If you’ve spotted your dog rubbing his nose on the carpet, you’ve no doubt wondered why he does it and how you can make him stop. Not only is wearing out your carpet, he may also be hurting himself. Identify the cause, then use gentle training techniques to stop him.
Identify the Cause
Examine your dog’s nose. If there are signs of irritation, inflammation or redness, he’s most likely rubbing an itch caused by an allergy. The allergy will either be environmental, such as pollen or airborne pollutant, or caused by a mite or flea. Take him to the vet if you suspect an infestation. If there’s no sign of irritation, observe his routine to find the cause.
Observe his behavior over a couple of days. Watch him while eating, playing and interacting with other dogs.
Make a diary of when he rubs his nose and what environmental stimuli are at play. Some dogs rub their noses after eating to get rid of the food scent. This is a wild instinct. Some dogs rub their noses before eating in order to get rid of other scents, so they don’t spoil their food.
Note the gestures and behaviors that precede nose rubbing. He may paw at his face, for example, if his nose is irritated. If it is a habitual behavior, your dog may first lower his body to the ground and roll over before rubbing his nose.
Stopping the Behavior
Eliminate any potential irritants, such as a new perfume or household cleaner. If the rubbing persists despite the removal of obvious triggers, consult a vet.
Monitor his behavior. Use your understanding of the cause of his rubbing to anticipate when he’s most likely to do it. So, if he does it after eating, make sure you’re there just after he’s eaten.
Distract him just before he rubs his nose on the carpet. Either call his name or clap your hands. As soon as he focuses on you, kneel down and give verbal praise. By kneeling down, you are encouraging him to approach you. As soon as he approaches, give him lots of fuss and a food treat. With sufficient repetition, you’ll teach the dog that ignoring his urge and paying attention to you when he wants to rub his nose has a positive outcome.
Play with him to keep him distracted but leave small gaps. It is in these gaps that he may revert to nose rubbing. If he does, distract him and then end the play session. This teaches him that nose rubbing causes the positive stimulus of play to be taken away. This is called negative punishment and is a kind alternative to scolding or shouting at your pet.
Simon Foden has been a freelance writer and editor since 1999. He began his writing career after graduating with a Bachelors of Arts degree in music from Salford University. He has contributed to and written for various magazines including "K9 Magazine" and "Pet Friendly Magazine." He has also written for Dogmagazine.net.