Why Does My Dog Nudge Me With His Nose?

So cute 🥺

upclose photo of dog nose

Do you ever wonder: Why does my dog nudge me with his nose?

It’s super cute when dogs bump their noses into you, but why are they actually doing it?

We reached out to Aaron Rice, an animal behaviorist and expert dog trainer at Stayyy, to find out what your pup’s trying to say when he nudges you with his nose.

Why does my dog bump me with his nose?

Your dog can’t talk to you (though he might try barking), so he has to use nonverbal signals to tell you what he wants.

“[Dogs] can't communicate with humans in the same way [that] they communicate with other dogs, so they try and get your attention by nudging you or bumping into you,” Rice told The Dodo. “When a dog bumps or nudges you with their nose, it is usually because they want your attention or they want something from you.”

Your dog probably learned to bump you with his nose. If you pet him every time he nudges you, he’ll learn that it’s an effective way to get your attention. Dogs can also learn to use their noses from their mothers.

“They may have learned this behavior from their mothers, who used it while they were nursing,” Rice said. “This behavior is also exhibited by other animals and is thought to have originated as a way of getting the attention of the mother when they are hungry or in need of comfort.”

This behavior can also be an instinct. Herding breeds will often nudge you in the direction they want you to go. They’re basically herding you (instead of sheep).

To figure out what your pup wants when he bumps you, take a look at the rest of his body language and the context.

“If he is bumping you with his nose and wagging his tail, this means that he is happy and wants to play,” Rice said.

These are some common reasons why your pup likes to hit you with his nose.

To get you to go somewhere

Your pup might bump you with his nose to get you where he wants you to go. For example, if you’re getting ready to take him out, he might nudge you to get you to move toward the door.

To greet you

“When a dog bumps you with his nose, he may be trying to say hello,” Rice said.

If your pup hits you with his nose as soon as you walk in the door, he’s probably saying hi and welcoming you home.

To get your attention and tell you he wants something

Since your dog can’t directly tell you when he wants treats or playtime, he might use his nose as a way to get your attention (and ultimately whatever it is he wants).

“It could be that they want to play, go outside for a walk, get some food or [water], or just have some human contact,” Rice said.

Your pup using his nose to nudge you is adorable, but if it becomes too much, try to ignore him when he bumps you. Giving him attention, even just by saying, “No,” will teach him that he can successfully get you to do what he wants.

To show he loves you

If your dog isn’t just hitting you with his nose but actually nuzzling, that’s a sign of affection and that he’s comfortable with you.

Your dog also has scent glands around his face, so nuzzling you is a way to mark you as his territory.

Why does my dog nudge other dogs?

Dogs don’t only nudge their humans — they’ll sometimes use their noses to show submission or dominance to other dogs.

If your pup puts his nose up to another dog, rubs his face or licks his nose, he’s trying to show the other dog respect. He’s probably also showing that he’s friendly and doesn’t want to fight.

But hitting his nose against you or another dog can also be a sign of dominance. To tell if your dog’s using his nose as a dominant gesture rather than submissive, look at his body language. A dog who's trying to look tough around another pup will have strong body language, with his tail held high, and be very alert. If your pup’s constantly pushing you or another dog around with his nose, he’s probably trying to show that (he thinks) he’s in charge.

So you might think it’s funny when your dog bumps his nose into you, but he actually has a reason for doing it (besides just being adorable).