Last Updated on: October 30, 2023
Yes, we’re talking about the endearing act of dogs licking their owners’ noses. But why do they engage in this seemingly odd habit? Is it a sign of affection, communication, or a canine quirk?
Let’s uncover the reasons behind this adorable, if sometimes bewildering, display of affection. So, read on if you’ve ever wondered, “Why does my dog lick my nose?”
Table of Contents
- Understanding Dog Habits: Possible Reasons for Nose Licking
- How To Stop Nose Licking by Canines
Understanding Dog Habits: Possible Reasons for Nose Licking
A pet owner wishes for a social and playful pet. However, if playtime leaves you with pet saliva all over your face, you know it’s time to find a solution.
One of the common questions is, why does my pet lick me even when I ask it to stop or push it away gently? You may have tried to walk away or initiate a game to make it stop, but none of those tricks have worked. Here are some possible explanations for persistent nose licking from dogs:
Affection and Bonding
Every dog owner wants to have a close connection with their pet. Hence, they do all sorts of activities together.
When dogs lick their owners, it can be a sign of affection and a way to strengthen the bond. Dogs often use this habit to show love and establish a connection with their human companions.
They mimic the nurturing routine of their mothers as puppies. You see, their mothers do this to clean and care for them. As such, it may be a habit that stays with your pet forever.
One day, sit and observe your pet. You’ll notice a lot of dog licking as it grooms its paws and face. Hence, your pet might be attempting to groom you as if you were another member of its pack.
It’s a practice rooted in evolutionary history when packs of canines helped keep each other clean and free from parasites. Your bond is so strong that it sees you as one of them. So, how do you break this bond and still be best friends with your pet?
Dogs are masters at getting our attention, and this is an effective way to make you give them your time. Hence, your pet may lick your nose to initiate playtime or interaction with you. It knows this is one of the ways to get a fast reaction from you.
The act may have started gradually, but you didn’t notice. It’s now a habit and the go-to way to make you play with your pet.
Taste and Scent
A dog’s brain has over 120 million smell receptors, while humans have about 5 million. Much of their brains detect odors. Therefore, when dogs lick their owners, it may be an attempt to identify their scents.
Alternatively, the pet tries to taste traces of things you’ve touched recently. It uses its sense of taste and smell to explore and understand its environment. Maybe you have a cold with nasal discharge, and your pet wants to understand what’s happening to your face.
Comfort and Soothing
It can be a self-soothing habit for your pet, and it may extend this habit to you when it feels anxious or stressed. This practice releases endorphins in dogs, making them feel more relaxed and secure. So, your pet may lick your nose, looking for comfort from your presence.
In a canine’s social hierarchy, submission often includes behaviors like licking the more dominant members of the pack.
If your pet perceives you as the leader or alpha in the household, it may lick your nose as a sign of respect and submission. Watch how it behaves with other canines and see it repeats the same habit around you.
Habit or Learned Behavior
Sometimes, dogs develop habits or learned behaviors that don’t necessarily have a specific purpose but are more a result of repetition.
If your pet has received positive feedback or appreciation for doing something to you or with you in the past, it may continue doing it. It becomes a dog behavior because these pets are creatures of routine and association.
It’s important to note that while this is a natural habit for dogs, obsessive or excessive licking can sometimes indicate underlying health issues, anxiety, or other behavioral problems.
If it has become problematic or if you have concerns, it’s a good idea to consult with a veterinarian or a professional trainer to address the issue appropriately.
Below is a comprehensive list of solutions.
How To Stop Nose Licking by Canines
Dogs lick each other from their puppy days. Once they acquire this dog behavior, they do the same to you for the reasons above.
It’s not always a good idea for dog owners to encourage this habit because a pet’s saliva may contain harmful bacteria. If you want to discourage your pet from doing this, you can use the following strategies:
Redirect the Habit
When your pet starts doing this, gently redirect its attention to a more appropriate habit. For example, you can offer it a toy or treat to chew on instead. You can train it to sit or offer a paw when it wants your attention.
As such, it learns to associate positive behaviors with your interaction. Redirect the habit consistently, and it’ll stop invading your personal space. On top of that, reward and praise your pet when it performs this alternative habit.
If it does this to get comfort from you, find alternative ways to make it feel safe and protected around you.
Train a “No Lick” Command
Teach your pet a command like “no lick” or “enough.” Use this command consistently until it associates it with the specific dog behavior. Further, make the unlearning process fun. For instance, reward it with praise and treats when it stops and follows your command.
Consistent training can help your pet understand your expectations.
The change may take a while, especially if you’ve always been playful when it touches your nose and now want to issue stern commands for it to stop. However, you have a strong bond, so it’ll listen to you.
Ignore the Behavior
If your pet licks your nostrils for you to notice it, try to ignore it completely. Turn away, cross your arms, or even leave the room briefly. This act can tell your pet that excessive licking doesn’t get the desired response and may lead it to try other ways to engage with you.
It’ll take a while to get used to treating your pet this way, but it’s one of the permanent solutions to excessive dog nose nudges.
Maintain Good Hygiene
If your pet is persistent, ensure your nostrils are clean and dry, without nasal discharge. Sometimes, residual scents or tastes can attract your dog’s interest. To know why it’s always going for your face, analyze the times your pet is really into this habit because that’ll say a lot about your hygiene.
For instance, if you get more dogs nose nudges when you get back indoors or after meals, your pet probably wants to explore the scents on your face. Thus, keeping yourself clean may reduce the pet’s inclination to focus on your nostrils.
Consult a Professional Trainer or Behaviorist
If the habit continues despite your efforts to discourage it, consider seeking help from a professional trainer or behaviorist. They can provide personalized guidance and techniques to address the specific reasons behind your dog’s habit and create a tailored modification plan.
Remember that consistency and patience are necessary when changing your dog’s actions. Always use positive reinforcement methods. Avoid punishment because it can lead to anxiety or confusion.
With time and effort, you can help your pet understand the habits you expect and reduce its reliance on smelling your nostrils.
Use Bitter Sprays or Deterrents
This solution is last on the list because you should try it when everything else fails. Some dogs dislike the taste of bitter sprays or deterrents designed for this purpose. You can apply a pet-safe bitter spray to any area you don’t want your pet to touch.
Consequently, it quickly learns to associate the unpleasant taste with the habit and stop doing it.
A dog licking its owner isn’t just a random act of affection. It’s a multi-faceted gesture consisting of instinctual behaviors, social cues, and deep emotional connections with their human companions.
These licks tell a story: expressing love, seeking attention, communicating its needs, or simply returning the favor for all the care and attention it receives. They remind dog owners of the unique bond with their four-legged friends.
Hence, as a dog owner, embrace this quirky habit. If you find your pet’s habits excessive, there are ways to tame this habit without ruining your heartwarming relationship.
Is it safe for my dog to lick me?
Dog nose licks are safe generally, but it’s essential to discourage dog licking to prevent infections from bacteria in your pet. Some of the bacteria in dog saliva are harmful.
Why does my dog lick my nose only and not others in the family?
Your pet might have a unique bond with you or have learned that licking your nose gets a positive response, making it their preferred habit for interaction.
Why does my pet keep trying to lick me in the mouth?
A canine may try to lick the dog owner due to the scent and taste of food particles or simply as an attempt to interact closely with them.