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Why do dogs burrow their heads into you?

Why does my dog bury its head in me?

Why does my dog bury its head in me?

If your dog has been burying its head into you a lot, you might be wondering why and what you can do about it. This post will show you five common reasons why dogs do it and what you can do to get it to stop.

Possible reasons why your dog buries its head into you are separation anxiety, comfort, fearfulness, to spread its scent, or having learned that the behavior gets rewarded.

Your dog could actually be doing it for multiple reasons and it might be due to a combination of them. However, there are some things you can consider when figuring out the main causes and there are many things you can do about them.

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Reasons why your dog buries its head into you

Below are a number of possible reasons why it has been doing it and what would make each of them more likely.

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 tends to do it more when you are about to leave home and if it gets anxious when you are leaving.


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 buries its head on you could be that it makes it feel safer.


Another possible reason why it has been doing it could be that something has been causing it to be fearful. This would be more likely if it has been doing it more at a certain time when it is more likely to be fearful such as when there are noises outside or when you are outside and near other animals.

Encouraging the behavior

The cause might also be that it has learned that the behavior is rewarded. If you tend to give your dog things such as toys, treats or extra attention, when it buries its head into you, it will likely do it more in order to get more rewards.

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, if it tends to bury its head into you when you are standing up and when you are near other animals.

Things to consider

Below are some things to consider when figuring out the main reason why your dog has been doing it.

What else happened when it first started doing it

If your dog did not always bury its head into you, it would help to consider what else happened when it first started doing it. If it started doing it suddenly, it could be due things such as learning that the behavior is rewarded or something causing it to be fearful.

What is different when it does it

It would also help to consider the timing of when it does it since the timing might also have something to do with it. For example, if it tends to do it more when you are leaving home, it would be more likely to be due to separation anxiety.

The body language it shows

It would also help to consider the body language it shows when doing it. If it shows signs of being relaxed, it would be more likely to be that it is being affectionate or doing it because it finds it comfortable. Whereas, if it shows signs of being anxious, such as by hiding its tail or whining, it would be more likely that something is causing it to be anxious or submissive.

What to do about it

Below are a number of options you have when dealing with the behavior.

Avoid encouraging it

As mentioned above, it might have learned that the behavior gets rewarded. Instead, it would help to reward it when it behaves the way you want it to and to avoid rewarding it, with things such as attention, when it does not.

Limit reasons why it might be anxious

If your dog has been showing signs of being anxious, it would also help to limit possible reasons why it might be anxious. Things to do could include feeding it, letting it pee and exercising it before leaving it and letting it stay in a room that is not too loud and where it can lay down.

Redirect its focus

Another option would be to try to redirect its focus towards something else whenever it is about to bury its head into you. Things to redirect its focus towards could include toys or a bone. Doing this could get it out of the habit of burying its head into you.

Give it another place to sleep

It would also help to give it another place to lay down so that it is less likely to come and bury its head into you.

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Why Does My Dog Bury His Head In Me? Deciphering Affectionate Signs

Dog snuggling in lap- Why does my dog bury his head in me?

Many dog owners know the sweet sensation of their beloved pup snuggling under their arm. Humans use touch to show affection, but do dogs do the same?

Most dog owners have wondered at some point in time, “Why does my dog bury his head in me (and how do I get him to do it forever)?”

For as long as dogs have been man’s best friend, humans have attributed their nuzzling, cuddling, and licking behavior to unconditional love.

Only recently have scientists started to investigate the question: Can dogs feel empathy?

The answer is most likely yes, although in a less complicated manner than humans. Dogs are descended from wolves and have even in modernity kept the pack mentality. Today, their human family takes the places of the wolf pack.

Like wolves, dogs protect members of their pack and are more likely to attack strangers that are perceived as a threat to their family members.

Wolves are incredibly social animals, and researchers have observed them comforting other members of their pack. Dogs have inherited this trait; they seem to know when their human is sad, and use nuzzling as a means of comfort and showing their love.

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Why Does My Dog Bury His Head in Me?

Dog nuzzling into lap

A good nuzzle from your dog can be the difference between a bad day and a bearable one. But why do dogs bury their heads into us?

Dogs have scent glands in their faces, and it’s possible that when they nuzzle into us, they are marking us as ‘theirs.’ It’s a way for them to let other dogs know you are already part of a pack, and to let you know that they are protective of you.

Nuzzling can also be a form of comfort, both for themselves and for their owners. If your dog thinks that you’re sad or hears you crying, they will give you a nuzzle or bury their head into you.

At the same time, if they are feeling anxious or afraid, dogs may also bury their head in you to feel more protected and safe. I myself have had very vivid experiences of this when my dogs would nuzzle in close to me during a visit at the vet’s office.

Dogs may also bury their head into you just as an extra special way of showing their affection and bond to you. Dogs have learnt throughout the ages to ingratiate themselves with their human owners, and no doubt do so in ways that will make us all feel fuzzy and warm inside.

And because it makes us feel all warm and fuzzy inside, we may encourage the behavior even more by giving our dog extra snuggles, attention, and treats! This will only make it more likely that the dog associates burying his head into your lap as a good thing. As a result, it happens more and more frequently as a result of conditioning.

No matter the reason- there’s really no sweeter feeling than your best furry friend wanting to be as close to you as possible!

But… Can Heading Burying Be A Bad Thing Too?

Though there could be many different reasons behind the action of head burying, at the end of the day your dog is doing it as a form of communication.

Depending on what they’re trying to communicate to you, it could be positive, harmless- or even negative.

It’s important to be aware of the intention and context behind the nuzzling behavior.

If your dog’s tail is wagging, eyes are bright, and it seems overjoyed to be around you, then the accompanying action of burying its head into you isn’t something that you need to be worried about.

However, if the opposite is true and your dog’s body language shows that it is scared, anxious, cold, or hurt, then it may be a good idea to find the source of those reactions.

If something is bothering your dog to the extent that it wants your constant love and support, you will want to find out exactly what it is and eliminate it.

Of course, if they are burying their head into you out of fear or distress, don’t discourage it or turn them away! This can result in them feeling isolated and unloved.

Instead, reassure them as much as possible using a soothing voice and touch , and at the same time try to identify the present problem .

It’s not so much a case of trying to stop them from doing the behavior (unless it’s becoming compulsive), but instead of simply working with them to become more confident and assured with whatever is bothering them.

Dogs and Empathy

Empathy is the ability to understand and share others’ emotions.

For example, many people feel an urge to hug a crying child. Of course, dogs don’t understand the reasons for their human’s tears, but they often come to our aid regardless.

A recent study in 2018 tested this question by having owners whimper or cry behind a closed door.

They found that nearly all of the dogs were upset by the sound. Most dogs tried to run through the door to save their human. Dogs who stayed put were overwhelmed by stress. The majority, even those who didn’t take action, reacted negatively to their owner’s sadness.

Understanding and Researching Dog Gestures

Brown and white dog laying on camera

Dogs have been man’s best friend for centuries, and in that time, they have learned to understand human gestures and signs of affection.

For example, if you clap and call your dog’s name, they will come running (if they’ve been trained). Of course, some breeds and pups are easier to train than others, but in general, dogs are one of the most socialized domestic animals.

In past studies, most researchers have focused on dogs’ ability to understand human signs. If you tilt your hand, do they sit? If you point at a particular bowl, will they ignore other food sources in favor of the one you chose?

In 2018, Hannah Worlsey and Sean O’Hara decided to focus on dog gestures and what they could mean.

They specifically focused on referential gestures, which, by definition, must be intentional. While humans use referential gestures all the time, other mammals use them rarely- if ever.

In their study, Worsley and O’Hara found that dogs were able to use several referential gestures to communicate different needs, including “Scratch me!”, “Give me food/drink,” “Open the door,” and “Get my toy/bone.

From these results, it’s clear that dogs can express their needs by using human-like gestures.

Typical Dog Gestures

What are the typical dog gestures, and what do they mean? Each dog comes with its unique quirks, but there are several universally beloved yet sometimes confusing gestures that every dog has in its repertoire.

Do you recognize any of these gestures?

  • Licking/Doggy kisses
  • The Head Tilt
  • Tail Wagging
  • Eye Contact

They all have many possible explanations.

Why Does My Dog Lick Me?

