The most important thing to know about nose licking is that this is your dog’s calming mechanism. A good lick of the nose at the right time sends a calm message to your dog and to other dogs. It is how your dog shows a calm state of mind and takes stock of the surrounding situation before choosing any other reaction. Watch out for other expressions through body language as your dog reacts to the environment. A tail up or down, tension in his neck, and maybe some more licking on his nose could indicate that there is another underlying problem and your dog is coming out of the calm submissive and state of mind.
The Root of the Behavior
The dog’s nose is a source of important sensory information. It is a vital organ in your dog’s body as it is the cooling system your dog needs in times of physical exertion and high temperatures. Your dog’s nose is the first part of his body to meet and greet you and other animals on a walk in the park or another outing. Your dog needs to keep his nose clean and moist for it to be able to function effectively and pass on all the messages that every dog receives through its highly sensitive smelling system. When your dog meets you, he will lick his nose to stay calm and take in the smells that tell him where you have been and who you have met. A lick on the nose will give him a moment to assess the situation and react. He will use the lick of his nose to tell you he is feeling fine and ready for some interaction with you. Dogs like to keep their noses clean and moist. Many dog owners are alerted to their dog being unwell if they see the dog has a dry or runny nose. Continual licking could indicate a problem and when you see an abnormal amount of licking it is wise to keep watching your dog. It might be necessary visit the vet to check if there is a medical problem. Nose licking also goes with smelling something good to eat. Remember that dogs’ sense of smell is far more powerful than yours. If you have a juicy hamburger to eat and your dog is nearby, then you can be sure that his nose is twitching. Fido knows there is something good out there and is giving big sloppy licks as he dreams of a bit of your burger. Nose licking does not always indicate calm behavior and it is usually the intensity of the licking that will alert you to a different reason for the nose lick. It can be an expression of anxiety or stress and if you see other signs of fear like wide and startled eyes, then the nose licking is probably not an indication of a calm state but is an expression of anxiety.
Encouraging the Behavior
Nose licking is part of your dog’s natural behavior and should not be offensive. Knowing that it communicates calm and submissive behavior adds to the comfort of understanding this is a common canine behavior and one that puts your dog at ease. If you see nose licking as a special code of communication, then it will help you to relax and understand the behavior. It is amazing how often you can observe your dog licking his nose. Each time you see a gentle nose lick you can say to yourself, that is good because my dog feels calm in this situation. Watch your dog as he gets in the car, goes to the park for a walk, or just plays in the garden with you. Compare the degree of nose licking with the times he goes to the vet and remembers a painful experience or has an anxious moment. Perhaps the nose licking intensifies and then as you calm your dog and reassure him, the nose licking should lessen and his clam state returns. A gentle nose lick, a yawn, and a sigh, and Fido can move into a relaxed pose sitting or lying down. Dogs will also lick their noses if they have a discharge or have been irritated by smelling something that has caused an unpleasant reaction. Dogs can feel nauseous and may have a fever and lick their noses to try and feel better. These licks will usually be accompanied by a listless, unhappy dog and you will see the difference between the happy, loving lick and the sad, down in the mouth lick.
Other Solutions and Considerations
Nose licking can bring out the comical side of your dog. Their tongues have amazing capabilities. Long and lazy, they can slowly slip over his nose and give the message of a calm and relaxed dog. Watch your dog meet other dogs and see them share the calm, lick your nose sign with each other. Suddenly, you will feel you are part of this magical conversation without saying a word! Learning ways to understand your dog and what makes him feel comfortable and happy or stressed and anxious is a valuable tool to use in all kinds of circumstances. Your dog will be grateful that you have an insight into his world and together, your bond of companionship will be firmer than before.
Next time you go to the park with Fido for fun take a look around and see his array of friends. Everyone is running around wagging their tails and enjoying a social occasion. Nose licking and other licking rituals will take place as the dogs meet and greet each other. You could ask yourself…. Why do dogs have so many friends? It’s because they wag their tails and not their tongues.
A dog really is a man’s and a woman’s best friend!