Why Dogs Don't Like It When You Touch Their Nose

Common
Normal

Introduction

A dog is man's best friend, but a dog's best friend is certainly their nose. Dogs often recoil, bark, or growl when someone touches their nose, even if it is by accident or in an effort to help the dog. Why do canines behave like this? It comes from a few different places, but it is important to note that this is entirely normal behavior. One of the most sensitive regions for a canine is on their nose and they can be incredibly touchy about it, but that should not alarm you and it does not ellude to any underlying medical conditions.

Book First Walk Free!

The Root of the Behavior

Canines will actually often touch you with their nose but on their terms. They can use it as a form of communication and they often greet other non-threatening species with nose touches. They may also use their nose to tell you something, usually signifying some type of want for attention or pets. However, if you go up to your canine and touch their nose, they will often recoil in fear. This is a biological function designed to protect themselves. Their nose is in a very exposed region and is one of their most valuable assets. As such they aim to protect it from any potential harm that may come their way. So much like you would recoil and try to protect your eyes, they would do the same for their nose. The nose consists of fragile mucus glands, so any drying or agitation could hurt.

This all being said, you probably shouldn't touch it. Your hands carry a lot of bacteria, oils, and dirt. Best case, you cloud their sense of smell with the oils from your hands. Worst case, those sensitive mucus glands absorb some harmful bacteria and you cause an infection. These kinds of things can be easily avoided if you simply don't touch their nose. A canine who doesn't want to be touched, but is anyway, could react aggressively. This, again, is a built in defense mechanism. With the help of some advanced training, some dogs can be taught to allow their noses to be touched. This kind of training is most commonly seen in support dogs or therapy dogs, as the owner may not have the mental capacity to know better. This type of anti-aggression training can be quite complicated and require a professional trainer and hours of work. Again, simply not touching your dogs nose is going to be your best plan of action.

Encouraging the Behavior

If for the sake of small children or the mentally disabled, you need your canine to be able to withstand that kind of attention, it can be done. Taking the time to train your canine to behave themselves under otherwise aggravating circumstances is best left to a professional trainer. Any time a canine could have an aggressive outburst, for the sake of you and your dog's safety, it is important to address those behaviors. Most canines will not lash out aggressively unless they have other aggressive tendencies. Most canines will simply recoil. 

Your dog will express any discomfort they may have to you through their body language. If you want to know how your dog feels about any given situation, take note of this body language and they will make it apparent to you. Commonly dogs will stiffen, whimper, and pull back from situations that put them in discomfort. These are natural responses to this situation and do not indicate any form of aggression. You should start to worry when they bare their teeth or growl at a low pitch. These are the most common indicators that your canine is about to attack or exhibit some form of aggressive behavior. If they do this, immediately cease your action.

Other Solutions and Considerations

Apart from just being a sensitive area, the psychological consequences could be strong and unforeseen. Touching your dog's nose scares them and puts them in discomfort. They will begin to associate that discomfort and fear with your hands. This means, over time, they will become fearful of you when you try to pet them or comfort them. This can escalate into a nightmare situation for your dog. At times when you are trying to comfort them, or just play with them, they may become frightened or wary because of the previous sensations of discomfort they have experienced at your hand, intentional or not.

Conclusion

There is not really too much harm that can come from touching your dog's nose and some trainers will even tell you that it is a sure fire way to address bad behaviors. To be honest, they are right, it does work. That being said it is painful for them, and it is not beneficial to their health. It is for the best that you don't.