Why Does My Dog Nudge Me With His Nose?

why does my dog nudge me with his head

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It’s no secret that our dogs have a unique body language of their own and as good owners, it’s important that we try and understand what they mean when they wag their tails, or when they refuse to look you in the eye.

I’m always trying to be observant of my dog’s most subtle gestures, and I seek answers even to silly sounding questions like, why does my dog nudge me with his nose?

Dogs will nudge you with their nose to communicate with you, and to get your attention. Usually, they’ll be asking for pets or food. Dogs can also push you with their nose because they want to be walked, or played with.  

There are multiple reasons that can explain why your dog is bumping you with their nose, so if you want to learn all of them and find ways to curb this behavior then keep on reading!

Why Does My Dog Push Me With His Nose?

Some explanations on this list are quite straightforward, but one thing is certain, nose bumping can be used in multiple ways.

So, let’s hone our dog knowledge!

Reason 1: They Are Greeting You

Every dog has their own personality and even the way they’ll greet you when you come back from a long day’s work can differ.

Some dogs will run up to you wagging their tail, jumping up and down in excitement, while other dogs will go as far as to headbutt you and paw at you.

Along with all this enthusiastic locomotion, you can expect your dog to bump you with their nose. By nudging your hand or any part of your body when you’re at the door your adorable pup is saying “hi.”

Let’s not forget that this way they’ll also get a good sniff out of you, checking all the possible places you’ve been at!

Reason 2: It’s A Herding Behavior

For most dog owners having a wet dog nose pushing you towards a specific part of the house, or even when you’re out on the street isn’t something new.

Usually, ogs will guide you to a specific spot because they want you to take them out for a walk, or they need you to give them that squeaky toy you had to hide during the night.

All those reasons are quite legit, but for some dogs and certain breeds nose nudging is an instinctive behavior. 

It’s quite possible that your dog belongs to herding breeds, which according to the American Kennel Club, “were developed to gather, herd and protect livestock such as sheep or cattle.”

Herding doesn’t usually happen for attention or because your dog wants to misbehave, but it’s an instinct that is triggered by movement. Among the long list of herding breeds, you’ll find Collies, German Shepherds, various sheepdog breeds, and to my surprise Corgis!

Having this ingrained need to control the movement of other animals means that these herding dogs will also do this to their humans, and other pets in the house. Thankfully you can always train your dog to decrease this behavior and redirect their attention from moving objects by teaching them commands like “leave it” or “watch me.”

Reason 3: They Want Your Attention

Just like a child will pull at your shirt or your hand to get your attention, similarly, a dog can use their nose to poke you with it.

Your doggy might want to distract you from your computer because they’re bored, and they want to play. If you’re laying on the couch or bed you might feel your dog’s nose as they push against your hand trying to borrow under your arm and get some love and cuddles.

Some dogs might hit you with their paw first and if it doesn’t work then they’ll use their nose. Both are definitely normal behaviors that most dogs will use to ask for something and all you have to do is listen.

Reason 4: They Are Showing You Their Love

The same way your dog will nudge you with his nose to get your attention, they’ll nudge you to show you their affection.

In fact, being touched and sniffed by your dog’s nose is the best compliment, because during an experiment researchers found that “when a dog smelled the familiar aroma of his owner, the “reward center” of the brain (caudate nucleus) was activated.”

More so, “the caudate nucleus contains many dopamine receptors and in human brains, like canine brains, it lights up when exposed to pleasurable experiences.”

Pushing their muzzle against you, or your hand often means that their noses will get a good whiff of your personal scent which not only will make them happy but will show you how much they love to be around you!

Reason 5: Your Dog Is Comforting You

Dogs are wonderful companions, but they can also become dear friends that care about your feelings.

This might sound like wishful thinking for someone who’s never had a dog, but studies have shown that “domestic dogs have the capacity for a fundamental form of empathy.”

In the journal, Animal Cognition researchers published that dogs know the difference between people crying and humming, more so dogs responded to crying with submissive behaviors.

Another study done for the journal Learning and Behavior showed that dogs will try to do something to help their owners that felt sad or upset.

If nudging, you with their nose has previously made you laugh, or it made you feel better in the past then your canine friend will repeat this behavior whenever you’re feeling down so they can cheer you up.

So, don’t be surprised if that nose poking ends with some wet dog kisses!

Reason 6: They Want To Be Petted

I think the most endearing and ultimately the favorite way my doggy pokes me with his nose is when he wants to be petted.

No matter where we are, he’ll always find a way to push his little snout into my hand knowing well enough that I’ll give him some thorough pets, and scratch the back of his ears.

Perhaps your dog is similar and the reason why they nudge you with their nose is no other than good old pets and cuddles, which to be fair means we’re reinforcing this behavior.

Reason 7: They Are Responding To You

I don’t know about you but I’m a talkative dog parent.

Of course, if you’re like me then it’s important to try to keep your commands as clear and one-worded as possible, but when there’s no training involved there’s no reason why you can’t converse with your pooch.

They might not have the ability to answer verbally, but grunting, raising their eyes to look at you, wagging their tail, and nudging you with their nose can be their way of talking back.

