Dogs are almost entirely made up of sunshine and joy, any dog owner would agree with me on this. Some of their antics make us completely melt from affection, such as a wink! But why do dogs wink? Is it a flirty, humorous gesture, or is there some other reason behind this?
Dogs have so many gestures that we humans find adorable and curious, such as puppies chasing their own tails, tilting their heads and cooing cutely, and even winking! You may have often wondered why dogs sometimes wink, honestly, so have I.
Do dogs really understand the action of winking? Or is it a natural response, or even a health problem? The answer is, all of the above. Without further dawdling, let’s go look into a dog’s wink.
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Why Do Humans Wink?
First of all, winking is often seen in human society as a flirty, somewhat harmless gesture of goodwill. If you’ve caught yourself wondering “what does a wink mean”, it may depend on the situation. It could be friendly, playful, or it could be totally unwelcome.
What exactly is winking? It’s when someone blinks only one eye at you for a second. It’s generally accompanied by a smile. The person winking at you is probably trying to establish a rapport.
It’s kind of comical to think of the same thing being done by a dog. But it’s not too far off. Dogs tend to use the action of a wink to wheedle treats from you by appearing cute, or even expressing love and affection through this action.
Reasons Your Dog Might Be Winking
If you look for the answer to what it means when a dog winks, you wouldn’t find a single answer, but a handful. First, I’m going to sketch out some reasons for a dog winking that are mostly behavioral:
1. Your Dog Wants Attention
What are the things that a dog does that makes you give him your attention readily? Think about barking, whining, tail wagging etc. Another such gesture is winking. He knows you’re going to coo and praise him when he winks. Did you know you could train your dog to wink in the same way?
- Start the way that you would with any other training, with a treat that your dog loves! Hide the treat behind you and call your dog over.
- Do something that’ll make your dogs wink, such as touching one side of his nose or whiskers.
- Right before he closes the eye, say the verbal cue you’ve chosen, something like “wink”, or “blink” would work well.
- When he instinctively closes that eye, praise him and give him a treat.
- Practice this till your dog associates the verbal cue to the action (and the treats). Before long, your dog will start to wink at you.
Make sure you commence this training when your dog is already well used to other cues, such as “sit”, or “stay”, and your work would be made easier.
2. Your Dog Is Showing Submission
When a couple of humans hold eye contact, we think of it as a show of positive emotions. However, if you notice your pets, you’ll see that prolonged eye contact usually means they’re going to pounce on each other.
Dogs and cats both display this behaviour. They sustain eye contact for a bit, then one of them would jump, and proceed to play-fight. If your pets don’t get along with each other, you may even have to separate them before someone gets hurt.
However, when a human establishes eye contact with her dog, the dog usually would break the connection through a blink or a wink. It basically means your dog is being submissive and is deferring to you, the owner.
3. Your Dog Is Expressing Happiness
This is quite a baffling thought, but sometimes, a dog winking means that he is happy. You might notice that when your dog is playing with you or the other pets in the house, he’s winking sometimes. This happens more often if your dog is happier.
4. Your Dog Is Imitating You
If you and your dog have good bonding, it’s possible that your dog will start to imitate some of the things you do, and that includes winking. If you playfully wink at your dog often enough, you may notice him pick up the habit after some time.
Additionally, dogs would often include an older dog in a household with multiple pets, one that they’ve accepted as the pack leader. They could also pick up the habit of winking from a human member of the house.
Is My Dog Winking Because of an Eye Problem?
Sometimes you might notice your dog has suddenly started winking, and is doing so quite often and even keeping that eye closed for long periods. Along with that you might notice his eye tearing up, and some redness. Your dog might also be rubbing that eye against textured surfaces such as the sofa, carpet or his bed.
In cases like these, your dog might be suffering. Sometimes, the cause may simply be trauma like getting scratched or poked in the eye from playtime or his walk outdoors. Some foreign object like dirt, fur or some other substance getting in his eyes may also cause irritation and he would blink or wink a lot.
However, there are also some major dog health problems including glaucoma, dry eyes (KCS), entropion etc. that might make it look like your dog is winking with one eye. Take a good look:
There are some dog breeds who are genetically more prone to entropion, especially the brachycephalic breeds. For your ease of understanding, these are the breeds with a short snout and a face that looks like it’s punched in.
Breeds like these often have their upper or lower eyelids fold inwards into the eye, and the eyelashes and fur end up causing irritation. Not just irritation, if left untreated it could even end up wounding or perforating the surface of the dog’s eye. You might see this happen to dogs, like the Chow Chow breed dogs.
Usually, this would be diagnosed around the time a dog is around one year of age. The dog would blink the eye often, giving the illusion of winking. As a dog owner, you probably won’t be able to tell if it’s entropion or a normal irritation that your dog is suffering from.
The symptoms are similar to irritation, red eyes, excessive tears and scratching the eye. However, sometimes you would also notice pus, which is a red flag. Whenever you see these symptoms persist more than a couple days and no sign of them getting better with time, contact your vet.
Basically, it is an inflammation of the eyelid. This could happen to one or both eyes of your dog. Along with reddened eyelids, your dog’s eyelid could also spasm (which is called blepharospasm), making it look like he’s winking. In some cases, this inflammation would spread, and develop into conjunctivitis or keratitis.
The symptoms include excessive liquid discharge from the affected eye. This could look like your dog is crying. Although in some cases the discharge may look like pus. Blepharitis is often caused by genetic issues, allergies or other infections.
You might’ve heard of this term before as an eye problem in humans. Glaucoma happens to dogs as well, and is usually caused by excessive pressure in the eyeball. It can cause a lot of complications, but what you might notice is that your dog is blinking a lot.
There would be a lot of liquid in your dog’s eye, as well as a lot of discomfort that he’ll try to overcome by blinking. Don’t mistake this for winking. Glaucoma can cause your dog to go blind if you neglect the situation.
This name might be hard to pronounce so let’s just call it dry eyes. In this case, what happens is that the tear glands in your dog’s eyes don’t work too well, so your dog keeps blinking from discomfort. When this affects one eye, it ends up looking as if your dog is winking.
Aside from these reasons, conjunctivitis may be another reason for a dog blinking or winking rapidly. If you’ve ever gotten a pink eye yourself, you’ll easily be able to discern the symptoms in your dog as well. The underlying cause of conjunctivitis could be a wide range of factors, including blepharitis, as we’ve talked about above.
Dogs wink because of quite a few reasons, and the reasons aren’t always happy or good. They can instinctively learn to wink from their owner, or can be trained to wink on command. However, winking could also be the sign of some health problems.
Some dogs are genetically prone to eye problems that may be disguised as winking, and owners of these breeds should be especially vigilant about any eye problems. Pug, Shih Tzu, Chow Chow etc. are examples of Brachycephalic breeds. Dogs from these breeds are more prone to other health problems as well.
Now you’re more knowledgeable on why the question “why do dogs wink?” has no clear and straightforward answer, and the various reasons your dog might wink. Don’t forget to let me know if you’ve successfully trained your dog to wink!