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It can be disconcerting to walk into a room and catch your dog staring at the wall. It can be worrying and hurtful if your dog suddenly becomes more interested in your drywall than you and the rest of the family.
But more than just being a bit weird, if your dog does start to stare at the wall frequently and for long periods of time, it could be a sign that something is wrong.
It could be that they have spotted a problem with your wall, but it may also be that something is wrong inside of them that is driving this compulsive and out-of-character behavior.
Let’s take a look at the main reasons that your dog might start staring at walls and what you can do to help them.
We should also note that staring at walls is very different from head pressing against the wall, which is a much more serious warning sign about your dog’s health. We will also talk about head pressing and why your dog might do it.
DISCLOSURE: We are not veterinarians. If you suspect something is wrong with your dog’s health then contact your veterinarian immediately.
Why Does Your Dog Stare At The Wall?
As with most canine behaviors, there are several reasons why your dog might do one thing, some benign and some worrying. So let’s take a look at the most likely reasons why your dog will be staring at the wall.
There’s Something There
If your dog does start to stare intently at a certain patch of wall, it may not be a problem with your pup but rather with your wall.
Dogs have better senses of smell and hearing than we do, so they can pick up on things that we can’t sense.
So, it could be that termites are munching their way through your woodwork and your dog is listening intently to the grinding noise. It might also be that there is a dead rat in your walls, which you can’t really smell (yet), but your dog can.
But, if your dog is staring at the wall because they are just interested in something, you should be able to draw their attention away quite easily. They would probably much rather play with you than continue their observation.
So, try to draw your dog’s attention away with a fun game, and also investigate the area of your home that they seem to be so interested in. It could be the early warning that you need to deal with whatever the problem is.
Dogs can have a tendency to develop compulsive behavior, especially if they are bored or under-stimulated. It can be a surprising way for them to release pent-up energy and frustration.
If this is what is happening with your dog, you might notice other symptoms. They could get overly excited when you go to take them out for a walk, or even when you just return home after a long period. This overexcitement can sometimes cause unusual behaviors such as humping the air when they see you.
They may also engage in destructive behaviors, such as eating shoes and digging up houseplants. Their sleep schedule can also get thrown off, and they might be barking more than usual.
This change in behavior will often happen when something changes in your dog’s life. Are they getting less exercise? Are they spending more time alone? Has a young family member who spent a lot of time with the dog recently moved out?
If you do identify one of these things as the root cause of the problem, then you will need to make some changes to alleviate your dog’s boredom.
Increase their daily exercise to make sure they are not building up excess energy. You can read about exactly how much exercise a Labrador retriever heeds here.
If they are cooped up inside for long periods at a time, give them intellectual stimulation with a puzzle toy. If your regular work hours mean they have long periods of isolation, consider having a dog walker or a dog sitter look in during the day.
As your dog starts to feel on a more even keel in terms of energy and stimulation, you should notice them spending less time staring at that wall.
Staring at walls can also be a sign that your dog is suffering from depression.
Dogs can develop depression in much the same way that humans do. But it doesn’t always manifest in the same way, and it is not always possible to point to a clear cause.
While symptoms may vary, there are a few common ones including having low energy levels, being less active, and losing interest in activities they otherwise normally enjoy. You will probably also notice changes in their eating and sleeping habits, and potentially that they lick and chew excessively.
General changes in personality and a feeling that they are withdrawn can also be signs. Staring at walls falls into the category of being withdrawn, as the staring gives them a blank zone into which to disappear and escape the world around them.
If your dog is suffering from depression, consider changes you can make to their lifestyle in order to improve their mental and emotional state.
Consider things such as:
- Upgrade their diet – You are what you eat, and so is your pup. So upgrading their diet to one that is high in healthy protein and doesn’t contain anything artificial might make a difference. – one of our favorite dog food is called The Farmer’s Dog. It’s pricey, but we’ve been feeding it to Elsa and Raven the past two weeks and they love it.
- Give them more exercise – Keeping active is an important way to treat depression in humans as exercise releases dopamine into the body. The same is true for dogs, so make sure they are a little more active.
- Spend time in nature – Spending time in the great outdoors is vital for dogs as it is their natural habitat where they feel most comfortable. The smells and texture also provide important stimulation, which they just can’t get if they are stuck inside all day.
- Spend more time together – A lack of love and attention and extended periods spent alone can be a cause of depression in dogs. So avoid leaving them alone for big chunks of the day, and make sure you give them praise, love, and physical contact when you are together.
- Teach them something new – Again, not unlike humans, dogs like to feel useful and like they have a purpose. Teaching them something new, such as a trick or a task, can help to give them that purpose and lift their spirits.
If you don’t see any improvement with these activities, your vet may be able to recommend some alternative treatments.
Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome
Sadly, the urge to stare at walls can also be a sign of cognitive dysfunction syndrome in dogs, also known as canine dementia.
It is what it sounds like. As your dog gets older their mental facilities deteriorate. They can forget things and begin to feel disoriented. It is very common in older dogs, with almost a third of dogs older than 10 years developing some type of dementia.
Staring at walls is part of their disorientation, and will probably be accompanied by related symptoms such as circling, walking into things, and occasionally getting “stuck” when all they need to do is back out to free themselves.
They might also forget their toilet training and even begin to forget the people and other animals in their lives, sometimes showing aggressive behavior.
