Canine Corner

The human-animal bond

Why Dogs Touch Noses: Communication and More

Nose to nose touching in dogs may serve as a friendly greeting or may gather information about what the other dog has been doing or eating. Read More

Alternative Explanations

Nice article.

However, I don't put much stock in most of these studies on dogs nowadays. The researchers exhibit strong confirmation bias in how they set up their experiments. Plus dogs have a natural inclination to do what we want them to, particularly if there's nothing else interesting going on (as was the case with the study you've cited). So they become like confirmation bias with a tail.

Meanwhile, there are alternative explanations for both the "nose-touching" and greeting behaviors you describe in dogs. For instance, having people put their faces up to a corgi puppy may have a positive effect because most puppies have such a strong attraction to people that they're more able to override the urge to bite that's triggered whenever they perceive a large head moving toward their snouts. Puppies would either nibble the nose or sublimate the urge to bite by licking the person instead. When the licking behavior is rewarded through praise and positive feelings, it becomes a learned, and preferred, way to interact.

As for greeting behaviors, yes, the common wisdom is that dogs sniff each other as the equivalent of a human handshake, or to find out what the other dog has been eating. But there are pieces missing. For instance, no one seems to have noticed that even dogs who live in the same household will occasionally go over and sniff the other's snout, particularly if that dog is asleep and dreaming. There would be no reason to do this as a "greeting" behavior. And if the dogs live together it would make little sense to suggest that the dog is doing it to find out what the other has been eating.


Animals are more like humans than we think

Expanding the discussion of canine communication to general animal communication, many species often use non-verbal communication to relay practical as well as emotional information. For instance, after a death of a close kin, baboons show a marked increase in the time spent grooming one another. This is hypothesized to be a sign of support and affection in response to a trauma.

Our dogs often touch noses

Our dogs often touch noses with horses at our friend's farm, and they get very excited if we 'nose' with them.

I've noticed that my two dogs

I've noticed that my two dogs engage in the behavior multiple times a day. And yes, sometimes when food isn't involved. But they most certainly do it if one has received a treat and the other has not yet. However the most frequent time is when one dog returns from being outside before the other. When the second dog comes in through the door, they both have a minimal wag of the tail and touch noses. Usually the dog that came inside first initiates the contact, but they do this nearly every time they come indoors at separate times. I don't think this behavior is only exhibited by my two terrier mutts. I believe there's more going on than, "did you find anything to eat outside after I left?"

Touching Your Dog's Nose

I sometimes try to touch noses with our youngest dog, Phoebe, a two-year old American Staffordshire/Red Heeler mix, but she pulls back. Once in great while, though, she will touch my nose. Afterwards she pulls back and even seems afraid or repulsed, sad to say. I'm still working with her using a clicker and treats.

I agree with all the comments made and also find that my four dogs do the same as explained in some of the comments. However, Phoebe has been fear-aggressive since puppyhood. Someone dropped her off at our gate while we were gone. When we returned a couple of hours later, she had already made friends with our other three dogs and had even strongly attached herself to one of them, a female. Phoebe even attempted to suckle a couple of times, though she ate solid food readily.

She has eased up a bit with the training I've given her - obedience training, clicker training, teaching her tricks. She is NOT friendly with strangers, friends and family members who come to visit or other dogs.

Any suggestions about what I can do to build her confidence and to wag her tail when she sees me? She gets all excited when she is with the other dogs, but when she is alone with me she pulls back into herself.

Deacon Ed Misquez

Honestly, it is always

Honestly, it is always necessary to learn their communication so that we can understand them even if just of their gestures. pmp certifications

When dogs licked your hands,

When dogs licked your hands, face or any parts of your body it means you are there friend and they will never forget you. Dogs have this sense of friendship that they smell even if you bath yourself with lots of perfumes. Organic Farming


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Stanley Coren, Ph.D., F.R.S.C., is a professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia.


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