4 Reasons Why Your Dog is Staring At the Wall
For as long as I can remember, I have caught Tofu, my Jack Russell mix, staring off into space. He glares at walls, fans, windows or seemingly nothing at all.
Anyone who knows me is well aware of the fact that I don’t handle fear well. I shun anything that might keep me up late at night. Naturally, my mind went to dark places when contemplating why Tofu has this peculiar habit. Is my dead relative in the room? Did someone die in this house? I jumped to conclusions and assumed that Tofu was communicating with Satan’s fallen angels.
Then my rational mind brought me back to reality and I started to research. I don’t know if what I found was comforting but it for sure is enlightening.
Can Dogs See Dead People?
The first stop in my wall staring research naturally started with the spookiest angle. Was Tofu communing with the dead? Pet owners have caught on camera their pet’s spooky wall staring encounters. I decided to compare Tofu’s behavior with that of dogs in clips like this:
After freaking myself out watching clip after clip, I came to the conclusion that Tofu’s staring behavior is vastly different. He is not aggressive, doesn’t bark and frankly couldn’t care less if something dangerous is in the corner.
I turned to written encounters to see if there was less dramatic behavior associated with dogs staring at the unseen.
A post published on Animal Planet stated that animals often are witnessed “communicating” with their pet owners that have past on such as this:
Numerous witnesses believe she still visits her pets daily, and report seeing the animals suddenly gather in one spot, cats arching their backs and purring, dogs flopping over for a belly rub, wriggling in enjoyment, all of them sitting at attention and staring into the air before resuming their own activities.
Again, most of the encounters I read tell a tale of dogs staring AND interacting with something we can’t fathom. While fascinating, Tofu doesn’t seem to be interacting with anything. In fact, his blank and empty stare makes me believe that absolutely nothing is going on in that noggin. ReIieved, I scratched the spooky idea of Tofu seeing dead people and again began my search for answers. This time turning to a more scientific approach.
4 Reasons Your Pet is Staring at The Wall
Setting ghost busting aside, other noted reasons for your pet’s bizarre behavior are listed by The American Kennel Club (AKC):
1. Detecting pests inside your walls
According to the AKC:
Dogs have significantly better hearing than we do. Sometimes, this means that they pick up on things we don’t –- such as infestations. Squirrels, termites, bees, and all sorts of other critters tend to move in alongside us, often without our realization, but they can’t sneak past our observant canines.
This may be an explanation for some of you pet lovers out there with dogs who are abnormally fascinated with a particular wall in your home. In Tofu’s case, we recently moved from Florida to Virginia. In both households, he has exhibited the same wall staring behavior. The odds of both dwelling being infested seems a bit low, nonetheless, I heeded AKC’s advice and sat next to Tofu as he had a staring spell. Quietly listening with him, I felt a little crazy myself, but did not hear any little feet scattering.
2. Health conditions such as canine cognitive dysfunction (CCD)
Stumbling across this tidbit of information made me cringe. Anything with cognitive + dysfunction sounded like a serious issue. Researching in depth led me to a study published in The Veterinary Journal. This study was intended to identify under diagnosed older canines with CCD. What drew my worried attention is the following table, listing 30 behavioral identifiers:
Obviously, our little Tofu has the staring blankly down pat. He also exhibits changes in excitement for walks and a change in time spent inactive (sleeping) per day. Okay, so 3/30 isn’t bad right? He is getting older (he is estimated between 11-13 by our earlier vet). Apparently, according to the study, pet owners say the exact same thing leading to under diagnosis:
…neurocognitive behavioral changes are commonly ignored or regarded by owners as part of the normal aging process (Landsberg and Araujo, 2005; Osella et al., 2007). In our study, the estimated CCD prevalence rate amongst older community based dogs was 14.2%, in contrast to a veterinary diagnosis rate of only 1.9%…
I kept CCD in mind (hoping Tofu doesn’t have the doggie version of Alzheimer’s disease), and kept researching.
3. Staring at walls can be a sign of Seizures
According to the American Kennel Club, not all dog seizures result in dramatic convulsions or foamy mouths.
… seizures can also present with less dramatic symptoms like staring at a wall. Staring at the wall or staring into space could be a symptom of a type of seizure called a partial seizure or a focal seizure.
Although there are many causes for seizures, I was relieved to find that this can be treated. I have now two possible diagnoses for Tofu, neither fun. With this in mind, one last reason for wall staring caught my eye on the AKC’s website and that is compulsive behavior.
4. Dogs may stare at walls because of compulsive behavior or attention-seeking
I found it fascinating that some people’s dogs made the connection that staring at the wall made their human notice them. How smart is that? All they have to do is act strange. Then they get their favorite person’s one-on-one attention quicker. I wondered if Tofu was utilizing this strategy. We do tend to say “LOOK AT HIM. LOOK AT HIM,” repeatedly when he stares at the wall. Unfortunately, he doesn’t seem to give a crap whether we notice him or not.
Although my hopes are dashed that he is seeking attention, I am relieved that he is not seeing the dead. His age and behavior leads me to lean towards the more rational scientific possible diagnoses listed above.
As soon as I scope out a new vet in the area, I intend to bring these documented concerns and get to the bottom of this phenomena. Hopefully all you pet owners out there check your walls first, do a deep personal investigation on your beliefs in ghosts and also turn to rational medical explanations with your trusted vet.