There’s nothing like having your dog come up and nuzzle you out of a clear blue sky. They seemingly do it for no other reason than to be close to you and share some affection. But is that really all that’s going on? Maybe not.
Licensed family dog mediator Viviane Arzoumanian is the founder of PumpkinPups Dog Training. Arzoumanian says that nuzzling starts at birth when a mother dog uses her nose and tongue to move puppies around, to help stimulate waste, and to clean them up. She also sniffs her babies and identifies each of them by their individual smells. Eventually, the mini furballs begin to pick up on this tender and loving behavior.
“Puppies use their noses and paws to get onto a nipple to nurse and to push other puppies out of the way,” Arzoumanian notes. “Their sense of smell is an important part of their rooting around with their noses to find what they need. These are instinctual survival behaviors that continue to be part of a dog’s repertoire of communication and information gathering behaviors.”
While dogs frequently nuzzle other dogs, one of the reasons your dog nuzzles you is to send a message about how they’re feeling. This could include transmitting what he or she wants or what they need.
“Lots of dogs use their noses to push at our hands or arms. They may be asking for a range of things, from affection to dinner to play or to go for a walk. Sometimes it takes some trial and error on the part of humans to figure out what the dog wants,” Arzoumanian says. “If we pet them and they’re not satisfied and keep pushing us with their noses, we have to try some other things, like offering to take them on a walk, playing fetch with them, or anything else they may need or want.”
Arzoumanian adds that you don’t have to try tons of different things when your dog starts nuzzling you. If we simply take the time to pick up on their cues, it can lead to a “much more harmonious existence with our beloved canine companions.”
For instance, giving you a nudge that grows in intensity with each push of their snout may (and often does) mean that they’re bored and want to play. In other words, you’re just not paying enough attention to them. It could also be that you forgot to feed them or that they want you to open the door to go outside.
Usually, your dog will sit in front of the door as a sign. When that isn’t working, they may begin to whine. The next step might be to come looking for you to give you the snout nudge. Basically, they’re saying “listen up!”
Arzoumanian warns that excessive nuzzling might also be a sign of anxiety, particularly if your BFF won’t stop or just won’t settle down. If you’ve noticed these types of mannerisms or other unusual behavior, it might be time to consult your veterinarian or a certified animal behavior expert. Your vet should be able to point you to one.