Dogs are our best friends and constant companions. However, one thing’s for sure – they sure do the darndest things! From the zoomies to constantly pawing at a concrete floor, most of their strange, perplexing behaviors can be attributed to their natural instincts.
If you see a dog happily chasing around a ball or bowl with its snout, you might be curious about what your dog is up to. Remember that dogs’ noses are 40 times larger than human noses and that they have 300 million smell receptors in their nose. So, what effect does this have on the dog?
Your dog may simply be in a curious phase and is using its nose to observe the environment around it, which may include nudging. Your dog may have detected something fascinating on the table like spilled food or crumbs.
The curious period is a little unusual because a puppy’s curious phase usually lasts between 5 to 7 weeks. However, another school of thought believes nose nudging is a symptom of demand conditioning. Keep in mind that dogs are still animals, and they are more naturally insatiable, expecting the world to work in their favor! Come learn why your dog nudges objects with its nose!
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So Why Do Dogs Nudge Things With Their Nose?
Many dogs engage in the unusual activity of nose-nudging, whether it’s pushing their food bowl around before supper or nosing their leg on every walk. Dog owners worldwide are curious as to why their dog nudges objects with his nose, with reactions ranging from amusement to concern.
Your Dog Is Trying To Move Something
Dogs lack the dexterity that we humans have and they are unable to execute a simple acts that we often take for granted like picking something up and relocating it.
Short of pawing at something, the other way is for your dog to use their sensitive snouts to shift stuff around.
If you notice your dog playing with his favorite ball, not only will he swat it around with his paws, but he will also flick it around with his nose.
If your dog’s nose-nudging appears to be generalized across many objects (does he nudge his bed, bowl, and ball? ), he may nudge things since it’s the simplest way for him to move them.
Your Dog Is Trying To Communicate
Dogs sometimes nudge other humans and animals with their snouts to provoke a response or assert their dominance.
Your dog nudges things with their nose because it’s a means for them to make friends, receive attention, greet, soothe, remind, request, herd, or show affection. They may be responding to something you’ve said.
While your dog poking his nose in your face is utterly adorable, chances are, your dog’s main objective isn’t trying to be cute but instead, to convey a message to you. From a submissive “I’m yours” to an attention-seeking “pat me!”, your dog might be trying to tell you something.
They usually want to be caressed, played with, walked, and fed. Most pet owners understand what they are after most of the time, but not all circumstances are so straightforward.
Some dogs might even sense that you are stressed or down and need comforting. Their nudging can be a way to say, “Awww, I’m here for you”.
At times, they may nudge a toy towards you and be simply saying, “Hi, want to play?”
Dogs frequently use their noses in the same way people use their hands. “I’m starving!” they’ll nudge a food bowl and look at you expectantly.
Your Dog Is Herding!
Breeds with strong herding instincts like Australian Shepherds and Border Collies often nudge cattle in the direction that they want them to go.
There’s no difference with their hoo-mans! A nudge on your calves might just mean that your dog is directing you to go a certain way, or if their family is in separate rooms, they might just be wanting you to be together.
When dogs push their snouts up against other dogs, it is a way of telling them “you’re the boss”, and ingratiating themselves.
They are trying to avoid a fight or confrontation, and hopefully make a new friend. Submissive dogs will nuzzle a dominant dogs mouth and muzzles in addition to licking them to placate their new friend.
Your Dog Is Bored
When a dog gets bored, he may nudge a ball or his food dish around so that it appears to be alive, especially if the food bowl starts rattling and making a bunch of noise.
Chasing something around activates the prey drive, and a bored dog might engage in strange behaviors like chasing his tail or nudging his objects around for a good ol’ chase.
Your Dog Has Poor Vision
Dog parents might misinterpret an unintentional bump as an intended nudge. If your dog is old or has vision problems, he is likely to have difficulty seeing and will consequently misjudge the position of things.
