Observing the interaction between a pair of dogs can be rather fascinating, and just a little confusing, too. After all, the furry ones rely mostly on body language gestures in order to get their points across. In the canine world, face nudging (a.k.a. muzzle nudging) often expresses the status situation between a duo.
Face nudging between dogs is often just a simple "hello." When a dog nudges another in the face, he typically will do so in the muzzle area, which consists of the protruding mouth and nose. A dog who is subordinate in rank to a more powerful canine may say hello by prodding him in the muzzle. This kind of nudge generally serves as a peacemaking action. The dog with the lower status is aware of his weakness and is clearly acknowledging it to his superior.
Muzzle nudging, which is comparable to the common canine behavior of face licking, not only is a general expression of the desire for goodwill, but oftentimes also is a solicitation. If a dog nudges another one's muzzle, he may be asking for something, whether a share of food, some good, old-fashioned playtime or maybe even a little attention. This solicitation technique isn't exclusive between dogs. You may notice a dog muzzle-nudging a human's hand for play or yummy treats, too.
Some knowledge of body language that often accompanies muzzle greetings may be helpful. If a more vulnerable doggie is greeting a dominant one, you may notice other body language signs, including a lowered tail, higher front paw and pushed back ears. The "lower status" canine may also flip his tongue in and out. These gestures tend to indicate feelings of submission and lack of confidence.
For many doggies, using the muzzle to nudge is a totally natural behavior that began with mommy during their tender puppy weeks and months. Newborn puppies frequently nudge a mother dog's breast area right after entering into the world. Muzzle nudging is often a redirected technique in dogs. Instead of muzzle nudging a mama dog, a dog may nudge a higher level individual, instead.
By Naomi Millburn
ASPCA: Dog-to-Dog Communication
Caring Hands Humane Society: Body Language of Dogs
Cochrane & Area Humane Society: Understanding Your Dog
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About the Author
Naomi Millburn has been a freelance writer since 2011. Her areas of writing expertise include arts and crafts, literature, linguistics, traveling, fashion and European and East Asian cultures. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in American literature from Aoyama Gakuin University in Tokyo.