A walk in the park is always a great outing with your dog especially if you have a well-behaved dog who respects you and the lead training you have done. You walk confidently along the path and nod happily at passersby. Then along comes another dog. The dogs will probably touch noses as you meet, and you should be able to greet the other walker and then move on. A pleasant greeting ritual. This is not your dog’s most favored greeting procedure. He would rather sniff the other dogs rear end and then make up his mind about the next steps forward. Dogs don’t generally like head-on introductions, they prefer to curve as they approach a strange dog. Curving means the dogs don’t approach each other head on and they feel less vulnerable in this manner of greeting. However, there are occasions when a face to face encounter happens and then noses will touch. Mothering instincts lead the bitch to greet puppies with a nose to nose greeting and as puppies are considered non-threatening in the animal kingdom this greeting is acceptable.
The Root of the Behavior
Dogs have highly sensitive noses and using their noses to sniff another dog has other implications. Dogs are known to touch noses and smell the oncoming dog to find out if the dog approaching them has been eating something that could be palatable. Scientists have experimented with this phenomenon and put dogs to the test about nose touching. This is a way of sniffing out the possibility of a bite to eat in the test arena. It was evident that dogs were able to know by touching noses and smelling the mouth area that there were, in fact, treats available. This behavior could be associated with the dog’s wild days when the alpha of the pack would bring home food from the hunt. Also, mothers weaning their pups would chew food and regurgitate the meal to make it easier for the pups to consume. Dogs can have two different signals to their nose touching greeting. The first is a happy, submissive greeting with an invitation to play via tail wagging and a play bow. On the other hand, a sharp nudge on the nose, almost like a bump, is a signal of dominance and the conversation could go in another direction.
It is important to always be aware of your dog’s other signals at the time of meeting another dog, especially if they are on a leash with you. You are the handler in this situation and if you are meeting a stranger for the first time it may be wise to walk on by before a conflict arises in the light of an uncomfortable greeting. Wolves in the wolf pack environment use nose touching to ask for forgiveness or resolve an argument. After an altercation, the subordinate wolf will go through a ritual of nose nudges and lip licking to keep the peace. It is vital for the pack security that the wolves keep their group peaceful. Dogs will also use their noses to signal to other dogs that they are either submissive or of the dominant disposition. How can you tell the difference? Dominant nose touching is more assertive, and the nudges are more frequent. They can be accompanied by path blocking and barking. Your dog is saying "I want to be boss here!"
Encouraging the Behavior
Whenever we witness a behavior from a dog that is close to our human concepts of emotion, we immediately relate positively to that behavior. When your dog touches nose with another dog and you see that was a feel-good experience, it is wonderful to recognize that and incorporate it into your canine communication. Nose nudges and cuddles with dogs are close to our own forms of expressing the love we have for one another. Even if your dog may have a hidden agenda, like nudging for a treat, it is still good to receive a sign of loving behavior from a four-legged, furry friend. If the nose nudge is for a different reason and you fear your dog is giving a negative signal, there is no harm in getting a second opinion to address the behavior.
Animals can’t talk and so body language is their form of communication. Watching two dogs meet and greet and then run off and play together is a wonderful experience and soon lifts our spirits. A sociable pet is always fun to have around. Encouraging sociable behavior is good on many different levels. Dogs are social animals and having them in our world makes for harmony and loving touches of canine communication. Understanding each other through the powerful sense of smell that they have is a key part of your dog’s communication with other dogs
Other Solutions and Considerations
It is remarkable how dogs can use their sense of smell not only to understand the environment but also to meet and greet their social counterparts. There is no handshake required or formal introduction, just a touch of a wet nose and dogs are reading all sorts of information into the greeting. Where have you been, who else did you meet, are you friendly or should I fear you, are all the questions that can be answered with the touch of a nose. Food could always be in the offing and that would make the ritual very sociable especially for nurturing moms and pups. The dog’s nose is like a beacon of light, a radar that can act in so many different situations to send all important signals to your dog and to you as well.
Dogs' noses are amazing and give your dog his wonderful sense of smell and ability to communicate. Dogs have wet kisses for furry friends and anyone wanting a pooch smooch. If you’d love a doggie kiss, purse your lips and push your nose forward, you won’t be disappointed. You don’t have to return the affection but gently stroking furry ears and a tasty treat will never go amiss.