Some dogs are more body-contact orientated than others. They like to lay on us, paw at us, and stay by our sides.
For many people, there’s a limit, and that might be licking your nose! What drives this strange behavior, and why? Is it a way of showing love, or is something else going on?
Today we look at this phenomenon and what you can do about it.
Reasons Why My Dog Licks My Nose
The shortest answer here is that it’s a learned response. Mother dogs will lick their puppies’ noses to ensure they can breathe freely and clean them up post-birth.
They then learn to lick their mom’s nose in turn. They learn it as a friendly gesture and a way to help groom and clean up other littermates- especially when they start transitioning to solid food and get very messy (and tasty).
Of course, it’s a little more involved than that, however. Licking your nose is an instinctual behavior, too. Many puppies go straight for the nose, like it or not. But why does it continue into adulthood?
When dogs want attention, they tend to go to all lengths necessary to get it, which inevitably triggers a reaction. But it can also signify love and affection- a kiss of sorts.
Remember that dogs’ licking and smelling are strongly tied together, especially since they need smells to navigate the world.
Where we rely on our sight, they use their other senses to figure out the world around them. This means when a dog smells our face, they’ll likely want to lick it, too. They may even smell tempting food!
It can also be a sign of over-excitement or boredom in your dog. We don’t want to suppress our animals’ natural enthusiasm, but dogs can get overworked easily, and some silly behaviors come out.
This is bad news for people who don’t like being licked because your dog might learn to manipulate you a little by doing so to get the attention they crave. Ensure you meet your dog’s need for stimulation, exercise, and company.
Lastly, some dogs will lick people’s noses as a sign of submission. If your dog does this when you are angry or upset, they could be trying to reassure you or might be trying to reassure themselves they’re not the source of your emotion.
How to Stop Your Dog from Licking Your Nose
While those reasons all make sense in the dog world, that doesn’t mean you have to tolerate nose-licking from your dog. Like humans, dog saliva isn’t the most hygienic thing in the world.
If it doesn’t bother you and isn’t being done intrusively or obsessively, it’s not that big of a deal. However, getting a dog- especially a big dog like a German Shepherd- that close to random people’s faces could easily turn into a nip, snap, or even an accidental bite.
Remember that, for many dogs, any attention is better than no attention. So a negative reaction from you might not communicate itself as a reason to stop, even though you think you are being clear.
Don’t react with attention, even negative attention. Instead, immediately withdraw all interaction with the dog. Walk away and ignore them for a while.
Let them calm down, and resume contact once you see a positive behavior you can praise instead. You can also use redirection, diverting the dog’s attention to a toy, or better pursuit if preferred.
It can take a while, but this will soon teach the dog that they get nothing out of the deal and should break the habit. Remember, only ever reward your dog with attention and treats when they do things you like, not with ‘negative’ attention for the behavior you want to curb.
Of course, now is an excellent time to check that you are meeting your dog’s need for stimulation and affection and redirect it into more positive habits you can enjoy together.
Should I Stop My Dog from Licking Other Dogs?
You may notice your dog licking at the faces of other dogs in the family or even dogs they meet at the park and on other play dates.
It looks really weird to us, but it’s just another way to try and bond with the dogs in the world around them. Grooming, which licking can be part of, is another bonding activity common in dogs.
However, it’s not always a good idea to encourage it, especially if it starts teeming obsessive or compulsive. Additionally, when your dog does this to strange dogs, you don’t know enough about their health history to allow such a close interchange of body fluids.
While it’s an essentially harmless activity, and you can leave it if the fight isn’t worth it, it’s probably a good idea to curtail this activity, especially with strange dogs, for safety and hygiene.
While your dog may be friendly, you never know if a more reactive dog will take offense and start a fight about it.
Dogs, just like little kids, can be a bit gross- it’s all part of the joys of owning a dog!
While there are many solid reasons that dogs will lick your nose and even the noses and mouths of other dogs, that doesn’t mean it’s always smart to let it continue, especially if you are uncomfortable with the habit yourself.
A lick here and there will do no harm and some people don’t mind their dogs getting so up-close-and-personal.
However, with patience and the withdrawal of attention to more positive behaviors everyone can enjoy, you can train your dog not to do it. This also helps ward off accidental bites, and fractiousness between dogs, and prevents the transmission of bacteria and other nasties between dogs.
At the end of the day, however, it’s your choice if you want to address this relatively harmless behavior or not.