Dogs are remarkably similar to humans. When they’re hungry, they eat. When they’re excited, they jump up and down. And when they have an itch, they scratch it.
In most cases, when your dog scratches their face, this simple reason — an itch — is the culprit. On the other hand, in rare cases, there can be underlying medical problems related to excessive face scratching in dogs. Let’s take a look at what you need to know about this common issue.
Why does my dog scratch his face?
There are many reasons why your dog might be scratching their face. We’ll start with the most likely issues and go on from there to less-common scenarios:
This is the most common scenario you’ll run into, and it makes sense as to why. Most dogs get itches just like humans, and they’ll rub or scratch at their face with their paws in order to remedy the situation. It may be from a fly landing on your face, from smelling pepper, or even from having a slight “sniffle.”
Their collar is irritating them.
Check your dog’s collar if they seem to be scratching at their face a lot. It could be too tight or poking at them in an uncomfortable manner. Sometimes, the material itself is aggravating to your dog’s skin and fur.
They have allergies.
Like humans, dogs can have allergies that make them feel congested and itchy. Allergens for dogs are usually environmental and seasonal. They may be related to pollen, certain types of grasses, mildew or mold, or other irritants in the air.
They have mites, ticks, or fleas (parasites).
Unfortunately, parasites are a common reason for dogs itching their face. Serious irritation and inflammation can be brought on by mites, ticks, or fleas that burrow into a dog’s skin. Talk to your vet if you suspect parasites.
They have a dental issue.
If your dog has a dental issue that is causing them to scratch at their face, they will probably have stopped eating frequently and may even have saliva with blood in it or bad breath. Another common symptom of a dental problem is constant licking of their lips.
They’re experiencing an eye problem.
If it appears as though your dog is trying to scratch their eye(s), this could be because they have something in their eye, they have allergies that are affecting their eyes (dry eye or a watering eye), or they have a more severe eye issue. Talk to your vet if you suspect an eye-related problem.
Why is my dog suddenly scratching his face?
If you randomly and suddenly see your dog scratching their face, don’t be too alarmed right off the bat. Intermittent scratching of your dog’s face is probably just them scratching an itch — like we would. Alternatively, they may have had a bug land on their snout or a sudden random tickle in their nose. These are all normal, benign occurrences and nothing to be concerned about.
Why does my dog scratch his face after eating?
Dogs may not be the most graceful eaters, and their manners are probably lacking across the board. For this reason, a dog may simply end up scratching at their nose because they still have food on their face after eating.
Why does my dog scratch his face on the carpet?
It’s not uncommon to see a dog rub their face against the carpet (or a piece of furniture). This is usually for one of the following reasons:
- They have food or something on their face that they want to get off
- They have allergies, a dental issue, or an eye problem that is bothering them
- They have facial folds on their skin, and these need itching or cleaning (common with pugs, bulldogs, etc.)
- They have fleas, ticks, or mites
- They are bored, and it feels good
Why does my dog scratch his face with his paws?
When a dog uses their paws to scratch their face, they’re simply using the only other “tools” they possess to remedy an itch or other irritant or to try to alleviate some other problem they may have. Whether the latter is possible (for instance, if they have a dental issue or eye problem) is up for debate. Still, dogs usually use their paws as their go-to tools.
Again, in some cases, they may also use the carpet, a piece of furniture, or even you to scratch their face too. These are simply the easiest ways for them to try to feel better from whatever’s ailing them.
How do I stop my dog from scratching his face?
The only real reasons you’d need to stop your dog from scratching their face is if it’s chronic and causing skin/fur issues and/or if you suspect it’s related to a more serious medical concern. For instance, if you notice any of the following on your dog’s face, it may be time to try to stop your dog from scratching themselves there:
- Blisters or bleeding
- Rubbed down or severely matted fur
- Missing fur and bald spots
- Severe redness
- A rash
Whether the above symptoms are present or not, if you find that your dog is scratching their face almost constantly, it’s probably time to take them to the veterinarian for an exam. Your vet will be able to determine what the underlying cause could be, and they can also help stop our dog from constantly scratching, which can lead to skin and fur issues down the line.
How to get your dog to stop scratching their face
Regardless of your reasoning why, if you need to stop your dog from scratching their face, you have a few different options. Some are only available with help or tools from your vet while other options can be done as at-home care and do not require your vet’s assistance.
1. Distract them with toys.
If scratching their face is simply an odd habit that your dog is engaging in, you can often get them to stop by distracting them with chew toys and other dog-friendly gadgets and games.
2. Try a dog cone.
Dog cones can be purchased on your own or obtained through your vet. These cones fit around your dog’s neck like a collar and then extend out in a cone around their head. Your dog can’t get their paws around the cone to their face, so it deters scratching. You should not have your dog constantly wear a cone, but it can be effective at changing your dog’s scratching habits.
3. Try an inflatable collar.
Like cones, inflatable collars keep your dog from being able to scratch their faces. Some people think that inflatable collars are more comfortable than cones.
4. Try dog booties.
Newborn babies have a similar problem to dogs: They often scratch their face (albeit unintentionally) with their nails. To quell this, parents will put small mittens on their newborns’ hands. You can do this with dogs too. By putting soft booties on your dog’s paws, even if they do still itch their face, they won’t be able to accidentally scratch their eye or damage their skin and fur as well.
5. Behavioral reinforcement.
Finally, consider training your dog not to scratch their face. Both positive and negative behavioral reinforcement can work. For example, when they start to scratch at their face, say “no” firmly, and gently try to move their paws away from their face. Give them a stern look. This is negative behavioral reinforcement.
With positive behavioral reinforcement, give them pets, smiles, and praise when they are not scratching their face — or if they stop doing it. Repeat this until they get the idea.
Of course, always remember that you should never strike your dog, even if they’re doing something you don’t want them to.