ways, very different from humans. For example – staring can signal aggression and dominance between dogs.
Humans consider eye contact respectful and engaging, but with dogs, the opposite is the case.
Regardless, when your dog stares at you, it is not an indication of aggression. If you respond benevolently, they will look away or downwards, accompanied by a rapid blink.
This behavior is a sign of submissiveness, which means they consider you the dominant member of their pack. They blink to break the stare and maintain peace in the given situation.
3. Your Dog May Be Seeking Attention:
Most dogs are intelligent. If their blinking is rewarded with a kind gesture, some may repeat that gesture to elicit more reaction from you.
4. Copycat Behavior:
Another possible reason why your dog is blinking at you is that they are just copying your behavior. With that said, your dog may be blinking as a way of copying your behavior. According to 2017 research, human attention affects facial expressions in dogs. It concludes that most dogs are smart enough to mimic the happenings around them.
For example, your pup may want to copy you in situations when events such as sleeping, eating or yawning. Dogs will also mimic overlooked human gestures or behaviors.
What If Your Dog Blinks Too Much?
Some conditions that cause blinking can cause your pet pain and suffering if left untreated, with extreme cases leading to some serious eye problems, blindness, and other illnesses throughout your pup’s body.
As earlier mentioned, blinking accompanied with discomfort left untreated can result in serious eye problems, capable of rendering your pup blind or other illnesses in other parts of their body.
So if you notice new or excessive blinking, weeping, eye-scratching, or redness of the eye, you should contact your veterinarian immediately to get further instructions on what to do next.
I any event, excessive blinking should be examined by a veterinarian to determine the cause, as this should be your first line of action to prevent any irreversible damage to the eye.
How often do dogs blink?
Dogs blink and flicker often than not. According to research, a two-year-old dog has an average interblink period of 26.7 secs, while a 14 days old puppy has an interblink period of 7.7 seconds. In both studies blinking was not observed at intervals lesser than half a minute, but flickers occurred every 21 seconds.
Puppies are born with their eyes closed until the tenth day after birth, after which their eyelids open and blinking begins. At this stage, they show fewer flickers compared to adult dogs; true blinking takes place every 8-10 seconds.
In much older puppies, eyelid movement is a lot slower, and so half blinks are absent. Blinking is often accompanied by shaking of the head, yawning, and exposure to droughts.
Final Thoughts: Do dogs blink?
Now you know dogs can blink, pay attention to your dogs blinking and POSITIVELY REINFORCE them for friendly eye contact. If you continue to encourage kind communication, you are helping your dog extend this amiable behavior, which keeps them happy and healthy.
Can dogs wink intentionally? Dogs love the attention they get, and if winking guarantees them loads of attention, they will continue to do that. To keep them well behaved, you should reinforce with anything the dog likes; could be petting, laughing, treats, or even talking to them.