Why Do Dogs Cover Their Nose?

dog laying on the floor covering nose

Dogs will cover their nose as a sign of submission. Your dog may show you they respect your place as the head of the household by covering their nose. Of course, your dog might also simply be scratching its face because of an itch.

We’ve all seen the dogs on commercials or in TV shows that cover their eyes or face with their paw to show they’re ashamed. This is usually after having done something naughty or embarrassing. 

We know this is a trick that the TV star has been trained to do on cue, but sometimes we see our own dogs doing the same thing. It might be cute, but what does it actually mean? 

Everyone with a dog at home knows that each dog is unique with its own personality. Many times, they use their paws to express themselves and communicate with us. The same way that your dog might paw at the door to let you know he needs to go out, or paw at you while you’re working to let you know he wants to play. 

Covering his nose or face with his paw could be his way of trying to tell you something. Although even if your dog isn’t trying to tell you something, you should still be listening. Specific underlying medical issues can be identified by observing your dog frequently covering his nose.

Is Covering The Nose a Bad Sign?

That depends on the reason behind it. It’s not a bad thing to see your dog covering his nose, but there may be an underlying medical issue going on. 

If it is a persistent behavior and there is an underlying problem that’s causing your dog distress, then you should try to figure out what it is and how to fix it.

The Most Common Reason Dogs Cover Their Nose

Natural Scratching or Rubbing

Your dog may not actually be covering his nose, he may just be scratching or rubbing it. He’s not actually trying to tell you anything. He’s just using his paw, like you would use your hand, to rub, scratch, or wipe his face. 

He might have an itchy face or something on his nose that he is trying to remove, like dirt or grass. You might also notice him shaking his head in another attempt to get rid of foreign material that’s bothering him. Dogs will use their paws to wipe their eyes of gunk or hair that might be irritating them.

If this is the case, there’s no need to worry. This is a natural, physical response and is likely caused by everyday irritants.

What If He’s Constantly Covering His Nose or Scratching?

Dog Acne

Even if your dog isn’t actively trying to tell you anything, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pay attention and take this action as a clue to how he’s feeling. 

If you notice your dog constantly trying to scratch or rub his face, it could be a sign of a bacterial infection or dog acne. 

Some dogs will develop small red bumps or pimples around their chin and mouth. This is especially common with dogs that have lots of wrinkles and rolls of skin around their face. 

It’s easy for food and bacteria to get trapped in those wrinkles and cause irritation. You can help prevent the inflammation and ease your dog’s discomfort by wiping his face periodically with antiseptic wipes to eliminate bacteria from his skin. 

Ensure that you’re cleaning his food and water bowls regularly since that is an easy place for your dog to pick up unwanted bacteria.

Allergies

Another cause of frequent itching and rubbing of the face is allergies. You might notice your dog is rubbing his eyes a lot. He might also sneeze more often than usual or lick his paws. If you think your dog might have allergies, check for red, irritated skin that doesn’t get better.

Some allergies are seasonal and can be caused by pollen, but other forms of allergies are more constant and can cause your dog discomfort all year. These usually don’t exhibit until your dog is a year or two old and might cause other symptoms like itchy, dry skin in different areas of your dog’s body.

Frequent ear infections can also be a sign of an underlying allergy. Many dogs with an ear infection will try to rub their ears with their paw, which looks like them covering their face. 

Dogs will also shake their head repeatedly and even try to rub their ear directly on the floor to help relieve the discomfort.

What If the Nose Covering Is Situational?

Anxiety or Fear

If you notice your dog isn’t covering his nose regularly, but only in certain situations, then he may be trying to tell you he’s feeling anxious or scared. 

He could be nervous about new people entering the house, your grumpy cat walking by, or he could be upset that you scolded him for eating your favorite pair of shoes. 

Dogs that are trying to communicate they are upset will often lay down in a safe place like their dog bed or crate and slump down into their paws. They might even try to cover their face with their paws.

In this situation, try to figure out what is causing your dog stress. Monitor his behavior in various situations and see if you can figure out a pattern. Depending on the cause, eliminate whatever’s making your dog anxious, or work on desensitizing him to the situation. Reassure your dog that he is safe and everything is fine.

Showing Submission

Some dogs will cover their nose as a sign of submission. If your dog is covering his face around you and he’s doing it along with other signs of vulnerability, he may be telling you he respects your place as the head of the household. 

Other signs of submission would be things like rolling onto his back to show you his belly. This is a very exposed position for your dog, and it shows that he trusts you.

Sleeping

Many dogs will cover their nose with their paw while sleeping. This is very common and typically just means that they are trying to get comfortable. 

It might be an attempt to get some privacy or block out light so they can get to sleep. For other dogs, this helps them feel more safe and secure as they’re falling asleep, similar to burrowing into a blanket on their dog bed. You may also see your dog covering or rubbing his nose while dreaming.

Whatever the reason is here, as long as your dog can sleep comfortably, you shouldn’t worry about him covering his nose while he sleeps.

To Get Your Attention

This is the best reason for a dog covering his nose, or at least the one that makes us most happy. Your dog is doing it because he knows you like it. You probably trained him to do it as a trick accidentally by praising him when he did it. 

Your dog noticed that when he lifted his paw and covered his nose, you laughed or got really excited because it was so cute, and you wanted to get a picture of it. He now associates this behavior with making you happy and getting attention.

There’s no downside to this behavior. Your dog isn’t distressed or uncomfortable. There is no underlying issue. Just rejoice in the fact that your dog wants to please you and take a few more pictures of your cute pup covering his nose.

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