There is no cure for dementia in dogs, so it is all about adapting their life to accommodate their new challenges. For example, you should remove objects that might hurt them if they walk into them. You should refrain from moving their food bowl or their bed, however, so that they aren’t likely to have trouble finding them.
The other thing is to be patient. It is not their fault if they have forgotten their house training, or don’t recognize you and get scared and bark.
In this case, a little bit of staring at the wall isn’t doing them any harm.
While staring at the wall isn’t really what you imagine when you hear the word seizure, if they get stuck staring at the wall and can’t break free from almost the hypnosis of the wall, it could be a form of seizure.
It is also often a precursor to a more traditional seizure in which they lose control of their limbs. Basically, the dog already knows that something is not right, and their brain can cloud over. Staying fixed and staring at the wall can give them some stability.
There are a variety of different causes of seizures. It can be something highly treatable with medication, such as epilepsy, or it could be a sign of something more serious such as cancer.
If your dog is having seizures, you need to speak to your vet to get a proper diagnosis and explore appropriate treatment options.
What if your dog, rather than just staring at the wall, is actually pressing their head against it? Unlike staring, this is a sign that your dog is in crisis and an immediate emergency trip to the vet is warranted.
Head pressing is the compulsive act of pressing the head against a wall or other object for no apparent reason.
Dogs will often press their head into the wall in an attempt to relieve any pressure that they might be feeling there. This pressure can be caused by a variety of problems including:
If your dog is suffering from one of these serious conditions, you will probably also notice other worrying symptoms. These include an urge to pace or circle, changes in behavior, impaired reflexes, and even seizures.
These are all serious conditions, and the only appropriate course of action is a trip to the vet. They will need to examine your dog’s blood and urine and take brain scans in order to make an accurate diagnosis and suggest a treatment plan.
Why Is My Dog Staring At The Wall?
There are lots of different reasons why your dog might choose to stare at the wall. It could just be that they have sensed something interesting that you haven’t picked up on. They might be feeling bored or depressed and staring at the wall offers them a withdrawal. It might also be linked to a more serious medical condition such as doggy dementia or epilepsy.
It is difficult to determine why your dog is staring at the wall in isolation. You need to look at what is happening in their lives and at other unusual behaviors that they might be displaying, in order to figure out exactly what is going on with your pup.
What Are The Symptoms Of Stroke In A Dog?
Staring at the wall is a possible symptom of stroke in dogs, but it is not among the most common causes. Instead, look out for a loss of equilibrium and difficulty controlling their body movements in general. They will probably also feel very lethargic, and you will notice that their eyes lack focus and may even move in strange directions.
Stroke is not as common among dogs as it is among humans, so speak to your doctor to determine if it is a stroke or if there is something else going on with your pooch.
Why Is My Dog Acting Weird All Of A Sudden?
Dogs act weird all the time—I mean, they eat their own poop, but they tend to be consistent. Dogs tend to eat, poop, and sleep with consistency. If they have little habits like walking in circles before they sit or sleeping on the bathroom floor, these are likely to be consistent as well.
But when your dog starts adopting new behaviors, which might be normal for some other dogs but is unusual for yours, then you need to pay attention.
Dogs change for a reason. It could be a response to not feeling good within themselves, perhaps due to stomach upsets or sore joints. Or it could be that they aren’t feeling emotionally stable, perhaps because something has changed in their lives.
The key is to look out for what might have changed for your dog to cause their behavior to change, and for accompanying systems that might indicate a medical issue.
What Does It Mean When A Dog Stares At Nothing?
While dogs, like humans, might occasionally stare into space for no reason, it can be a symptom of other problems, which more or less match the problems of staring at walls discussed in this article.
To see if your dog is just zoning out or if something else is going on, try to get their attention. If they respond quickly, they are probably fine. If they are sluggish to respond and take a while to “shake it off,” this is an indication that there could be a problem.
The problem could be a physical issue such as dog dementia or epilepsy, or it could be a psychological problem such as depression. In order to make a proper diagnosis, look out for other symptoms of a medical problem, such as changes in their eating habits and the consistency of their stool.
Also, consider what things might have changed in your dog’s life recently. Have you changed their food? Has someone moved in or out of the house? Are you spending less time together? Often an environmental change is the root cause of a behavioral change.
Dogs can do a lot of strange things, sometimes cute, sometimes annoying, and sometimes just disconcerting. Staring at the wall probably falls into this last category. It just feels a bit weird and leaves you wondering if everything is OK with your pup.
The answer to that question is basically that it depends. There are lots of different reasons why your dog might stare at the wall. It could be that they are actually staring at something that you can’t see but they can hear or smell. When this is the case, it is usually quite easy to get their attention, as they will move on when you present something more interesting.
If their interest in the wall seems more obsessive and difficult to break, it could be a sign of emotional problems such as boredom, frustration, or depression, all of which can be managed with some lifestyle changes.
Wall staring can also be a marker of some more serious diseases such as cognitive dysfunction syndrome and epilepsy, for which you need to speak to your vet.
It is worth noting that wall staring is quite different from head pressing, which is when your dog not only focuses on the wall but presses their head into it.
Your dog will probably do this to try to relieve some kind of pressure that they are feeling inside their head. All the major causes of this are very serious, from head trauma to a brain tumor. If you see your dog doing this, it is time for an emergency trip to the vet.
Have you had a dog that loved to stare at walls?
What was the reason?
Share your experience with the community in the comments section below.
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