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Why does my dog rub its head on me?

If your dog has been rubbing its head on you this post will show you why and what you can do about it.

So, why does my dog rub its head on me? Possible reasons your dog rubs its head on you are that it makes it feel safer, it has separation anxiety, it is looking for attention, or that it does it to spread its scent.

There are actually a number of reasons why your dog might be doing it and it could be due to a combination of reasons. However, there are also a number of things you can consider that will help in figuring out the exact reason.

Why your dog rubs its head on you

Each of the different reasons why your dog rubs its face on you will likely come with some clues.

Below are a number of possible causes and what would make them more likely.

Dominance

Many people jump to the conclusion that their dogs do it because they are trying to be dominant. However, the alpha/beta dynamic has been disproven in studies showing that wolves take turns in taking the lead.

With that being said, it could be doing it due to bullying behavior which would be more likely if it shows signs of aggression when doing it. In this case, it would help to avoid giving it reasons to feel threatened and to get it to learn to behave the way you want it to with training programs such as NLIF (“Nothing in Life is Free) dog training.

Separation anxiety

The reason why it does it might be that it has some separation anxiety. This is where it does not like being left alone and the prospect of being left alone causes it to become anxious. This would be more likely to be the reason if your dog does it more when you are about to leave home and if it gets anxious when you are leaving.

In this case, it would help to try to train it to learn to be less anxious when you are leaving home.

To do this you could do as follows:

  • Make it seem like you are about to leave by doing something such as picking up your keys
  • Reward your dog for not being anxious and repeat these two steps a few times
  • Make more moves towards actually leaving such as by picking up the keys and putting your hand on the door handle
  • Reward your dog for not being anxious and repeat the process a few times
  • Actually open the door and go outside for a few moments then come back and reward your dog
  • Repeat the above, each time staying outside for slightly longer

It wants attention

The reason why your dog does it might be that it is looking for attention. This would be more likely to be the reason if it does it more when you have not given it much attention and if you tend to give it extra attention when it does it.

If you don’t want your dog to be doing it then it would help to avoid rewarding it with attention when it does it by recognizing when it is about to do it and redirecting its focus or getting it off you and waiting for it to calm down.

Security

Dogs evolved as pack animals so they will naturally feel safer when they are around other dogs in the pack or people. The reason why your dog rubs its head on you could be that it makes it feel safer.

To spread its scent

It might also be the case that it does it in order to spread its scent onto you so that other dogs don’t approach you. This would be more likely if it can get overly protective when you are around other dogs.

Related: Why does my dog press its head on me?

Things to consider

Below are some things you can consider when trying to figure out why your dog has been doing it.

When your dog first started rubbing its head on you

It would help to consider when your dog first started doing it since it could be the case that there was an event that caused it to start.

Some things to consider would be:

  • If you moved home
  • If someone else moved away
  • If its schedule changed
  • If you started working different hours

When your dog rubs its head on you

It would also help to consider the timing of when your dog rubs its head on you since it could be the case that the timing has something to do with it.

If it does it more when you are about to leave home then it would make it more likely that it has some separation anxiety. Whereas, if it does it more when you haven’t given it much attention then it might be looking for attention.

How to get your dog to stop rubbing its head on you

Below are some options you have when getting your dog to stop rubbing its head on you.

Ignore it

Since it might be doing it in order to get attention it would help to avoid rewarding it with attention when it does it.

To do this you could try to redirect its focus onto something else when it seems likely to start rubbing its head on you. You could also get it off you when it starts doing it and wait for it to calm down before giving it attention so that it learns that rubbing its head on you doesn’t get attention.

Avoid negative reinforcement training

Negative reinforcement training is where you train your dog to do things you don’t want it to do by giving it things it wants when it does them. If you tend to give your dog things such as toys, treats or extra attention when it does it then you might have inadvertently trained it to rub its head on you.

Instead, it would help to reward it when it is behaving the way you want it to and to try to redirect its focus when it seems likely to rub its head on you.

Give it attention

It would also help to give it attention throughout the day in the form of exercise, training and by playing with it. By doing so you should help to reduce the amount of attention it feels the need to get from you.

Train it not to

Another option would be to train your dog not to rub its head on you by teaching it to go somewhere else. You can do this by teaching it to sit or to lay down somewhere and then by gradually training it to stay there over longer and longer time periods.

You can do this by applying the same techniques as in the video below:

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