Whale eye occurs when a dog’s head is pointed one way but their eyes are looking at something in a different direction. The whites of the eyes can be seen as an arc. It can be thought of as looking out of the corner of the eye. Dogs who show this behavior are typically concerned about something that is going on around them. We often think of this behavior as an early warning sign that a dog is anxious as a situation, and that something needs to change so that the dog’s anxiety is reduced.
In the example photo to the right, the sitting dog is concerned about the dog sniffing her hind end. Notice how her nose is pointed towards the camera, but her eyes are focused on the dog behind her. This is typical of the dog who wants to keep an eye on what is happening, but is not comfortable enough to look directly at it.
In addition to the whale eye, the sitting dog’s ears are back and her body is tense, also signifying anxiety about the situation.