Dogs and their noses! Dogs have always used their noses every day to assist them with exploring the world. The sniffing and searching aspect is just part of their nature. But when a dog uses their nose to nudge you what does it mean? DOG NUDGING NOSE!!!
Many dogs, like my dog Fergus use their nose to push, nudge, or poke as an action or behaviour. When a dog does this, it’s important to understand what the action means. Yes it is a COLD, WET feeling, that can catch you off guard, but it goes beyond that.
OK let’s get started and break down this action or nose nudging behaviour and why it can be a bit confusing.
There are many reasons that dogs nudge you with their nose. Some of it is learned behaviour and some of it is pure instinct.
One of the main reasons that a dog will nudge you with that wet moist nose of theirs, is to say “HELLO”. It is their way of communicating with you. Maybe you have been gone for a while and when you come home, they greet you with a push of the nose. Think of it as an action that says, “HOWDY MAMA, BOY I MISSED YOU!”
Other times, you may appear upset or sad and your dog picks up on that. They may just come up with a nudge, to let you know that they are getting the feeling you may need a little support. A dog can seriously sense when we are having a tough day, and that nudge may have made you smile in the past, so for them it is a positive way that will hopefully make you feel better. It is this type of action from our dogs that we should embrace and feel proud that we have such an amazing bond with our dogs.
My boy Fergus sure understands this action. Anytime I am showing anger or sadness, he will simply push my hand with his nose, and I instantly know he is just telling me “IT’S OK MOM, I AM HERE FOR YOU!” This falls under the pure instinct realm of dog behaviour.
Get your attention
Dogs will often use their nose as a way to nudge you for attention. This would be considered a learned behaviour. Dogs are so smart, that if you even one time have been nudged and then pet them, they will quickly catch on to that. This can then become a way for them to say hey “I WANT THIS” from you.
So no matter what it is they want, they can nudge you for reasons like :
- they want you to play with them by bringing a toy with a nudge
- letting you know they want food
- maybe they want to come sit next to you
- wanting you to go for a walk
- or something simple like hey pay attention to me
All of this type of behaviour can be handled with consistency and training. If your dog is just exhibiting one of these actions, then it may not be something that needs to be addressed, but if it is constant and all of them, then that is a different story.
Fergus’s habit from this list is with his toys. He will pick up a toy, and if you are standing or sitting, he will come up to you and push your hand, leg or anything as away to say hey I want to play. LOOK AT MY BABY!!
We generally find this pretty cute, so it’s not something that we feel the need to stop. Now in saying that….timing is everything, so if we are cooking or doing something and he is constantly doing it, we stop the behaviour with a stern NO command and make him go sit or lay down. This has worked very well for us.
We often see dogs together where one dog will nudge the other with their nose. Often it is nudging the other dogs nose or mouth area. This is a way that they show they are accepting the other dog or what we say is a sign of submission.
Dog to dog nose nudging is a way of them introducing themselves to other dogs as a means of showing their friendship. This is also a way for dogs to avoid getting into a confrontation. Dogs often engage in this type of submissive body language to simply keep the peace.
Sometimes the nudge can also be used with other dogs as away of herding them like sheep. It is pretty cute to watch actually.
Like all dog behaviour or actions, some of them can be a way showing dominance. Obviously dominance is not something that we ever want to encourage with our dogs.
This type of nose nudging can often happen and be a way your dog is trying to exert dominance over you, by getting you to do what they want you to do.
If your dog’s nose nudging is a show of dominance it is often accompanied with things like:
excessive barking, mounting other dogs, blocking your movement in a certain direction, guarding things like their food or just signs of overall dominant behaviour.
All of these actions can be paired together or maybe your dog is exhibiting 1 or 2 or these behaviours. This will tell you that this type of nudging is dominant and not good.
Working to stop this type of behaviour boils down to a need for training and behaviour modification. This type of actions from your dog if left to continue, can quickly escalate to a situation that can be even harder to stop.
A dog nudging nose is something that many people find a bit annoying. Some find the wet and cold nose pushed up against you as behaviour they don’t want.
Finding out where your dogs nose nudging behaviour fits in on of these categories will determine whether you think it is OK or not! Is it a small little action that happens once in a while, or is it bordering on unacceptable in your eyes.
Obviously if it fits in the dominant category, then that behaviour is NEVER OK!
Each dog parent needs to decide for themselves if this nose nudging is something you don’t mind and are OK to let continue.
Personally, our Fergus uses his nose for innocent little behaviours, that we actually find quite adorable. The thing about him being our dog, when other people are around, they can and have found his nose annoying. I say to that “TOO BAD!” He is our baby! Much like anything else, everyone knows that we have a dog, and if you don’t like him, then don’t come over.
Animals often do things that are unique to their personality and Fergus’s nose nudging is not something I have ever had in any other dog, so it has been a learning experience for us. Part of why we don’t find the nose nudging an issue, is he is such a sweet and affection boy, that his intentions with his nose are just part of who he is. It truly is his way of expressing himself. I am not about to change that.
One thing that we are going to start doing is using dog nose work exercises that can help him curb the nose in a way that gives him a job. I have found some great tips about how to start these exercises. Here is a video that I found that breaks down a step by step way of getting started.
I hope you have enjoyed reading my post. Like everything, I share, I am not a dog trainer or an expert, but I pride myself in sharing all things that I have found helpful with my own dog.