Every dog owner wants nothing more than to be loved by their dogs. Equally, we want to do all that we can to ensure they live a long, happy and fulfilling life. Usually we know how our dog is feeling, and their behavior lets us know exactly what they are thinking and their current state of emotions. But what about head burying? What does this mean and is it a positive or negative thing? Having observed this tendency in my own family dog, I spent some time researching to find out everything I could about it. Here is what you want to know.
So, why does your dog bury their head in you? Dogs bury their heads in their owners for both positive and negative reasons. However the two most common are that your dog is anxious, or they want to show love and/or concern for you. Knowing how to read your dog, and the situation, will help you to determine the cause and the reason behind the action.
The act of burying their head into you is not typically considered bad in and of itself.
But, if it becomes a common occurrence or you identify other worrying signs you will want to get to the bottom of it to help your dog overcome whatever is bothering them.
Dogs are very sensitive and empathetic animals.
They are not only sensitive to your feelings, but they those of their own.
They have also learned and developed a number of ways of showing how they are feeling to their owners.
As a responsible dog owner, we therefore need to be receptive their behaviors, traits, characteristics and other signals that may be expressed as a signal or as a means of communication.
It’s not always so easy, mind you.
There are several ways in which dogs will show us how they’re feeling.
From acting out to being verbal, to hiding and jumping away from what scares them, or even becoming aggressive to those who may even be trying to help them.
Ultimately, it comes down to knowing your dog; their own temperament, nature and personality.
From there it’s about ensuring that their environment is as beneficial to their wellbeing as possible, and proactively doing all you can to keep them confident and calm.
Let us now take a closer look at the main reasons why a dog is likely to bury their head in your lap.
We will also be delving deeper as to whether it is in fact a bad thing and if it is something you should stop.
Lastly we will be covering some other similarly related behaviors and what they mean.
So, be sure to check out each section to ensure you know how to effectively read your dog, and what they may be trying to tell you.
Reasons Why Your Dog Buries His Head In You
There can be several reasons why your dog might bury their head into you. Perhaps the biggest indication behind why they are performing such an action is based in their body language and overall demeanor at the time.
Head burying can have both a positive and a negative meaning:
- Expression of Love – Dogs love to show their affection for you in a variety of ways and one of those ways is to bury their face into you. This way, they can get your scent on them, into their noses and across their faces where their scent glands are situated. Equally, dogs do this as a means to mark you with their own scent which serves to act as a warning to other dogs that you are taken!
- Empathy – Dogs have an amazing ability to show empathy for humans and if they think that there is something off with you, whether they think you are sad, not feeling well, or just seem off, they will try to comfort you. Snuggling into you is the preferred way to go, hoping to cheer you up.
- Anxious – If your dog is anxious, they may look to you for comfort. One way of letting you know that they are anxious is to bury their head in you to hide away from the world.
- Afraid – Much like being anxious, if your dog is afraid of something, they are likely to try and hide away to feel safe.
- Working – This one is a behavior for which you would know about ahead of time, unless of course you ended up getting a rescue dog with a working background. Some working dogs who have tasks learn to alert by nudging or burying their head into their owners. This is the least likely scenario in most cases, however not an impossible one if you have adopted an adult rescue dog.
There could be other reasons for your dog burying their head into you that are personal to you or your dog, that are neither negative nor positive reasons.
One could be that it’s a form of play and they have become used to playing this way.
Other reasons include that they want to alert you to something, get your attention or get you to do something for them.
The bottom line is that your dog is trying to communicate with you.
In this way, you need to acknowledge this fact and do all you can to ensure your dog is heard.
Is Head Burying A Bad Thing?
Head burying is not necessarily a bad thing, it all depends on the reason and underlying cause.
If you know that your dog is not anxious, scared, or sick then you should have nothing to worry about.
Even if they are, you should not consider the head burying as a bad thing as it can bring your attention to something that is potentially bothering your dog.
In fact, its actually a very useful way to connect with your dog.
However, this behavior is something you want to be aware of and keep an eye on so that you ensure you address the issues that are causing it.
If your dog continues to bury their head into you, you should take notice of when it is occurring, especially if you know that it has nothing to do with trying to make you feel better, or show their love for you.
This could indicate that there is something bothering your dog.
You want to be able to identify what that is and then work with your dog to eliminate the issue.
It could be a number of things, from hunger, other people, animals or something in the environment itself.
