If your dog is wagging his tail, it’s probably a safe bet that he’s happy. If she’s growling, there’s a good chance she’s upset about something. But what about nose-nudging? What does that mean?
While I wouldn’t necessarily call this a subtle form of communication, it is certainly a more nuanced one in that a dog nudge can have a wide variety of meanings depending on the context. Below are just a few of the possible things that your pooch may be trying to tell you.
Come On, Let’s Go
Dogs that are bred to herd animals often use nudging to tell those animals where to go. When dogs with this instinct are put in a domestic situation, they will sometimes “herd” people (usually children) with some nose-nudging.
You’re the Boss
When dogs push their nose up against the mouths and noses of other dogs, it’s a way of showing them submission and saying that they know that the other dog is in charge. Why do this? Because it helps them to avoid fights and arguments that they’re not interested in having, or know that they can’t win. It’s also a way for dogs to say, “Hey, let’s be friends.” A submissive dog might nudge you on the butt, hip, or even your own “muzzle” as if you were another dog.
I’m in Control Here, Buster
Just as it can convey a submissive attitude, a dog nudge can also be a way of expressing dominance. How do you know the difference? Well, when dogs are nudging to show dominance, they tend to do it a lot and do it to get things that they want from you. If this is the case with your dog, you’ll likely notice other signs such as mounting, excessive barking, and blocking your path. Talk to a professional to get help in dealing with this kind of behavior.
One of the most common reasons that many dogs nudge is simply to say “hi.” So if you come home from a long day at work to some nose-nudging, it might just be your pup greeting you.
I Want This, Please
This one is a broad category that covers everything from a dog nudging food bowls that are empty (“Waiter, I’d like more!”) to nudging toys toward you (“Let’s play!”) to nudging you if you were giving them affection and suddenly stopped (“Don’t stop!”). They want you to pay attention and, often, to do something specific for them.
Tell us when and why your dog usually nudges you.