Every dog owner has received at least one exuberant licking from their pup upon arriving home after work. Humans view doggy kisses as a way dogs show their love – but what is your dog actually trying to say?

Licking can have several meanings.

In the wild, puppies sometimes lick their mother to say hello or to ask for food. Wild dogs also sometimes simply lick one other to show affection, especially as a submissive gesture.

Another possibility is that from their point of view, you taste good! Dogs’ tongues are very sensitive, and they might just like how your skin tastes.

Although licking is usually a healthy, regular dog activity, it can become problematic.

If your dog is obsessively or excessively licking themselves, it could be a sign of stress or allergies. If their object of choice is you or a toy, then it’s likely to be boredom or stress.

They can and do lick owners who are visibly distressed and upset to try to comfort them and calm them down. However, they can also lick others when they are feeling stressed themselves, as licking releases a rush of endorphins and helps them to feel better.

What Does The Head Tilt Mean?

“Want to go for a walk?” is almost always answered with a quick head tilt and a rush to the front door. There are many theories on why dogs tilt their heads but not many concrete answers.

Dogs have extremely sensitive ears, and they may tilt their head to hear higher frequencies better. When you speak in a baby voice to your pup, they might be tilting their head to catch all the inflections in your voice.

Another theory is that dogs tilt their head to see better. Unlike their other senses, dogs notoriously have bad vision. Especially for dogs with long noses, it might be easier for them to see with a tilted head.

Lastly, as we’ve seen with many other behaviors, it’s possible dogs picked up the head tilt from humans.

We view it as an adorable action, and through socialization, dogs have learned that. They might use their cute head tilt to endear you to them even more, securing their place within the pack.

Why Does My Dog Wag His Tail?

Most of us think that when a dog wags his tail, he’s telling us he’s happy. However, did you know that this isn’t always the case? There are different types of tail movements for all sorts of different situations.

Puppies don’t have built-in knowledge of what their tail is for, and have to learn to use it after they are born in order to communicate with their mother and littermates.

Different tail wags have drastically different meanings.

For example, if a tail is arched high and stiff and wagging only slightly at the tip as if being blown in the wind, it could mean that the dog is alert. A tail that is wagging slowly and lowered between the legs could indicate uncertainty, anxiety and fear.

When a tail is held out horizontally, your dog may have found something that it finds interesting and is investigating. A tail that wags and then stops when encountering another dog or person may be showing that it doesn’t like the situation and wants it to stop.

Finally, when your dog holds his tail in a relaxed position and wags its tail frantically from side-to-side, right-to-left– that does mean your dog is happy to see you after a long day away!

So relish in that, and enjoy any accompanying licks and kisses that come your way.

Dogs And Eye Contact

Puppy holding onto leg

It’s a known fact that dogs and humans bond through eye contact. Dogs have evolved throughout the millennia to read human eyes and guess what we are thinking.

In fact, it has been shown that breeds like the Siberian Husky that are more closely related to wolves- and thus more ancient- still do not communicate through eye contact as well as other, more modern breeds.

Dogs use eye contact to build trust and deepen their relationship with their human. Eye contact increases oxytocin levels, 130% for dogs, and a whopping 300%(!!) for humans.

Eye contact can also be a means of communication for your dog, particularly when he needs something from you.

The key with eye contact is that you don’t want to go overboard with it. Staring for hours on end into your dog’s eyes isn’t only creepy, it could also make your dog feel intimidated and uncomfortable.

In Summary: Can My Dog Feel and Express Empathy?

It’s entirely possible that your dog not only empathizes with you but wants to comfort you.

Because dogs have been so thoroughly socialized with humans throughout history and are pack animals, they often respond to situations similarly to humans.

Through their nuzzling, head tilts, kisses, tail wags and eye contact, we can feel secure that their love for us matches our love for them.

Why dogs bury their head in you infographic

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Elena Gherman is a highly skilled and knowledgeable animal care expert. At the start of her career, she gained practical expertise with multiple animals. In addition to that, she works as a DVM veterinary editor for Joy Pet Products, which focuses on offering reliable information on pet health and wellbeing. She meticulously reviews each piece of writing before it is published to make sure pet owners get the most precise and updated information possible.

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