A careless bump at the back of the calf or a wet nose suddenly and unexpectedly thrust upon you might be simply that, a mistake.
Your Dog Is Hungry Or Thirsty
When your dog’s food or water bowl is empty, they might push it about to draw your attention, trying to alert you to refill the bowl after hearing the metal rattling against the floor.
While this is an often harmless, helpful way of communicating what he needs, your dog might start to get the idea that if he clangs the food bowl around, you might refill his food.
If this is undesired behavior, always make sure there’s freshwater available and only feed at allocated meal times, never when the bowl is clanging around the house.
Simply ignore the behavior, and over time, your dog will learn that pushing his food bowl around will get him nowhere.
If the behavior persists, correct him with a firm “No” and remove the offending bowl.
How To Correct Nudging If Necessary
While some nudging is natural and adorable, it can get annoying if your dog nudges you or other objects excessively and constantly wants attention. Imagine a clanging food bowl in the middle of the night or being woken up constantly with your dog that wants attention.
Some nudging is an excellent indicator of your dog’s needs, especially during critical times, such as when the dog wants to go out for a potty break.
However, if your dog is getting overly pushy, nip the problem in the bud and correct the behavior.
You can dissuade excessive nudging by saying a firm “No”, only giving attention when he doesn’t ask for it, or ignoring the behavior entirely and removing yourself from the scene.
Nose Rubbing and Nose Nudging
It is crucial to differentiate between nose nudging and nose rubbing. While the casual nose rub on the carpet or a couch is simply your dog wanting to get a good scratch, persistent nose rubbing can indicate a more serious problem like skin allergies, parasites, or infections.
If your dog has suddenly begun rubbing his nose on home furniture and his nose appears inflamed, dry, or even bloody, off to the vet’s you go! They are the professionals and will be able to determine what is wrong with your dog and treat it accordingly.
In addition, nose rubbing can also be an instinctive behavior, deep-rooted in the old ways when wolves used to roll in the remains of freshly killed and eaten prey in victory.
Train Your Dog To Stop Nudging Objects
Thankfully, no matter what leads your dog to nudge things with his nose, whether it’s separation anxiety, a display of dominance, or a lack of socialization and training, positive reinforcement can help you stop it.
The key to success is rewarding desired actions with food, praise, toys, or anything else your dog finds enjoyable when the undesirable behavior is stopped.
Of course, training isn’t the only thing you’ll need to focus on. Investing more bonding time with your dog can make them feel more valued and content with your company.
Bored and understimulated dogs might also excessively nudge around things with their snouts, so be sure that your dog is getting plenty of exercise. Remember, a tired dog is a happy dog!
If your dog has learned to get what they want by nudging around objects with its nose, you might want to break this habit.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t give them what they want, and with continuous training, you can learn when it’s appropriate to do so, as well as the orders you’ll need to reinforce the “good” behaviors.
Conclusion For Why Does My Dog Nudge Objects With His Nose?
Like most, if not all doggy behaviors, the nose nudge is one of the more adorable, more endearing actions your dog can exhibit. Most of the time, the behavior is harmless and is a means of getting your attention or trying to communicate something to you.
However, as always, if the behavior gets excessive or obsessive, it might be time to consult with a canine behavioral specialist. Otherwise, have fun and enjoy all those nudges with a cold, wet nose!
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Still curious about why your dog nudges objects with their nose? Check out the video below.
Dr. Sabrina Kong graduated from the Royal Veterinary College in England in 2016 and has been working at a small animal clinic in Northern California since then. She grew up in the Bay Area and got her bachelor’s degree from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. She also became a Certified Canine Rehabilitation Practitioner through a program at the University of Tennessee.
When she isn’t in the clinic taking care of her four-legged patients, she enjoys traveling and trying new foods with her friends and her three-legged dog, Apollo. She adopted Apollo from her clinic when he was a puppy with numerous health issues. Dr. Kong truly cares about taking care of animals.