We’ve all seen a dog’s love for sticking their head outside of the car window while you’re cruising down the road—their ears and lips flapping in the wind and their tongue lolling out in sheer doggy joy. People don’t get the same enjoyment out of sticking their heads out of a car’s window, but we also don’t mind a little breeze. But blowing air into their face or ears usually results in some instant negative reaction, from discomfort or annoyance to defensiveness or even anger. If you’re not careful, they might nip at you. So why don’t dogs like it when you blow air into their face or ears?
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The Root of the Behavior
Most dogs truly enjoy riding with their heads sticking out of the car window. You can tell in their excitement and joy at having the wind in their face and the world streaming past. But most dogs also don’t enjoy wind or having air blown in their faces? What’s the difference? Dogs have very sensitive ears. Besides being able to hear far better than humans can, that also means they’re more susceptible to damage than humans’ ears are. For example, studies have shown that dogs who spend more time with their heads hanging out the window or riding in the back of a truck tend to suffer more hearing loss and damage to their ears than dogs who are transported inside the vehicle. Your dog might not appreciate being cooped up and prevented from enjoying the sights and plethora of smells, but it will help prevent damage.
If you’ve ever had someone else blow in your ear, you know it’s loud and unpleasant. Now imagine what a dog hears. It’s probably a lot louder and even more unpleasant. No wonder they don’t appreciate it. In addition to the unpleasant noise, dogs also don’t enjoy having their personal space invaded. Many people don’t realize when a dog is uncomfortable. Your dog won’t necessarily walk away when they don’t enjoy something. Dogs are social creatures and they want to be with you. But if something is bothering them, they might turn their heads away, yawn, or lick their lips. These behaviors might seem innocuous, but they’re actually your dog’s way of showing you they’re not enjoying themselves. Additionally, since dogs have a different idea of what eye contact means than humans do, they don’t appreciate being stared directly in the eye. Direct eye contact is one way that dogs establish dominance among each other. A stare down usually results in one dog looking away, a sign of passivity and deference. Two alpha dogs engaging in a stare down may be headed for a fight.
Encouraging the Behavior
Blowing into a dog’s ears might be a great distraction if they are focused on something you do not want them doing, but there is more harm than good in doing it to your dog. It is not only annoying and disrespectful but you may also be hurting them. A dog who is repeatedly stressed by someone invading their personal space and tormenting them may lash out to make the offender go away.
Many people engage in playtime actions that seem harmless, but actually, reinforce negative behaviors, or else they irritate and stress out their dog. Things like swatting the sides of their face with your hands. Your dog might grumble and chase like they do in play mode, but you are actually reinforcing that hands are playthings, things that can belong in the mouth. This kind of association is what causes some dogs to nip later on because they do not learn that biting is not an acceptable playtime activity. If you respect your dog and their space, you can still play with your dog in a way that you both enjoy, and does not cause either of you any discomfort.
Other Solutions and Considerations
Your dog does not enjoy having you in his face or blowing in his ears. Be aware of the signs of discomfort, and stop whatever you are doing when your dog gets uncomfortable. If you have small children or any children, keep an eye on them around your dog. You should teach your children to always respect your dog’s space and not to get into their face at any time. Most cases when a dog bites a child, it’s not because the dog is a bad dog or is innately aggressive, it is because someone wasn’t paying attention to the dog’s distress and removing them or the child from the situation.
Dogs might enjoy sticking their heads out of the window for all the sights and smells they pick up along the way. But wind in their face and blowing in their ears are completely different. If you do not enjoy something, odds are, your dog won’t either. Treat your dog with respect and they will love you unconditionally.