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Why do dogs look away when you point a camera at them?

Dogs looking away or turning their heads when a camera is pointed at them is a common phenomenon that many pet owners have experienced. There are several possible explanations for this behavior that have to do with a dog’s instincts, vision, and hearing.

Quick Answers

Here are some quick answers to why dogs look away from cameras:

  • Instinct to avoid direct eye contact/staring
  • Discomfort with camera flash and noises
  • Poor eyesight and trouble focusing on cameras
  • Heightened hearing picking up camera sounds as a potential threat
  • Unsure how to interpret a camera pointed at them

Animal Instincts and Camera Eye Contact

One of the most common reasons dogs look away from cameras is due to their natural instincts. In the wild, direct and prolonged eye contact is seen as an act of aggression or assertiveness by many species. Dogs still retain some of these innate behaviors, even after domestication.

When a human points a camera directly at a dog’s face, it can appear to the dog like staring. The dog may look away to avoid this camera “eye contact” because they perceive it as threatening or dominant behavior from the camera. Breaking eye contact is a submissive gesture to avoid confrontation.

Why Eye Contact is Threatening

Direct eye staring from another animal signals a challenge or readiness to attack in the wild. Dogs inherit this instinctual association of eye contact as aggressive behavior. Camera lenses pointed right at a dog mimic direct staring.

Even though dogs know cameras are inanimate objects, their instincts often still kick in to look away and break the perceived eye contact. They reflexively act submissively as they would if another living being stared them down aggressively.

Discomfort with Camera Noises and Flashes

Another reason dogs shy away from cameras is that the devices produce uncomfortable flashes of light and loud sounds when taking photos. A camera flash going off can startle dogs due to their sensitive vision and hearing.

Camera Flashes are Visually Jarring

The bright bursts of light from camera flashes are likely irritating and even temporarily blinding for many dogs. Dog eyes adjust slowly to light changes compared to human eyes. Rapid extreme light from a camera flash can overload their vision, causing dogs to turn away.

Loud Camera Noises Hurt Dog Ears

A camera’s shutter mechanism produces a quick, loud snapping or clicking noise when taking a picture. Dogs have very acute hearing, so these sounds are magnified and can hurt or startle them.

Instinctively, dogs may turn their face away from the offending camera making the loud noises to protect their sensitive ears and eyes.

Trouble Focusing on Cameras

Dog vision functions a bit differently than human sight, which contributes to dogs struggling to clearly see and focus on cameras pointed at them.

Differences in Dog Vision

Dog Vision Human Vision
See mostly greys/blues See full color spectrum
Poor focus on near objects Good focus on all distances
Smaller visual field overlap Larger visual field overlap

As seen in the table, dogs do not see color or close-up objects as sharply as humans. They also have less binocular vision focused straight ahead. These limitations make it difficult for dogs to clearly see and focus on cameras, especially when pointed right at their face, causing them to look away.

Depth Perception Differences

Humans rely heavily on binocular vision from both eyes overlapping to provide depth perception. Dogs have smaller overlap in their visual field, instead using other monocular cues and side-positioned eyes to judge depth.

The lack of sharp central focus and depth perception in dogs contributes to their trouble viewing and understanding cameras pointed at them. Looking away helps orient themselves to better focus on the strange object.

Unsure How to Interpret Cameras

Another factor that leads dogs to turn their head from cameras is that they are unsure how to interpret a camera lens pointed directly at them. Dogs communicate through body language and cues like staring have specific meanings, while cameras are unfamiliar technology.

Unfamiliar with Cameras and Photography

While dogs can recognize their owners and other humans, cameras are relatively novel devices they have not evolved to understand. Without experience, dogs do not know how to read the intent of a camera lens focused on them.

This uncertainty about the camera’s purpose and meaning causes dogs to shy away or break eye contact until they get more comfortable with photography.

Confusion Around Human Behavior with Cameras

When owners act differently by staring at dogs through the camera viewfinder and making funny noises to get their pet’s attention, dogs struggle to understand this behavior. The odd human behavior surrounding cameras leaves dogs unsure how they are expected to react.

Without grasping what is expected of them when humans use cameras, dogs often look away due to the confusion over the situation.

Submissive Gesture

Finally, dogs looking away from cameras can also be appeasing behavior. Turning their head is a submissive body language gesture to avoid challenging the camera stare.

Communication Through Eye Contact

In dog body language, eye contact communicates dominance or aggression between canines. Staring at another dog signals a challenge or readiness to attack.

By looking away, a dog shows submission and communicates they are not a threat to the other animal or camera. Breaking eye contact is an appeasing gesture to avoid confrontation.

Instinctual Submission Response

Even though dogs know cameras are not alive, their instincts often still take over. When a camera lens points directly at them like an assertive stare, they reflexively react with submission by looking away.

This instinctual response helps reduce the perceived threat from the camera’s gaze and avoids potential conflict.


There are a variety of reasons dogs shy away from cameras pointed at them due to instincts, vision differences, confusion, and appeasement. While some dogs never adapt well to cameras, others will grow more comfortable with positive reinforcement and repeated exposure to photography.

Knowing why dogs look away from cameras can help owners have patience, adapt practices to make photography easier, and minimize anxiety for their pet. With care and training, even camera-shy dogs can learn to become picture-perfect models!