Why Do Dogs Rub Their Faces?

Dog rubbing face on grass
Dogs may rub their faces on surfaces for a variety of reasons.

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Dogs are often seen rubbing their faces on walls, furniture, the ground, and other things. This behavior isn't always concerning and may be as simple as an itchy face but there are some reasons why a pet owner may need to address it.

Why Do Dogs Rub Their Faces?

If a dog is rubbing its face regularly on something, then it may have a problem. But if the rubbing is intermittent, then it may not be of concern. An annoyance such as wet or dirty fur, pain from a bad tooth or eye injury, irritation from fleas or allergies, or simply because it feels good are all potential reasons why a dog may rub its face on something.

Allergies

Some dogs develop allergies that cause them to be itchy and rub their faces. Skin inflammation leads to irritation and rubbing results. Allergies may be due to a food or treat that a dog eats or household and environmental allergens such as dust mites, various grasses, or pollen. They can be constant or just seasonal. A dog itchy from allergies will also likely be scratching their face in addition to rubbing.

Fleas, Mites and Ticks

External parasites include fleas, mites such as demodex and scabies, and ticks. All of these parasites can bite or burrow into the skin of a dog and cause inflammation and irritation. This would make anyone itch the areas these bugs are biting, including a dog. Regular parasite preventative medications should be utilized to avoid having to deal with these parasites.

Collar Irritation

New collars or collars that are too tight may cause a dog to rub its face and neck on the ground, furniture, or walls in an attempt to relieve the discomfort. If a dog has recently gotten a new collar, it should be checked to make sure it isn't too tight or rubbing on the dog's neck. If a dog hasn't had its collar removed in awhile and has grown or gained weight, it could now be too tight and in need of adjustment or removal. You should be able to comfortably slip two fingers underneath your dog's collar.

Something On Its Face

Dogs that have food, dirt, or even water on their faces may rub them on something to wipe it off. This may be after a meal, playing outside in the yard, or after a bath or swim. If a dog is rubbing its face for this reason there is no cause for concern but the dog may need a little assistance in wiping its face off.

Dental Pain

A bad tooth or other mouth pain could cause a dog to rub its face on something in an effort to ease the pain. Dogs with dental pain may eat less, only want to eat soft food, or only chew on one side of their mouth. Bad breath, bloody saliva and repetitive licking of the lips are other signs that may go along with face rubbing in a dog that needs a tooth extracted. Some bad teeth may eventually fall out on their own but this can take months or years and the dog is in significant pain in the mean time. Loose and broken teeth can also cause an infection that can affect organ function if not addressed. Diseased teeth need to be extracted by a veterinarian so medical attention is warranted if this is the reason for a dog to be rubbing its face.

Brain Tumor

Brain tumors are thankfully not as common of a reason for a dog to rub its face on something but it is still a possibility. Brain tumors can put pressure on the brain and be painful or uncomfortable. Dogs with brain tumors are often seen head pressing against the wall or rubbing their head because of this discomfort. Seizures and behavioral changes may also accompany brain tumors. If a brain tumor is suspected in a dog it should be examined by a veterinarian.

Eye Irritation

Sometimes things get stuck in a dog's eye, irritate it, or a scratch or ulcer may form on the cornea. These things can all cause a dog to rub its face and eye on furniture and carpets. A dog with eye irritation will also often paw at their eye or hold it shut. If an eye problem is suspected this should receive veterinary attention to not only relieve the irritation but to prevent worse problems from occurring to the eye.

Something Smells Good

Dogs have a very acute sense of smell so if they like how something smells they may just rub their entire face on it because they enjoy it so much. The item may not have a pleasant smell to us but to a dog it could be great. One common example of such an item is a dead animal found outside in the yard.

Marking Territory

Dogs can leave their scent on an item to mark their territories by urinating, defecating, or simply rubbing their face or body on it. This action leaves invisible pheromones behind on the furniture, carpet, or other items the dog is rubbing on to signal that something belongs to them. This can be a normal occurrence, and while humans cannot smell pheromones, other dogs can.

It Feels Good

Dogs are just like people when it comes to different fabrics and textures and sometimes rubbing their faces on things just simply feels good. If a dog owner has ruled out concerning reasons for why a dog may be rubbing its face on things, then this may be why the behavior continues.