We’ve all experienced it – you’re petting your dog when suddenly they turn and playfully nibble or bite your nose! This odd canine habit can be alarming for owners, especially when those sharp little teeth make contact.
However, there’s no need to worry. Nose biting is perfectly normal behavior for dogs that stems from their natural instincts and affection for their owners. In this article, we’ll explore the top theories as to why dogs like to gently bite or nibble on human noses.
Why dogs are attracted to human noses and what it means for their social bonding
Dogs have an amazing sense of smell that allows them to detect subtle changes in our body odor. Our noses are one of the most prominent sources of our scent, as they contain sweat glands that secrete pheromones. Pheromones are chemical signals that convey information about our mood, health, and reproductive status.
By biting our noses, dogs may be trying to get a better sniff of our pheromones and learn more about us. They may also be trying to mark us with their own scent and show us that we belong to them. This is a way of strengthening their social bond with us and expressing their loyalty and trust.
Nose biting may also be related to the way dogs greet each other in the wild. When two dogs meet for the first time, they may sniff each other’s noses and mouths to exchange information and establish their relationship. By mimicking this behavior with us, dogs may be trying to communicate that they accept us as part of their pack and want to be friendly with us.
Reasons Dogs Bite Noses
Sign of Affection
The most common reason dogs bite at noses is simply to show affection. Gentle mouthing or nibbling of your face is a socially acceptable way for dogs to communicate their love, similar to kissing in humans.
This tendency originates during puppyhood when littermates mouth and nip at each other while playing. This nibbling continues into adulthood as a means of close social bonding. So next time your dog’s teeth come in contact with your snoot, understand it as them trying to display their adoration!
Another reason dogs may be attracted to your nose is for scent exploration. A dog’s sense of smell is remarkably sensitive – 10,000 to 100,000 times stronger than a human’s!
When your pup gently bites at your nose, they are able to pick up the richness of your scent in an intimate way. This allows them to gather information about your identity, health, and recent activities. Think of it as their version of getting to know someone better.
Sometimes nose biting is simply a dog’s way of trying to engage you in play. This behavior will usually be accompanied by a play bow, barking, or tail wagging as your dog attempts to entice you into a fun game.
The nibbling gets your attention and arouses your interest. While it may seem obnoxious at times, this type of nose biting is friendly and non-aggressive. Keep an eye out for these cues that your dog just wants some playtime.
For puppies, mouthing and biting is also a means of relieving teething pain. Their incoming adult teeth cause swelling and irritation to their gums. This provokes an inherent need to bite and nibble, helping to ease their discomfort.
The nose provides a readily available soft target for this puppy chewing behavior. As long as the nibbling is gentle, letting them teethe on you is perfectly fine and temporary.
The Risks of Nose Biting
Nose biting may also have some negative effects on both you and your dog if done in a rough or aggressive manner. Here are some of the risks of nose biting:
- It can cause injuries: Biting can cause cuts, bruises, or even fractures on your nose, especially if your dog has sharp teeth or a strong jaw. These injuries can be painful and may require medical attention. They can also leave scars or deformities on your nose that may affect your appearance or self-esteem.
- It can cause infections: Biting can introduce bacteria or viruses from your dog’s mouth into your nose, which can lead to infections. Some of these infections can be serious and may require antibiotics or surgery. Some examples of infections that can be transmitted by dog bites are rabies, tetanus, pasteurella, staphylococcus, and streptococcus.
- It can cause allergies: Biting can trigger allergic reactions in some people who are sensitive to dog saliva or dander. These reactions can range from mild to severe and may include itching, swelling, redness, hives, sneezing, coughing, wheezing, or anaphylaxis.
How to React
If you want to enjoy nose biting with your dog without risking any of the negative consequences, you need to train your dog to bite your nose gently and safely. Here are some tips on how to do that:
When your dog mouths your nose gently without applying too much pressure, the best response is positive reinforcement. Reward them with praise, petting, or a treat to reinforce it as a desired behavior. This will encourage the soft, friendly nibbling versus more aggressive biting. Make sure to reward immediately after the nibble while the behavior is taking place.
If your dog gets overstimulated and starts nose biting too roughly, redirect their mouthing to a chew toy instead. Pick a tempting toy and wave it in front of them to divert biting to an acceptable outlet. This upholds the play while protecting your sensitive nose. Practice this consistently, and provide lots of praise when they redirect appropriately. Eventually they will learn to soften their mouthiness.
For dogs that bite down too hard on your nose often, yelling “ouch!” and withdrawing all attention is the best tactic. This communicates that biting hurts and playtime stops when they do it. Turn and ignore them for 30-60 seconds before re-engaging in calmer interaction. Doing this consistently and in the moment will teach them that biting means the fun ends. Be patient, as this may take some time for them to pick up on.
While having your puppy or dog nibble on your nose can be a bit shocking or unpleasant at times, it’s perfectly normal canine behavior. Gentle mouthing of human noses and faces is simply a dog’s natural way of showing affection, curiosity, playfulness or alleviating teething discomfort.
With the right positive reinforcement techniques and redirection, you can curb any nose biting that gets too rough. So try to relax and even giggle next time you feel that tickle of teeth on your snout – your dog is just showing they love you!