When dogs are in their training stage a question that comes up a great deal is why do dogs lick their noses? While it is tempting to simply go with the old chestnut of an answer – because they can – there are a number of reasons why a dog might lick its own nose. One thing is for certain sure, however: while they are doing it they often bring a smile to the faces of their human companions. As you can see from this spread of pictures, it is sometimes difficult to resist this particular canine photo opportunity.
First and foremost, however, the nose licking is used as a method of communication between dogs. A lick of the nose – which can begin and end in an instant – is usually a sign that a dog is calming itself down for one reason or another. It could also be that it is gearing itself up for something new and perhaps unexpected. It isn’t that the dog is completely stressed out and bewildered – it is when it is weighing up a situation and deciding what to make of it and what to do.
Image Credit Flickr User Ashley Adcox
It is a clear situation, too, that while the dog is perhaps feeling a little uncomfortable right now, it is coping with the situation enough not to go in to a defensive mode. You can tell if that happens as the dog will bare its teeth accompanied by large, sweeping wags of the tail.
So, if a dog is feeling a little uncertain about a situation but does not feel massively threatened then it will lick its nose. What do you do when you are deciding what to do about a situation? Do you scratch your head or fold your arms? Nose licking in dogs can be said to be akin to that form of non-verbal communication in humans.
Some of the dogs in these photographs may well be licking their nose because they are unsure what is happening with the camera. After all, they have no idea whatsoever what the thing is or does but they know that their human companion is acting a little strangely. This may lead to a moment of discombobulation. So, it’s a case of what’s going on here, then? I’ll deal but, ah, that’s better.
Some scientists believe that the nose licking sends out a signal to other dogs too, which has a calming effect on them. It is a manner of telling another dog (or person) that although a little anxiety may be taking place it is not too much to worry about and no other action is about to be taken. A new place or circumstance might prompt some nose licking – it is just a way for the dog to help itself work things out and to keep its composure.
If you have a dog as a member of your household then you will see this behavior regularly. When your dog takes you for a walk in the park and spots another dog it will stop and weigh up its potential playmate. You will have to be sharp-eyed but watch out for the nose licking as the dog calms itself down a little before introducing itself.
Image Credit Flickr User Chewie Chua
How much nose licking happens is down to the individual dog but most will settle in to a set, almost imperceptible habit. It is only if a dog’s nose licking habits change drastically that you might need to worry as it could indicate an underlying illness (that goes for licking in general too).
Of course there are other reasons, too, why a dog might lick its nose. If the nose is a little dry (or, conversely runny) then it might get a lick to restore nasal equilibrium! It will also happen if a dog’s nose is dirty or there is food on it – of course if there is food on it.
Mostly, however, dog licking is a sign that a dog is weighing up a situation, deciding what to do and retaining its poise while doing so. Unquestionably, however, the very first answer which was given to the question remains true – because it can!
Image Credit Flickr User Greg Wake
Well – that answers that. Although it may not have been your burning question du jour I hope you have perhaps learned something new and have enjoyed the photographs. However, I sourced a number of other pictures of dogs licking their noses which are just as adorable as the above and I can’t resist including them here. So, ready for some more nose licking canine cuteness?