Dogs bump you with their noses constantly. To them, it is a form of communication, to you, it is a cold reminder of their need for attention. Dogs often do this to get your attention for a variety of reasons. They typically want to be petted, played with, walked, or given food. Usually, it is pretty obvious what they are going for to most pet owners, but not all cases are so cut and dry. Some canines will do it for completely arbitrary reasons. Some will do it for no other reason except you sat down and others because of a mood change like you got sad or grew angry.
The Root of the Behavior
Dogs touching you with their noses when they are looking for attention typically originates as a learned behavior. They do it because it works. For example, if your dog comes up and touches you with their nose and you pet him so they will stop, they will quickly learn that petting is your response to being hit with their nose. The behavior becomes cyclical and constantly reinforces itself each time you have that response. Correcting learned behaviors can be fairly simple. It may be annoying to deal with for a while, but the key is to not engage them when they come put their nose on you. Eventually, they will learn that is no longer getting them the reaction they seek.
Dogs who hit you with their nose in reaction to something you are doing are trying to communicate as well. Some canines will believe they are assisting their human companion by eliciting any reaction. This is most commonly observed if the human companion sits calmly or sleeps when they do this. They may believe the person to be in danger and some dogs will attempt to elicit some reaction to ensure you are alive and well.
Essentially it comes down to being a form of communication. When you get sad or angry and your dog comes up to you and touches you with their nose it is likely because it has had a positive reaction from you in the past. Maybe it made you smile or maybe it made you calm down. This may not be a behavior you want to get rid of. Understanding what your dog is trying to communicate and having the appropriate reaction will help curb annoying and demanding behaviors while still encouraging your dog to communicate with you freely. This can be pretty important to ensuring a solid relationship but if you don't like being hit with a cold nose it doesn't have to be the way you communicate.
Encouraging the Behavior
Some dogs may nudge you to inform you that you are in their spot or on their favorite blanket. It is their way of telling you to move. Regardless of why they are nudging you, after you have interpreted what they want, consider not giving them what they want if it is something you prefer they not beg for it. Most attention seeking behavior can be curbed by simply providing them with something else they can use to occupy their time such as bones or toys they can play with that do not need human assistance. However, do not give your dog a bone to occupy his time when he nudges you. That will simply teach them to nudge you with their nose whenever they want a bone. It is also why a toy that they do not need you to play with is important.
If you play fetch to wear them out when they annoy you, they will simply annoy you every time you want to play fetch. Encouraging behaviors like these can be quite simple but hiring a professional trainer may be your most effective method. A professional trainer will be able to identify why they have these overbearing behaviors and the right steps for you and your family to take in an effort to correct them.
Other Solutions and Considerations
If you choose not to hire a professional trainer, then following the correct steps should quickly adjust the behavior. Start with identifying what they want. Once you have identified what they are looking for, evaluate if you are okay with the way they communicated that information. Decide if you are okay with that method of communication. If you want to encourage that method of communication for that thing, then, by all means, give them what they want. If you would not like them to hit you with their nose, then when they try it to get something from you, then sit there, cold as ice.
Ignoring begging, nose prodding, or even occasional barks at you will work quickly to adjust and correct the behaviors. A cold wet nose can be quite annoying but that annoyance grows exponentially when it becomes overbearing and attention seeking behaviors. Thankfully these behaviors can be easily corrected given enough time and patience.
Written by a Malamute Husky lover Robert Potter
Veterinary reviewed by:
Published: 03/16/2018, edited: 01/30/2020