Have you ever paid attention to the way your dog greets other animals while out for a walk? Many dog owners are familiar with the usual tail sniffing ritual, but what about direct snout-to-snout contact? Even though they don’t possess the ability to speak, dogs are quite effective communicators. From barks, growls, and whines to touching each other’s noses, your furry friend is using body language to communicate with other dogs as well as people. What message are they actually trying to convey when touching other dogs’ noses and where does this behavior stem from? Let’s dig a little deeper into the topic…
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The Root of the Behavior
Did you know your dog’s olfactory system is three times as big as your own? Yes, dogs are superior smellers and they use their noses for a lot more reasons than just sniffing out treats. It’s one of their most important tools for communicating with other animals as well as with people. For instance, they can use their noses to predict the weather, tell time, identify dangerous substances, and even detect cancer. In this case, tactile communication can mean different things, depending on the circumstances. From pawing, licking, to touching noses, the somatosensory system (aka sense of touch) is one of their earliest developed senses. When a dog touches noses with other animals, they are doing it as part of a greeting ritual, a method of socialization that seems to be rooted in the way wolves use nose touching to ask for forgiveness or resolve an argument. It is believed that the subordinate wolf would nose nudge and lip lick other pack members in order to keep the peace within the group.
More so, a recent study suggests that nose touching is a means for dogs to find out whether the animal they have just come across has recently eaten. Which means that this form of communication represents more than just meeting and greeting while being an all-around friendly pooch. When approaching other dogs, your furry friend will sniff the other’s breath to determine if there is any food nearby. And given that scents lose power over time, your dog can figure out whether or not the other one has had a recent treat. In other words, they can “smell time.” This helps them figure out if they will be able to find the source of that food. You should also pay attention to the way your dog greets other animals outside. Sometimes, snout-to-snout contact is the first form of greeting that comes into play, so it’s best to avoid any conflicts with other dogs, by remaining vigilant.
Encouraging the Behavior
You should always take account of context when trying to interpret your dog’s behavior. Nose touching is a natural born instinct and it is essential to helping you pup maintain a positive social nature. As puppies are born blind, they rely on their sense of touch to communicate with their mother. You will see this in very early mother-to-puppy interaction, given that nose touching plays a very important role in the socialization of puppies. This is especially true for breeds that tend to be nippy as adults, such as Corgis.
What you can do to enhance the behavior is engage in nose touching with your own pup. It can be something as cute and simple as a cuddle or a good night kiss. This will speed socialization and reduce the likelihood of nipping incidents later in life. More so, early nose touching with humans appears to make the approach of people, or their looking directly into the dog's eyes, less of a threat as they mature. At the same time, pay attention to the way your pup greets other dogs on the street. When they touch noses, dogs can be put in a too vulnerable position because of the direct eye-to-eye contact.
Other Solutions and Considerations
If you want to teach your pup one of the most commonly taught tricks for focus, confidence, and humor, then go with… the nose touch. In this case, you can train your pup to touch his nose to the palm of your hand (or to your fist), which is also known as targeting. This way you can interact with him during walks or allow him to interact with a new person in a positive and friendly manner. Over time, you will eventually be able to have your dog jump up onto his hind legs and touch your hand with his nose, whenever you ask him to do so.
Nose touching reveals what we, as owners, have known for a very long time: our furry companions are naturally sociable and friendly, especially when there is food involved. Whether they are meeting other animals for the first time or making an opening contact with their litter of puppies, dogs use tactile communication to express their emotions or to raise a question. Learning how to interpret your dog’s behavior will help strengthen your bond and reinforce their confidence at the same time.