Especially if you’ve used some of their favorite words, “who’s a good boy?” then they might nudge you even more enthusiastically.

After all, according to a study published in 2018 dogs can understand better dog direct speech that is similar to baby talk which we use when talking to infants.

You might also be surprised at the number of words a dog can become familiar with. The average dog can learn up to 165 words. Rico, a border collie from Germany actually holds the record of understanding more than 200 words.

Reason 8: It’s A Friendly Reminder

Dogs can poke us with their noses to get our attention, but they can also use this method when we’re suddenly distracted.

For example, if you’re in the middle of training, during which you haven’t given a single treat to your obedient pup, then they might nudge your hand anticipating some form of reward.

Dogs also thrive in environments with daily structure, while this doesn’t mean that you have to live your day-to-day life according to a strict routine. In fact, this can actually cause more anxiety and separation anxiety.

Having unexpected shifts in your life is normal, and while dogs enjoy predictability, experiencing changes can also be healthy.

When something unexpended does happen and you suddenly have to move your dog’s scheduled walk or their food bowl is sitting empty when it should’ve been full then your pooch might nudge you with their nose to remind you of your duties.

Just like an alarm clock your dog can push you with their nose to let you know it’s time for you to wake up and take them for a walk.

Reason 9: They Are Nervous

Nose poking can be an innocent behavior, but under certain circumstances, it could be a behavior that’s fueled by negative emotions.

If by poking, you with their nose it feels like your dog is pushing you away then you need to take a closer look at their environment, your dog’s personality, and even your own behavior.

Let’s take a look at your dog’s environment first and possible triggers. If your dog is pushing you when you’re outside at the park, or they choose to sit between your legs, then they might feel nervous around other people or dogs.

Perhaps your dog sensed your own nervousness and fear instead and they’re pushing you because they’re trying to get you away from this stressful situation.

This could also be a hiding or escape behavior. Malcolm Weir, DVM, explains that dogs can move behind their owners, and “they may even nudge their owners to prompt them to move along.”

It’s also possible that your dog feels that your attention is too much, so they might push you with their nose, to ask for some personal space.

Then again it could also be more about your dog’s personality than you or other people and dogs. While most dogs are social beings, some might be naturally more antisocial, or they were never properly socialized as pups.

In this case, training that’s focused on socializing your dog can help reduce this type of stress and possibly their nudging.

Reason 10: They Are Acting Out

This behavior can of course come from a place of submissiveness and fear, but a nose nudge can also be your dog’s way to express dominance.

Usually, dogs will act out to push your boundaries and see what they can get out of you, which could be anything from your attention, to food and toys.

Your dog can also use other behaviors like humping, jumping on you or other people, and even excessive barking.

It’s important to point out that dogs don’t do it out of malice, most of the time we’re the ones reinforcing this behavior by not offering enough training and exercise.

If your dog is using nudging to assert his dominance, and it’s not dealt with properly then it could escalate into something more aggressive, involving nipping, biting, and possibly grabbing your arm with their mouth.

Even a soft bite, no matter how innocent is a bad habit for a dog to have especially if they do it to other people, children, and pets.

Should You Be Worried If Your Dog Keeps Nudging you With His Nose?

There are many beautiful and cute reasons as to why your pup is nudging you with their nose, but excessive nudging can make a dog clingy and distract you from your day-to-day life activities.

If this behavior is rooted in anxiety, or dominance then it’s important to address the situation and take action.

Even if your dog’s nose poking is becoming too much for you and your family then this is still a good enough reason to curb this behavior.

How To Stop Your Dog From Nudging You?

Living with a dog is meant to bring happiness both to you and your doggy so let’s look at all the possible things you can do to change their nose poking behavior if it has become bothersome.

How Did This Behavior Start?

It’s important to pay attention to the context and the circumstances under which your dog nudges you with his nose in order to understand the reason behind this behavior.

If your dog has always been poking you with his nose, it may be hard to remember the first time they exhibited this behavior, but you can still look for the possible triggers.

Perhaps your dog only nudges you when you’re working, or when you are distracted with your guests.

Timing can play a major role because if they do it in the mornings before you feed them perhaps they’ve learned that this will get your attention and the first thing you do when you wake up is actually fill their food bowl.

Dogs that are bored can also start pushing their owners, hoping that this will get them into a playful mood.

For those of you who have only recently discovered your dog using this behavior then figuring out when it started can be easier, as well as seeing whether it’s caused by stress and anxiety.

Don’t Reinforce This behavior

Once you have some idea of why your dog is nudging you with his nose, then it’s time to question and perhaps change your own behavior as well.

Perhaps during all this time, you’ve been rewarding each nose poke and slowly your dog realized that this is their key to getting the attention they want.

It’s not uncommon to indulge our pooches and perhaps after each nudge you gave them a treat or petted them just to calm them down. Slowly your dog became conditioned that this is a behavior that will always have a positive outcome for them, and the rest is history!

Avoid Triggers

Dogs that haven’t been socialized during their puppyhood, or have had traumatic experiences in the past can become really anxious around unknown people, pets, and even environments. but they can also have unique triggers.