For example they could be cold.
Your dogs body language is therefore key. Try not to just look and stare, but instead place your hands on them to see if they are shaking and if they are receptive to you touching them.
This will help you to determine their level of anxiety.
Of course, having your dog bury their head into you when you need them for support and love is a great feeling and definitely one that you don’t want to discourage.
There’s no better feeling than having your dog providing comfort for you when you need it.
And they seem to know exactly when to do so and when you need it most!
Should You Stop Your Dog Burying Their Head In You?
There is no need to stop your dog from burying their head in you. If they are doing it to give cuddles or for a show of love, you do not want to stop that!
Nor is there a need to stop this behavior if they are trying to comfort you when you are upset, scared, or not feeling well.
Some people might think that they should stop the behavior from happening if it’s because the dog is scared, anxious, or upset.
Again, you don’t necessarily want to work on stopping it but work on making your dog feel more comfortable and overcome whatever it is that is bothering them.
Look for cues in your environment, and try to recognize patterns.
For example, if you live close to a train station and you find that your dog buries their head in you every time a train comes, work with them to recognize and be more calm and confident around the sound of a train.
This way, they will not feel the need to bury their head each time this event unfolds.
This desensitization might take some time, depending on what the issue is, and how badly affected they are by it.
But if you stick with it both you and your dog will be much happier. It also helps for those moments when you are not around!
It has amazing anxiety-lowering effects and works quickly too.
Other Similar Dog Behaviors To Be Aware Of
There is nothing to worry about if your dog is burying into you for positive reasons. Behaviors here will generally be of excitement and expressions of happiness.
However, if your dog is doing it for negative reasons, there could be other behaviors you want to look out for.
If your dog jumps away from noises or situations, or tries to hide behind you, these are behaviors that indicate there could be a problem.
Not only do you want to be aware of the behaviors, but again, you want to take note of what is causing them.
Other things to look out for are hiding in the house, accidents in the house even after being house trained, nipping, lashing out at people and other dogs, and unwanted leash behavior.
All of these indicate potential anxiety and fear.
If you do identify these, then you may need to make some changes to your home, how you your dog experiences new situations or be in better control of some of the interactions that they have.
It may mean going for walks at different times, it may mean taking them to dog obedience training, or it could be a reason to increase your socialization efforts.
Nothing beats coming home at the end of the day and having your dog waiting for you, that tail wagging a million miles a minute.
Its a clear sign they are content and in the moment.
But not all behaviors are so obvious to understand and to read.
Head burying is one such example.
Most of us have dogs so that we can have a companion, someone to cuddle with and enjoy everyday life with.
Because of this, we feel great when they bury their face into us.
However, this might not always be a good thing – making it more confusing still.
Your dog may be burying their head into you because they are scared or anxious and they are looking to you to feel safe and comfortable.
While you may feel good knowing that you are their safe place, you really should want to get to the bottom of what is making them feel these negative feelings in the first place.
Making note of what is causing your dog to bury their head into is important so that you can watch for their behavior and help them to overcome it through desensitization.
You don’t necessarily need to stop your dog from doing this, but you do want to rid them of the negative reaction to the situation.
It’s not all bad news though!
Sometimes your dog just wants to let you know that they love you and that they want to get as close to you as they can.
Or they are trying to cheer you up and make you feel better if you’re crying or not feeling all to well.
At the end of the day, dogs are such amazing animals and are very sensitive and empathetic.
They have their own feelings but also are receptive of yours and always want to try and be there for you, whatever it may take.
Dogs commonly lick people as a means of showing affection, in an attempt to get attention, as a means of grooming, or to taste something that they can smell on you. Sometimes this is food, whereas other times it is to get a taste of salt from the sweat on your skin.
Dogs that need to be close and touch their owner when they sleep are trying to feel more safe, comfortable, and warm. They see you as their protector and pack leader, who will help look after them if an issue was to arise. It could well be that your dog is too cold, or your home is not providing sufficient heat to help them sleep.
Have you noticed some other unexplainable behaviors in your dog? The following guides may help to explain them!
- Why Does My Dog Keep Biting Himself?
- Why Does My Dog Lick My Wounds?
- Why Does My Dog Sit On Me?
- Why Does My Dog Stretch On Me?
- Why Does My Dog Look Away From Me?
I am a practiced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site I created to share everything I’ve learned about pet ownership over the years and my extensive research along the way.