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Why Do Dogs Wink? 10 Reasons

It’s too adorable when dogs mimic human behavior. We love to see them giving high-fives, wearing big grins, or even giving us a cheeky wink.

But why do dogs wink? It might be a cute trick you’ve trained your clever friend to do, or perhaps they do it of their own accord. In either case, many canine celebs on TikTok have made the charming gesture part of their routines. 

It’s not all a cuteness overload, though. If your furry friend is winking frequently or even rubbing at the eye, there’s a good chance there’s something wrong and you might need to pop in at the vet for a checkup. 

Get ready for a deep-dive on all the possible reasons why your dog could be winking at you. 

dog-winking-golden-retriever why do dogs wink
Image by Taylor Sondgeroth from Unsplash

Do Dogs Intentionally Wink?

As much as we’d love to believe our dogs are just as smart and savvy as humans, they don’t understand the full range of connotations we associate with certain actions. 

They may perform acts like winking because it elicits a response from us that they enjoy, but they certainly don’t do it with cheeky innuendo. Nonetheless, they are capable of winking intentionally, even though their motivations may be completely different from ours.  

Why Do Dogs Wink? 10 Reasons

There’s a number of them, that’s for sure. Many are benign; some are even incredibly enchanting. But there are a couple that would require the special care of a vet. Here are the most common reasons for your dog to wink. 

1. They’re Copying You

Ironically, dogs can be copycats. There are a lot of our facial expressions and behaviors that they can mimic to varying degrees of success, depending on their intelligence. 

It’s not as though skateboarding is a normal pastime for a dog, after all, but nonetheless you’ll find skateboarding dogs all over social media and even pet skateboards for sale. Some dogs may learn to “talk” (Huskies are famous for this), or smile, or—as it turns out—wink in imitation of their favorite humans.  

Schipperke jumping
Schipperke jumping

2. They Enjoy the Attention

Naturally when our four-legged friends do something we find adorable, our response is to praise them and give them oodles of positive attention for it. 

Dogs are smart—some breeds arguably more so than others—and they can quickly learn that a certain action leads to plenty of pets and treats. Once they have us figured out, they may initiate the action whenever they feel like a big dose of cuddles and pets. 

Why Do Dogs Wink? 10 Reasons 1

Image by Illumination Marketing from Unsplash

One such action can be winking, if your response to it is strong and positive. If you’re trying to intentionally train your dog to copy you and wink as a trick, then these training bites will help reinforce it as a rewarding action.  

3. They’re Communicating

Yes, it’s possible. The formidable ancestors of all dogs, namely wolves, communicated with many sorts of visual cues. They learned this because when hunting, verbal communication was impossible as it would’ve frightened off prey. 

Nowadays dogs have different reasons for this form of communication, though the intentions may have changed. If you look over at your dog and they wink at you and start wagging their tail, that might just be their way of sending you a signal to tell you they love you. 

jack russell tail

If they’re playing and rolling on their back and wink, they might be telling you they’re submissive and happy about it. Winking can be a way for them to express their own emotions, so you have every right to let your heart melt when they shoot you a wink. 

4. They’re Being Submissive

Owners often want to gaze lovingly into the eyes of their adored doggos. When we gaze into other humans’ eyes, it’s a sign of affection and attachment, after all. For dogs, it’s different, though. 

In fact, a direct stare from another dog (or even you) into their eyes is considered a form of asserting dominance in dog body language. Does this mean you should stop giving your pooch those love-stares? Not at all! When you look into their eyes and they look back at you, it’s a truly bonding moment. 

But they will usually look away at some point to indicate that you’re the dominant person in their pack and they are submissive to you. Sometimes they don’t look away completely but wink instead, which breaks eye contact momentarily and sends the same message. 


5. There’s Something In Their Eye

This most basic answer is sometimes what it comes down to. Just like us, our puppers and doggos can get a bit of dirt or hair caught in the soft membrane of their eye. 

Naturally it causes them to blink more often to try and rid their eye of the nuisance. Sometimes it could be something a little more painful, like a scratch or a poke that has irritated the eyeball itself. In either case, you may notice your pooch keeping one eye closed or blinking/winking at a regular rate. 

You could give them an eye-wash solution to help alleviate their discomfort, but if the blinking persists, then a trip to the vet is on the cards.

Why Do Dogs Wink? 10 Reasons 2

Image by JackieLou DL from Pixabay

6. They Have Allergies

They happen to the best of us humans, and our four-legged friends can suffer from them too. Allergic reactions caused by pollen or dust can cause dry and scratchy eyes in dogs, and the irritation can cause a higher degree of blinking and winking. 

Sometimes a watery discharge from the irritation accompanies the blinking. You might notice your pet sneezing or coughing as well as having a runny nose if allergies are the cause of their plight. In this circumstance, your vet will likely prescribe a pet-friendly allergy medication to help them get some relief. 

7. Their Tear Duct is Blocked

Did you know your dog has two tear duct openings in each eye that lead to one main lacrimal duct? They help drain tears from the eye down the throat or into the nose of your pet. 

Sometimes this duct becomes blocked, causing their eye to water and tears to overflow. As a result, your dog may wink excessively to clear the extra tears. You’ll notice the excessive tear-staining below the affected eye without a problem, especially as it has a habit of being reddish in nature. 

