A slap in the face.
Not something you were expecting, or hoping from your dog.
And the truth is, it can hurt.
Especially if their nails are long! You may get a scratch or two in the process.
At least that’s happened to me.
So why do do dogs do this and what can you do about it?
Well that’s going to be the focus of todays article.
Why Does My Dog Slap Me In The Face?
Dogs will slap their owners in their face to communicate their wants and needs with you. It could be to initiate play, as a means of asking for another treat/to play with their toy etc. In some cases, it can be a sign of dominance behavior.
Your Dog Wants to Play
One of the primary reasons that my cockapoo, Bailey, slaps me in the face is simply because she wants to play.
When we’re on the couch, and Bailey is ready to engage in some fun, she’ll raise his paw and gently pat me on the face.
I’ve noticed that she usually does this when she’s energetic and when her toys are nearby.
It seems that dogs perceive this “slap” as a sort of playful interaction, a non-verbal signal that screams, “Let’s play, human!”
Your Dog Wants Your Attention
As dogs are incredibly social creatures, they crave our attention and affection.
They might resort to a variety of behaviors to grab our focus, and a paw to the face is definitely one of the more effective strategies.
Bailey will often do this when I’m deeply engrossed in a book or glued to the television.
She seems to have learned that this action instantly gets my attention, and she’s not wrong.
They Want Something from You
Like children, dogs have their unique ways of communicating their needs.
When Bailey wants something, she uses her paw to slap me lightly.
This often means she’s yearning for another snack or his favorite toy is out of reach.
They Want to Show You Affection
While the doggy slap might be misinterpreted as a rude awakening, it’s often a display of pure affection.
Dogs are tactile creatures and use their paws much like we use our hands.
They might just be trying to caress you in the only way they know how.
I’ve noticed this behavior with Bailey, especially during morning snuggles or when she’s just generally in a loving mood.
As a Sign of Dominance
Alternatively, some dogs may slap you in the face as an act of dominance.
This behavior is more common in dogs who haven’t been adequately socialized or trained.
Although I’ve not personally experienced this with Baily, I’ve heard from fellow dog owners (friends) that it can become an issue if not addressed properly.
Should You Stop a Dog from Slapping You in The Face?
While most of the time, the intentions aren’t bad; still, you should discourage your dog from slapping you in the face.
It can be problematic if you allow it to continue, especially if your dog is larger or around children and elderly people who could get hurt.
Not to mention, it can become inconvenient or even uncomfortable for the you.
So, while it may not always seem a particularly bad or even unwanted behavior per se, you might consider discouraging it for the sake of comfort and safety.
How to Get Your Dog to Stop Slapping You in the Face
As with any undesired behavior, it’s essential to approach this with understanding, patience, and consistency.
Here are some strategies I’ve found effective.
Redirect Your Dog’s Focus
When Bailey gets into his slapping mode, I’ve found that redirecting his attention to a toy or game works wonders.
It’s all about replacing undesirable actions with positive and acceptable behavior.
Remove the Opportunity
One of the simplest ways to mitigate this behavior is by avoiding situations where your dog tends to slap.
If it happens mostly when you’re at a certain spot or doing a particular thing, try to adjust your routine to exclude these triggers.
Train with commands
Teaching your dog simple commands like “No,” “Sit,” or “Down” can be beneficial.
If your dog lifts their paw to slap, a firm “No” can stop them in their tracks.
Following this, you could use “Sit” or “Down” to guide them into a calmer state.
Remember, training your dog to follow commands requires patience and consistency.
The Process of Teaching Commands
- Begin With the Basics: Start with simple commands like “Sit.” Hold a treat in your closed hand and let your dog smell it but not eat it. Move your hand above their head; as they look up to follow the treat, they will naturally sit down. As soon as they sit, say “Sit,” give them the treat and share some affection.
- Linking Commands: Once your dog has mastered “Sit,” you can add “Down” into the mix. Ask your dog to sit, then show them a treat in your closed hand and lower it slowly to the floor. Your dog should follow the treat and lay down. Once they do, say “Down,” give them the treat and show them affection.
- Adding “No” to the Vocabulary: The “No” command can be a bit trickier, as it’s essential not to discourage your dog. Use it when your dog is about to do an undesired action, like the face slap. When their paw lifts, say a firm but calm “No.” If they stop, reward them with a treat and affection.
- Practice Consistently: Repetition is key in command training. Practice the commands regularly but in short sessions to keep your dog’s attention.
- Be Patient: It might take time for your dog to grasp these commands, but they eventually will. Be patient, positive, and consistent in your training sessions.
Reward Times When They Don’t
Positive reinforcement is a powerful training tool.
I’ve found that praising and rewarding Bailey when he resists the urge to slap, especially in situations where he usually would, helps her understand the kind of behavior that earns her rewards.
Treats, praises, or even extra snuggles can be great incentives.
No matter the method you choose, consistency is key.
Make sure everyone in the household is on the same page and responds to the slaps in the same manner.
Conflicting responses can confuse your dog and make the training less effective.
Remember, our dogs aim to please us, and when they understand what we expect from them, they’re more than willing to comply.
Overall, while a dog slapping you in the face can seem strange or even worrisome, it’s generally a benign behavior rooted in their way of communicating or simply being playful.
It’s up to you as an owner to decide whether this behavior is something you can tolerate or something you’d like to change.
That being said, it’s typically a good idea to at least have a few strategies to prevent or minimize it.
That way, should your dog attempt to do so on another person, perhaps even a small child, you’ll be in a much better position to control the situation.
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I am an experienced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets, from traditional pets like dogs and cats, to the more exotic like reptiles and rodents. I currently own a Cockapoo (pictured) called Bailey. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site dedicated to sharing evidence-based insights and guidance, based on my vast pet ownership knowledge, experience, and extensive research.