When looking at your dog, you might have noticed that sometimes they wink at you out of nowhere. Maybe you’re thinking this is just a cute quirk or maybe they are trying to tell you something? We always like to try to figure out our little fur babies and like to know what they are thinking or why they are doing certain things.
Between dogs it is normal that sometimes dogs want to establish their dominance. When meeting a new dog, usually both dogs will stare at each other for some time. They want to keep an eye on a possible threat. Eye contact in a dog’s body language conveys alertness and challenging the other. Once one or both blink, wink or look away, it usually signals that they submit and are non-threatening. Of course, there are other signals dogs sometimes choose to give to show that they just want to play like laying down. But breaking a gaze is one of the most common signs used to demonstrate that they want to do no harm. If neither one submits, a fight is likely to break out.
When your dog winks at you it is likely due to instinct and showing you that they submit to you, too. Similarly, you might see him look away for a few seconds when you look at him. Those are simply signals that they keep from interacting with other dogs.
Dogs are smart and pick up on things that others do. They learn little things from interactions with other dogs but also with humans. You might have noticed that your dog started playing more using his paws after playing with another dog that did that. It is very similar. If you wink at your pup a lot, he might pick up on it and eventually start imitating your wink.
While in most cases the winking should be harmless, it can potentially be a symptom of a health problem. Short nose breeds are prone to entropion, a genetic condition, where the eyelids flip inwards. In this case the dog blinks and winks out of pain. If you think this might be the case or your dog is showing excessive winking or blinking, you should see a vet. They will be able to tell you for sure and consult to find a solution to the problem.
It is also possible that your dog simply got something into his eye. Similar to when we get something small into our eyes, we blink as well.
As you can see winking is not just a quirk or response to something you said. You can also try to teach them to wink on command but for that you would need to reward your dog when he ‘accidentally’ winks at you.