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Best friends are great, but they are even better when they are furry, have four legs, and have a heart full of joy! Dogs can light up our lives in so many different ways, but we can only wish to understand the thoughts and feelings behind their actions.
You may come home after a long day and plop down on your couch with your pup following close behind. He might not ask how your day was and say how happy he is to see you again, but he will definitely show you!
One way dogs can connect with you is a (rather odd) habit of burying their head in you. But why do they do this?
Your dog buries his head in you mostly because they want comfort from you or they love you! They might also do this because they sense you are sick or upset, they want to mark their scent, or they have separation anxiety. While it is weird to experience, head-burying is usually nothing to worry about.
The behavior of head-burying is ultimately a way of communicating for your dog, no matter the reason. Though sometimes it might be tricky to discern what exactly those reasons are for your pup!
First, let’s look at what exactly your dog’s behavior looks like to make sure your pup is just burying his head in you and isn’t actually pressing his head onto anything- an important distinction to know!
After that, we will check out the possible reasons why your dog buries his head into you!
Difference Between Head-Pressing And Head-Burying
It is important to understand the difference between these two behaviors, as head pressing is an action done by dogs in pain or with a serious medical condition. How can we see that difference?
Well, it is concerning if you witness your dog pressing his head into a wall, the floor, or a stable object (it is not normally into you but still possible). This is almost always due to your pup suffering from a serious illness from forebrain dysfunction. There could be multiple reasons such as strokes, brain tumors, brain swelling, and several others; read this article for a full list of possible causes and their descriptions.
If your dog does the head-burying behavior, it is most likely going to be into a human or a squishy, comfortable object like a blanket or the sofa. They will not sit there pressing their head into you or these objects for long as they will likely be shimmying their head around a bit and settling down soon thereafter!
Please make sure you rule out the possibility of your dog pressing his head onto flat, stationary objects, as this can be one of the worst signs to ignore. Once you know this behavior isn’t caused by a neurological ailment, take a look at the reasons below that might explain why your pup buries his head into you!
Why Your Dog Buries His Head Into You
With the background information out of the way, let’s take a closer look at each reason!
Reason 1: You’re Upset Or Sick
Have you been feeling under the weather lately? Have you been going through a rough patch in life where work or finances haven’t been ideal? You may be able to hide these feelings from your friends and family, but not your dog!
Over the past 30,000 years of co-existence with dogs, they have picked up on a few human-like communication skills, one being the ability to read human emotions! Scientists determined in 2019 that this emotional contagion was present between a dog and its owner, even indicating that dogs’ heart rates changed based on their comprehension of their owners’ stress!
Not only can our pups recognize when our moods change to something upsetting, but their bodies react to the stimuli which allow them to give you the comfort you need to lift your mood!
Your pup may end up offering support to you in the form of their face being buried in your body! English is not a language that dogs can speak, so they will use other methods of communication such as physical touch.
And studies show that your dog is more likely to approach you if you are crying versus if you are humming or even just talking. This physical act of empathy is done in an attempt to comfort you and ease your suffering.
Our pups want to let us know that they are here for us and don’t want to see us upset as that causes them emotional distress as well! They are empathetic creatures that just want to protect us from pain in one of the only ways they know how: burying their head as deep as possible into you until you snap out of it!
Reason 2: They Are Scared And/Or Want Comfort
Maybe there’s a thunderstorm happening, or it’s a holiday and people are setting off fireworks. Maybe you just brought home some friends or a new partner for the first time, and your pooch is on the shy side. If you see him rush to you and bury his head into your shoulder, armpit, or chest, then it is likely that he is scared!
When dogs (and humans) have fear, it is only natural for them to lean on something that makes them feel safe. And while we might choose cuddling in a blanket, our bed, or (personally) a hoodie when anxiety hits, your dog might actually lean on you!
It comes as no surprise when our pooches want to rely on us for safety and comfort because we are essentially their sanctuary. We give them food, water, toys, a home, and most of all, love and affection!
You’ll probably experience some head-burying into your body parts if your dog has fear or is stressed about something going on. He knows that you are his protector, so he will want to feel close to you and get the reassurance he needs through your resulting pets and kind words!
Even if your pup isn’t scared of his surroundings at the moment, he might still bury his head into you because he simply wants comfort.
Dogs enjoy their owner’s scent and interestingly enough, think you smell good! And newer research has found that dogs use their sense of smell as their primary way to identify the world around them. By shoving their head into your armpit crevice, your pooch will get a good whiff of your scent that has been accumulating all day!
This alone will give them a sense of relief and comfort as they recognize your smell and associate it with all of those happy feelings toward you. And before they know it, some of that stress is replaced with peace!
Reason 3: They Want To Get Their Scent On You
So, your dog either wants your smell on them, or they want to get their smell on you! Easy enough, right?
This reason may be harder to conclude than the other, slightly more sensible reasons. Let’s talk about the likelihood of your dog shoving his head into your body to get his scent on you.