If you leave it alone and the symptoms continue, the chronically moist fur around the eye may allow bacteria to start growing. This can lead to a skin infection in the affected area, and that won’t be pleasant for you or your pup. 


So if your pet continues to wink and tear a lot without showing any signs of improvement, a vet trip is in order to find the underlying cause and sort it out. 

8. They Have an Eye Infection

This is an easy one to notice. If your beloved pet has developed an infection in one of their eyes, blinking a lot is certainly one of the symptoms. But there’s a whole host of others that will accompany it. 

The eye may become weepy and water more than usual, or you may even notice an icky green, yellow, or white discharge seeping out. There may also be swelling and redness. If you haven’t taken a close look at their eyes yet, other behavioral indications include your pet pawing at the troublesome eye. 

They may also attempt to rub their head against the furniture or the rug in an impulse to alleviate the uncomfortable feeling. A comfortable cone can prevent them from doing any further damage from scratching and rubbing until a vet visit can be organized and medications acquired. 

Why Do Dogs Wink? 10 Reasons 3

Image by JackieLou DL from Pixabay

9. They Have Entropion

This is a rather uncomfortable reason for your doggo to be winking a lot. It’s a medical condition more prevalent in brachycephalic dog breeds (dogs with “smooshed” faces and pushed-back noses, such as Boston Terriers and pugs). 

It occurs when either the upper or lower eyelid rolls inward toward the eye, and the tiny hairs on that skin poke into the surface of your dog’s delicate eye. We’ve all felt the scratchy and tear-inducing discomfort of a single eyelash caught in our eye at some point or other, and that’s irritating enough. 

So it’s easy to empathize with your dog if they’re caught in a similar situation. Not only is it highly uncomfortable, but it can also be problematic at best and a major health concern at worst. The hairs can potentially scratch the soft membrane of the eye, leaving it susceptible to infection. It could even lead to ulcerated corneas and blindness if left alone. 

If you suspect this is what is causing your dog’s winking habits, definitely consult a vet to relieve their discomfort and look for a solution. 

blue eyes of husky dog upclose

10. Blepharospasm

That’s a mouthful, isn’t it? As scary as it may sound, it refers to an involuntary spasm in the eyelid, which produces a twitching movement that can look like a wink. 

This condition is caused by the malfunctioning of a certain area in the brain that controls voluntary muscle function, in this case related to the eye. It’s an inherent sign of irritation and/or pain in your dog’s eye, so a vet trip is necessary. 

Once there, your vet will likely run a battery of eye tests such as a Schirmer tear test and fluorescein eye staining to determine the cause of the twitch. There can be multiple different reasons for this twitch to occur. 

From allergies to eye infections and more serious conditions such as Pannus, which is an inflammatory disease that affects the cornea—any of these could be the culprit. However, most of these conditions are easily treated, so there’s no need to worry too much over your pawsome buddy’s affliction. 

Should I Be Worried?

The occasional wink here and there is likely a learned behavior or attempt at communication, and you have full permission to be charmed by it and revel in its cuteness. 

Why Do Dogs Wink? 10 Reasons 4

Image by Annabel P from Pixabay

If your dog starts winking or blinking excessively or begins to rub the eye against furniture or on rugs, then you should take a trip to your trusted vet for a checkup. 

Even if most of the causes aren’t emergent, it’s nonetheless pretty uncomfortable for your dog. You should try to get them seen as soon as possible to alleviate their distress. 

What Should I Do?

The obvious answer here is to take your furry friend to your vet for a professional opinion if the winking has become troublesome and requires some medical attention. If in doubt, it’s better to err on the side of caution, after all. But there are a couple of things you can do to try and avoid these eye troubles from the start. 

Maintain Your Dog’s Eyelid Health

In a healthy eye, the eyelids close fully when your pet blinks to protect their eyes from dust and debris. It’s also good to note that the eyes are cleaning themselves in a healthy manner, so keep watch for signs of discharge or excessive watering. 

Some dogs may have an abnormal eyelid or another medical reason why their eyes don’t close fully. In this case, you might need eye drops to alleviate dry eyes and help maintain good ocular health.  

husky dog with blue eyes up close

Avoid Certain Situations

Although Fido may love to stick their head out of the car window on a happy-go-lucky car ride, it might be better for their eyes to keep the window closed. The intense wind will dry out their eyes fast, and there are plenty of opportunities for airborne debris to get flung into their delicate sockets and cause irritation. 

Similarly, don’t take your doggo to the fine sandy beach or a dusty park if a strong wind is blowing and there’s a good chance of grit getting into their eyes. 

If you don’t want to let the weather and other elements hamper your play time and pet-friendly adventures, get your dog a pair of sunglasses. Not only will their eyes be protected, but they’ll look ultra cool too.  

Final Thoughts on Why Dogs Wink

Whether your dog is a floof or a woofer, large or small, there’s no doubt that a cheeky wink is as charming as pet behaviors get. It instantly endears our pet to us when we see their personality peeking through all that fur. 

Its origins may be instinctual, or they may be more medical in nature, so determining the cause of that ultra-cute wink is important for your bestie’s well-being. As always, keep the vet on speed-dial just to be safe. 

Do you think winking is a weird pet behavior? Here are some superbly interesting dog behaviors that are common amongst our furry friends.

dog with open mouth and blue eye

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