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If you own a dog (or spend lots of time with them), you've probably experienced a nuzzle or two. Nuzzling is when your dog pushes or rubs his or her nose, face and head against you. But what does it mean when your dog nuzzles you? There are several different things your dog may be doing or saying with this particular behavior. We detail those here:
One of the main reasons that dogs nuzzle up to us is to show affection and express their love. Some dog breeds are more affectionate, and will more readily nuzzle or snuggle with you. A few examples of affectionate and cuddly breeds are Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, Pit Bulls, Pugs, among many others. On the flip side, some dog breeds have more independent personalities and require less attention and affection. But that doesn't mean they don't love you or won't give you a nuzzle every now and then.
Another common reason that dogs nuzzle is to ask for attention, usually to get some pats or scratches. For example, dogs often use their noses to gently nudge our hands toward their head for some petting time. Sound familiar? It's a pretty classic and adorable way for dogs to get our attention (and it's almost always successful).
Dogs are social beings that become very attached to their people and pack. Because of this, and because we can't be with our dogs 24/7, greetings are kind of a big deal to them. Often you'll see your dog greet you with excitement, which can include tail-wagging, spinning around, jumping and even zoomies. But another (extra sweet and loving) way your dog may greet you is with a nuzzle or two.
One thing you may not know about a dog's body is that there are scent glands on a dog's face. So sometimes, dogs nuzzle against us to leave their scent and mark their territory. Usually, when dogs mark territory it means they like that thing, so it's a good sign for you if your dog is nuzzling to scent-mark.
Dogs may also nuzzle to express their dominance or submissiveness. Some dogs use excessive nuzzling to show dominance over another being. This is more often seen between dogs, although some may use this method to try to express their dominance over you or other humans. On the flip side, dogs can also show submission by nuzzling, often seen as rubbing their face against another dog's muzzle and even licking them a few times. This is their way of showing respect to another, more dominant dog.
Sometimes, dogs cleverly use the nuzzle to get something they want - especially when it's food. Your pup may nuzzle you at the dinner table or when you're snacking on the couch, to show you affection with the hope that you'll share your tasty treat with them. Like puppy dog eyes, this food-nuzzle is one more way that canines use their adorableness to persuade us into giving them something they desire.