There is another way for your pup to mark you as his territory, and it doesn’t involve lifting a leg or a lingering smell of expressed anal glands (seriously, you never forget this putrid smell)!
Dogs also have various types of glands on their face, paws, ears, and along their body that release smells specific to your pooch. To read more about your dog’s skin glands and what is normal, check out this article!
We are focused specifically on the eccrine glands, which are a type of sweat gland that are part of your pooch’s paws and nose. While helping to keep these areas moist and healthy, they also emit pheromones that can be traced back to your dog.
What is interesting is that for every dog, these scents will differ based on their individual body chemistry, letting other pups know who exactly they are dealing with!
Maybe you’ve visited another dog at a friend’s house, in a store, or at work? If the answer is yes and your pooch feels violated by your infidelity, he may want to get his scent back on you to leave the other dogs in the dust. And for your pup, burying and wriggling his head into you will give his sniffer the best chance at releasing his scents all over you. This is likely the reason why your pup rubs against you with his body, too!
He wants you to wear his scent as cologne, have you all to himself, and remind you that there is no better best friend to have than him!
Reason 4: They Have Separation Anxiety
Checking your dog’s reasoning behind head-burying is imperative when dealing with a possible case of separation anxiety. Does your pooch stuff his face into your chest, stomach, or neck right before it’s time for bed or when you are saying your goodbyes before work?
Though separation anxiety is preventable with proper socialization and training, dogs at any age can develop this problem and sometimes (seemingly) out of nowhere. It is important to know what destructive behaviors come along with separation anxiety so you can determine if it is impacting your furry friend.
If your pup is overly attached to you and can’t bear thinking about being without you, then it is very possible that he will result to burying his head into you.
Not only does your scent provide him comfort from the emotional distress, but he is getting as physically close to you as he possibly can. With this closeness, it will stop you from getting up and moving away and probably result in some pets and cuddles from you too!
And once you reinforce this behavior, your pooch is likely to do it again in the chance to keep you nearby for longer and forget about work!
Because of this reason’s correlation to timing, you may not see your pup trying to bury his head into you if you’ve been sitting on the couch all day having a movie marathon with him. Instead, it will be times when you have just arrived home, you’ve been busy in another room, you’re getting ready to go to bed, or you’re about to leave the house.
Pay attention to when your pup likes to bury his head into your body as well as any other behaviors that he does while you’re away from him. If both raise your eyebrow, then it is time to take him to the vet to determine if separation anxiety is at play. There you will discuss some options for treatment. In the meantime, try some at-home studied tactics to try and ease your pup’s anxiety!
Reason 5: They Really Love You!
I wanted to save the best reason for last because it is a great thing to know that your dog loves you! They just show it in sometimes rather comical ways.
If no alarms sound as to why your dog buries his head into one or more of your body parts, then it could just be his love language. Some pups will lay on you, some will lean on you, some will lick your face, and some might even wrap their paws around you! But, yours just stuffs his face into your armpit or belly. How delightful.
This also ties back to how you smell because your dog favors your smell! They find comfort in your scent, and it reminds them of you, of course. Your company is appreciated and your pooch wants you to know that, which is an extra special feeling.
Now, there are critics on whether dogs actually “love” or not, with scientists describing dogs as social animals motivated by emotion that just want to do their best to protect and support their group. Even though this is likely true and makes sense, you can’t tell me that you look into your pup’s eyes and not see the love radiating from them!
And there is science that can back a dog loving its human. Check out this video that describes even more ways that your dog shows his love for you and some you probably wouldn’t expect!
Should I Be Worried By This Behavior?
The majority of the time you see your dog burying his head in you, you should not be worried! There are only a few instances where this behavior may be concerning and need attending to.
Make sure you rule out the behavior of head-pressing, as sometimes it can look very similar to your dog just trying to bury his head into you or another object. If you have even the slightest concern or second-guessing about his activity, make an appointment with your vet! It is better to be safe and rule out any serious medical issues.
The only other times you have reason to worry over head-burying is if your canine companion is suffering from separation anxiety, general fear over situations (like fireworks or a social gathering at home), or pain that your pup is feeling.
Try to determine the time of day your pooch does this behavior most often and any other factors that could be contributing to it. Once you find the reasons why you can start working towards a resolution!
When your dog buries his head in you, take it as a compliment! While there are many reasons for this action, most of them come from a loyal pup that wants to feel close to you.
Your pooch may want to get a good whiff of your smell because they are grateful for you and find you comforting. They could also want to give you comfort if they sense your emotions are negative or if you are feeling under the weather. If they’re protective of you, they could bury their head into your body to mark you with their scent!
Head-burying can also be a result of fear, worry, pain, or separation anxiety. Notice your surroundings and other factors that could be contributing to your pup’s actions to know when to take the next step.
If you are able to recognize that this behavior may come from your dog’s distress, then you can better resolve these feelings and get your pup back into a place of peace and happiness.
Otherwise, enjoy those sniffer-wriggling acts as much as possible and know your dog fully trusts you!