Even the most peculiar dog behaviors have a logical and often fascinating explanation. Your dog may rub his head in the grass because he smells something appealing, or he may be using the ground as a natural scratching post. Occasionally, however, the tendency is indicative of a health issue.
Like humans, dogs are attracted to scents they find appealing. Unlike their human companions, a dog’s version of an attractive Calvin Klein eau de toilette can range from grass and furniture to feces and even dead animals. The simple explanation for why your dog rubs his head and face on the grass is that he likes the smell and wants to carry it with him.
According to Nicholas B. Carter, executive director of Border Collie Rescue, wolves are known to spread the scent and blood of their prey all over their heads and bodies after they’ve killed it -- a victory dance to celebrate their hunting prowess. Similarly, some dogs may rub their heads on the ground after eating, even though their “prey” is kibble rather than a wild animal. It is also possible that the dog’s action derives from the wolf’s natural instinct to mask his own scent from whatever prey he is hunting.
Just as cats clean themselves by licking their fur, dogs may rub their heads and faces in the grass and against other surfaces in order to remove food, dirt or debris from their face, teeth or gums after eating.
A Bad Itch
Head rubbing can indicate a health issue. Your dog may be rubbing his head to relieve an itch caused by a health issue such as fleas, or skin allergies caused by his food, household products or the grass itself. If the rubbing is incessant, or if you can see fleas, inflammation or an infection, consult with your veterinarian about the cause and treatment.
A little head rubbing can be fine, but if its constant, it might be a sign of pent up energy or frustration. The remedy? You may need to play more with your dog, invest in a few new toys or bones, or walk your pal more frequently in order to channel that energy in a positive way.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.
Elizabeth Suman is a New York City journalist with more than 10 years of experience in book and magazine publishing. She regularly contributes to "Vanity Fair" and has written for the Discovery Channel, TIME Inc. and the Daily Beast. She holds a B.A. in writing and urban studies from NYU and completed her graduate work at Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism.