Whale Eye

This is a place to gain some understanding of dog behavior and to assist people in training their dogs and dealing with common behavior problems, regardless of the method(s) used. This can cover the spectrum from non-aversive to traditional methods of dog training. There are many ways to train a dog. Please avoid aggressive responses, and counter ideas and opinions with which you don't agree with friendly and helpful advice. Please refrain from submitting posts that promote off-topic discussions. Keep in mind that you may be receiving advice from other dog owners and lovers... not professionals. If you have a major problem, always seek the advice of a trainer or behaviorist!

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More Bored- Collies
Barked: Mon Mar 18, '13 11:09am PST 
Nearly everything I read claims that seeing the whites of a dogs eyes (or whale eye) means the dog is nervous or upset.

The thing is with both of my dogs, Cobain especially, I can almost always see the whites of their eyes. They're both very expressive and move their eyes around when looking - opposed to moving their whole head.

When I'm out on a walk people tend to think that Cobain is miserable and "abused" due to the ever present whites in his eyes.

I'm just wondering if this is indeed a strange thing. Or maybe they are right in reading my dog and saying he's nervous and I'm just failing (for 7 years) to pick up on it? shrug

Does anyone else have dogs with the same frequent "whale eye" ?
Jake & Sweet- Caroline

Tricolored- Hounds for life!
Barked: Mon Mar 18, '13 2:53pm PST 
Jake only gives with the "whale eye" expression when he's nervous about something. Such as if I've been shouting (not necessarily at him) one time i stubbed my toe and hopped around the apartment cursing and upset and jake will look at me out of the corner of his eye all freaked out.

Or If im' really tense jake will also whale eye in regards to me. I can tell by the way he looks at me and how tense he is that he's nervous.

So for me I guess Jake only whale eyes when nervous.

But for you. If you know your dog go with what you know.

Sweetie's eyes are droopy so it looks like she's always whale eyeing big grin Or mopping ;D But she's not.

The Cowardly- Lion - I'll find my- courage
Barked: Mon Mar 18, '13 3:35pm PST 
Leia has the same problem as your Cobain! She does have a timid nature, but even when at home and totally comfortable on my lap or being pet she still shows the whites of her eyes almost all the time. Now that you mention it about just moving the eyes and not her whole head... maybe she's just lazy laugh out loud

Honestly though, this is something I had been wondering about as well. I'm really looking forward to what others have to say.


Awesome Dog
Barked: Mon Mar 18, '13 5:12pm PST 
Whale eye, like so much of canine communication, is just one piece of the puzzle. A dog can show whale eye simply because he's looking off to the side. It doesn't mean he's stressed or resource-guarding, etc.

Risa has pretty big eyes and you can almost always see some of the whites when she's looking around normally. (In fact, in my main picture you can easily see the whites on both of her eyes.) She does give whale eye pretty frequently (fearful, dog reactive dog after all) but not all the time. It's really contextual.

With all dog communication, you have to take in the entire dog. Not just the parts. It's the whole picture that truly conveys what a dog is saying. big grin
Shiver Me- Timbers- "Charlie"

My Little Dog, a- heartbeat at my- feet.<3
Barked: Mon Mar 18, '13 9:37pm PST 
I have to agree with Risa on this. I can almost always see the whale eye behavior with Charlie, but I can easily tell the difference between when it's just him looking around, or giving a certain look, versus when he's truly upset about something because his other behaviors will dictate that he's upset, nervous or bothered.

Lets GO
Barked: Tue Mar 19, '13 1:03am PST 
Yup, Shadow does it all the time as well. And is fond of looking out the side of her eye at me. Some of it is when she's nervous and some of it is just because she's a twitlaugh out loud She is a very expressive dog and uses her eyes and eyebrows to full effect.
Rocky *CGC*- With the- angels.

Gone but never,- ever forgotten- xxx
Barked: Tue Mar 19, '13 3:40am PST 
Rocky used to show the whites of his eyes all the time too puppy

He was a very expressive and confident boy... In fact, a lot of people used to say he had the most expressive face of any dog they had ever met.

I think the main thing to remember is all dogs are individuals. Some are an exception to the rule and you know your dog better than anyone...

You're obviously not alone puppy It's something I had never really thought about before, but looking back, Rocky would frequently show the white of his eyes puppy

Skipper does too but he's 11 weeks old and doesn't count lol.

Edited by author Tue Mar 19, '13 3:41am PST


More Bored- Collies
Barked: Tue Mar 19, '13 5:57am PST 
Cobain's most recognizable look when it comes to whale eye is the eye roll.
Speak to him in baby talk - eye roll
Ask him to do the same thing 10x in a row - eye roll

I think a lot of people's perception with him being miserable also relates to his dropped tail. Unless he's really interested in something, that tail is tucked.

Either way, it's relieving to know that my dogs aren't miserable and I've failed at picking up on it for all these years laugh out loud
Good to know they're not the only "expressive" dogs

Barked: Tue Mar 19, '13 6:11am PST 
Just about all border collies and collie mixes I've seen do that. They tend to have very expressive eyes. Kato does this A LOT.
Alva BH

I ordered the- best dog for me- & got her
Barked: Tue Mar 19, '13 2:30pm PST 
My parents' water dog mix shows her eye whites more often than I see other dogs' whites and I do not think that it is a sign of stress every time she does it. She IS a sensitive and sometimes fearful dog but I think that you can tell if a dog is in distress and thus showing their whites by the rest of their body language. Well, people should never fix on just one sign, they should see the general view and ponder the sum of a dog's signs.

I don't see Alva's whites a lot. When I see her eyes she is usually looking at me. Or she turns her head instead of just the eyes when she wants to take a look at something. I can make her show the whites by holding her muzzle and showing a treat at the edge of her view. I can also see them if I hold her head and stare her too much and she turns her eyes away to tell she's uneasy.
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