So, if your dog starts nudging you with their nose when there is a certain dog around, perhaps a dog breed they don’t like or they get scared of certain sounds like cars traffic, then avoiding these specific triggers can help reduce this behavior.

This is especially helpful during their training, where you can re-introduce them to these triggers but in a safe and controlled environment.

Separation anxiety can also make a dog act clingy, and aggravate their nose nudging whenever you return back home. And while poking your with their nose mightn’t be the worst thing in the world, having a dog that suffers when you’re gon can lead to more destructive behaviors and depression in the long run.

Train Your Dog

Thankfully no matter what causes your dog to nudge you with his nose, whether that’s separation anxiety, an expression of dominance, or lack of socialization, training, and positive reinforcement can help you put a stop to it.

Rewarding desired behaviors with treats, praise, toys or anything else your dog finds rewarding is the key to success and this method is called positive reinforcement.

According to Humane Society, “because the reward makes them more likely to repeat the behavior, positive reinforcement is one of your most powerful tools for shaping or changing your dog’s behavior.”

Training of course is not the only thing you’ll probably need to work on. Spending more quality time with your pooch can help them feel more validated and satisfied with your companionship.

You can choose exercising and games to keep them from getting bored, but also remember to dedicate some of your time to cuddling with them.

If your dog has learned to get what they want by nudging you with their nose then they need to unlearn this habit. But this doesn’t mean you can’t give them what they want, and with consistent training, you can learn when is the right timing to do so and the proper commands you need to reward the “good” behaviors.

Why Does My Dog Poke Other Dogs With His Nose?

Since dogs use their noses to poke us then it’s not surprising that they do it to other dogs as well.

More often than not behaviors like licking other dogs’ ears, or eyes and nudging them is your dog’s way of socializing and it usually helps initiate play.

Of course, if you notice that one of the dogs pushes the other one too hard, their body language seems hostile, and they growl or bark then this is most likely a non-friendly interaction.

It’s also worth noting that if your dog is shy, be mindful of how they react to hyperactive playful dogs that can nudge them non-stop. Not only can it escalate into a fight, but your dog might develop a negative association with that specific dog.

Why Does My Dog Push My Puppy With His Nose?

Introducing a new puppy to your older dog can be scary since you don’t know how they might react. But if you see the older dog nudging the young one with their nose then they’re probably curious and they will try to get a good sniff of the new puppy.

If your dog is not energetic then a puppy can become a nuisance, so pushing it away with his nose can be a way of setting his boundaries. Puppies can also try to trespass these boundaries by pushing the older dog with their nose to initiate play.

As with any dog interaction, even if your dog’s nudging seems friendly, monitoring this behavior and the interaction is very important, especially with puppies that are more fragile and have no idea what social cues and etiquette even means.

Why Does My Dog Bump My Cat With His Nose?

Having both cats and dogs is nothing new for me, and my family has had multiple cats and dogs cohabiting in the same space in complete peace and harmony.

So, it’s safe to say that I’ve seen how dogs will poke cats with their nose to initiate play. If you don’t believe me then look at these two friends.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jN77t7-TnAM

The dog might seem reluctant at first but by the end of this video, he nudges the cat with his nose in the most playful manner!

However, harsh nudging, growling, and a tense posture shouldn’t be overlooked. Large dogs can accidentally hurt a cat, while a cat could also scratch the dog in self-defense causing eye damage.

That’s why you shouldn’t let your dog nudge a cat with his nose when you’re outside because you can’t be sure how the cat or your own dog will react.

Why Does My Dog Push His Food Bowl With His Nose?

I think most of us have seen our dogs push the bowl that’s sitting empty in front of them more than one time. Usually, this means that you’re late with their daily serving and that they’re hungry.

If that’s the case for you and you want to avoid being poked by a hungry dog then getting an automatic feeder like will honestly set your free. Not only does it dispense 1-4 meals per day, but you can also record yourself so your dog can hear you call them before their meal, which means this feeder will receive all the poking from now on!

If on the other hand the food bowl is full, but your dog is still nudging it with his nose then they might not be hungry, and this gesture means that they’ll eat their food later.

For picky eaters poking at their food bowl probably means that they don’t like what’s inside of it. But if you’ve introduced a new brand then perhaps poking this bowl with this new smell means that they’re being curious, maybe even cautious before taking the first bite.

Since I always want to be on the side of caution, whenever I see my dog poking at his food bowl with his nose, I keep an eye on his feeding patterns even more closely.

Small changes can be a sign of illness, and if I notice that he lacks the usual appetite I make sure to get a vet appointment for a quick, just in case, check-up!

Closing Thoughts

Dogs use physical contact and body signals to let us know what they want and how they feel.

A gesture like poking you with their nose can mean so many different things. The soft-touch against your hand with their wet nose can be a call for your loving attention, while a persistent nudge can be caused by their immense enthusiasm or even fear.

As loving dog parents, we need to learn to decipher these nose pokes and have the wisdom to know when this is an innocent behavior or not.

Now it’s your turn to tell us why does your dog nudges you with his nose and if you find it just as endearing as I do!