Has your dog recently been engaging in gentle nose nibbling? You know, those adorable little nibbles and chews they do with their front teeth, sometimes accompanied by a quick lick? My own dog does it too, but I’ve always been curious about the reason behind it. Luckily, I recently had a conversation with a dog behavior specialist who shed some light on the matter. So, let me share with you what they told me, along with some additional research and observations.
Why does my dog like to nibble my nose?
There are several reasons why your dog may engage in this playful biting or licking behavior. Let’s explore them below.
1. Your dog nibbles your nose to initiate play
You may have noticed that dogs often nip at each other’s necks and ears during playtime, without causing any harm. Well, when your dog starts nibbling your nose with their front teeth, it’s similar behavior. They do this to initiate play, as they’ve learned from their puppy days. Gentle bites are a common way for them to kickstart a game or establish their dominance.
2. Your dog nibbles your nose to alleviate teething discomfort
If your furry friend is still a young puppy and going through the teething phase, they’ll seek relief from the discomfort. This instinct drives them to chew on anything they can find, similar to how human babies chomp on teething rings, fingers, or hard biscuits. So, if your nose happens to be within their reach, it’s fair game. However, it’s important to note that letting your nose serve as a teething toy is not a good idea. Encouraging dogs to get too close to faces can lead to future problems. It’s better to provide them with appropriate teething toys to chew on.
3. Your dog nibbles your nose to grab your attention
Dogs always find ways to capture their owner’s attention when they believe it’s playtime. Whether it involves peeing on you (yes, it happens), barking, or bringing you a toy, they have their tactics. Nibbling your nose is just another method for them to garner your attention. It could be a sign that they’re bored or seeking extra affection. Other sneaky attention-seeking tricks include getting under your feet, bringing toys to you, staring at their leash, or nipping at your nose. Dogs know that they’ll get a reaction if they nibble your nose, and sometimes they use it to their advantage.
4. Your dog nibbles your nose when the excitement gets out of hand
During moments of heightened excitement, dogs may become carried away and accidentally nibble your nose just because it happens to be there. However, this can develop into an undesirable habit. Your dog may get overly excited when you arrive home, play with a baby, or engage in rough and tumble activities. These situations may lead to a nose nip, which can be problematic, especially if the reaction is negative or someone gets hurt. Excitement levels can make dogs do things they shouldn’t, and nose-biting is one of them.
5. Your dog nibbles your nose because you’ve encouraged it
If you own a small breed dog, biting or nibbling on your nose may seem harmless, and you might even enjoy it. You might reward them with treats or shower them with affection when they exhibit this behavior. However, if you consistently encourage this from a young age, it can escalate. Other people may not appreciate it when visiting, particularly if your dog is a slobbering Great Dane. Nibbling noses can transition into potentially harmful bites if your dog feels neglected or if excitement levels run too high. While it might be tempting to reward such gentle nibbling as a display of love or communication, it’s best to discourage it to prevent any problems.
What should you do if your dog nibbles your nose?
It’s crucial to teach your dog from a young age that nibbling your nose is not acceptable behavior. Here are some tips to help you address and stop this behavior:
1. Seek proper training from experts
Consider finding a local dog trainer or animal behaviorist who can guide you in training your dog, whether from a young age or if the habit develops later on. These experts possess the experience and expertise to teach both you and your furry companion the appropriate behaviors through proper reinforcement training.
2. Only reward good behavior
Make it clear to your dog that they will only receive rewards for good behavior. Whenever they nibble or bite your nose, refrain from responding or saying anything. Simply walk away from them. By ignoring this behavior, your dog will learn that nose-nibbling is not acceptable.
3. Provide chew toys and bones
Ensure that your dog has plenty of toys and bones to chew on. This is especially important during puppyhood to establish what they are allowed to bite. Make sure your nose is not included on the list of acceptable chew items. Having toys and bones readily available during times when your dog is more prone to nose-nibbling, such as during playful rough and tumble, can redirect their focus and prevent them from biting your nose.
4. Give your dog the attention and love they need
Your dog craves attention. They feel secure and loved when their owner acknowledges them. Therefore, make sure you engage in regular play sessions, take them for walks, and give them cuddles. However, it’s important to strike a balance because your dog also needs to understand that they can’t have constant attention. By providing them with sufficient love and care, you can discourage them from resorting to unhealthy habits to seek your attention.
In conclusion, while it may be endearing to receive small love bites from your dog, nose-nibbling can become problematic. Depending on the reason behind it, your reaction may vary. However, if you suspect that this behavior could pose a risk or become an issue, it’s best to address it promptly. If left unchecked, pups may grow up thinking that such behavior is acceptable, and there will undoubtedly be times when it isn’t. Remember, allowing your dog’s mouth near your face always carries a certain degree of risk.