My furry friend is all about physical contact. When he’s not snuggled up next to me, he’s pawing at my leg. Sometimes, he even gives my nose a playful nibble or rubs his snout where he shouldn’t. But let me tell you, there’s one thing that just gives me the creeps—when he licks inside my nose! It’s just too bizarre! Is this his quirky way of showing affection?
Why Does My Dog Lick inside My Nose?
It’s not the first time I’ve experienced a dog licking inside my nose. Whenever I hold a puppy, they dive straight for my nose. Next time you’re out walking your dog, observe how they lick each other’s noses too!
1. Instinctual Behavior
All creatures, including humans, are driven by instincts. However, dogs are particularly good at following their instincts. One of these instincts entails licking up your nose.
From the moment puppies are born, their mother licks their noses to clear away birth debris and stimulate their breathing. This licking behavior not only helps keep the puppies clean but also serves as a form of nurturing. Naturally, puppies learn from their mother’s example and start licking her nose. They may even lick the noses of their littermates.
This instinctual behavior can also be observed in wild dog puppies, which lick their mother’s nose to trigger regurgitation of food. So, it’s not surprising that domesticated puppies display this behavior too. Have you ever noticed how puppies tend to target your nose and lick it? It’s their natural inclination.
2. Seeking Attention
Now that you understand that puppies lick noses due to instinct, you may be wondering why your mature dog is keeping up the habit. Besides being instinctually driven, licking your nose is also a way for your dog to seek attention.
Dogs are masters at getting your attention whenever they’re feeling neglected. And one surefire way to achieve this is by licking up your nose. I watched my brother the other day as his dog was busy licking his nose, and they were both having a good laugh. Who knew our dogs could be such expert manipulators?
3. An Expression of Love and Affection
Okay, yes, your dog may use licking as a manipulation tactic. But keep in mind that it’s also a way for them to demonstrate how much they adore and love you. It’s like the kisses you shower them with all over their face. So when your dog licks your nose, think of it as their way of giving you a wet and slobbery kiss.
4. Licking and Smelling Go Hand in Paw
Licking is instinctive for dogs and serves various purposes. While humans rely more on their eyesight to perceive the world, dogs employ their tongues to “see” and “smell” (though they do use their noses for smelling as well). So when your dog sniffs your face, they’re naturally inclined to give it a lick. This curious behavior helps them gather valuable information, especially when you’ve just returned home after being out. They’re interested in knowing every detail of what you’ve been up to.
You may have also noticed dogs attempting to lick babies. However, it’s not safe for newborns as the saliva can be harmful to their developing immune systems. If you’ve recently enjoyed a delicious meal, your dog may lick your nose simply because they can detect the tantalizing scent. They’ll happily give your entire face a thorough licking in an attempt to pinpoint the source of the aroma. They might even hope for a taste of the food!
When dogs lick, it’s their way of using their sense of smell through their noses. Somehow, their tongues enhance the smells and relay the information they need.
5. Excitement or Boredom
Your dog’s excessive licking could be fueled by their excitement upon seeing you. After being apart all day, as soon as you walk through the door, they go wild with joy. They might run around in circles, jump up on you (not the best behavior!), or if you pick them up for a cuddle, they just can’t resist licking your nose uncontrollably.
Playtime can also trigger this enthusiastic licking. Your dog might resort to licking your nose because they simply can’t contain their excitement. On the flip side, your dog may also lick your nose out of boredom when they’re frustrated that you’re lounging on the couch instead of engaging in activities with them.
If you notice your dog exhibiting unusual licking behavior, such as compulsively licking the floor, it could be a cause for concern and may indicate an underlying issue. Try to determine if they only lick your nose during specific instances. Identifying whether it’s related to heightened excitement or sheer boredom allows you to take appropriate action.
6. A Sign of Submissiveness
Dogs often lick another dog’s nose as a gesture of submission, which you may observe during walks in the park. When your dog licks your nose, they could be displaying their submission and acknowledging your role as the pack leader. Additionally, if you’re feeling angry or upset, your dog might try to lick your nose as a calming gesture or out of fear.
Should You Allow Your Dog to Lick Your Nose?
Is it harmless to let your dog lick your nose or the noses of visiting children? Most of the time, it’s not an issue unless you have a drooling Bulldog—then things can get messy and unpleasant. However, there are potential downsides to letting your dog lick your nose due to the bacteria present in their saliva. Personally, I’d discourage it.
Moreover, if your dog continuously licks your nose or doesn’t respond to your cues to stop, it can become a problem. Contrary to popular belief, dogs’ mouths are not as clean as we’d like to think. Similar to human mouths, dogs’ mouths also harbor bacteria. The next time your dog licks your nose, they could be passing on something less than pleasant.
Generally, dog saliva is harmless and poses no threat to your health about 90% of the time. However, if your immune system is weakened, you may find yourself falling sick. Bacteria from your dog’s saliva can easily enter your nose, mouth, and eyes through their membranes. Some dogs might even attempt to lick your eyes! Additionally, allowing your dog to continually lick your nose increases the risk of them biting your face or potentially biting visiting children. What initially seems like innocent nose licking can escalate if not properly managed.
How to Curb Your Dog’s Nose Licking
Often, nose licking in adult dogs becomes a learned behavior rather than instinct-driven. This occurs when you unintentionally reinforce the behavior by laughing or giving affectionate responses when your dog licks your nose.
To discourage this behavior, it’s essential to stop providing positive reinforcement. One effective approach is to ignore your dog or walk away when they start licking your nose. Ensure that they receive ample attention and affection from you to prevent any attention-seeking behaviors. Keep excitement levels under control and combat boredom by engaging your dog in stimulating activities. Distraction techniques can also divert their attention away from your nose.
When all else fails, consulting your veterinarian or an animal behaviorist can provide guidance and assistance in training your dog to stop licking your nose.
Personally, I’m not a fan of my dog licking inside my nose. It feels odd, and I’ve witnessed what else my dog licks and puts in his mouth… so it’s definitely a no from me!
Image in header licensed via Storyblocks.com.