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You only have to have a dog for a short period of time before you’ll see it rub its face on the ground - Jaw or Jowls on the floor, dragging their head from side to side or pushing themselves along with their hind legs and scratching at the ground as they go. It can be a funny sight to behold, but what’s going on? 

It’s Cleaning Time

Without the dexterity that the human skeleton provides, it can be difficult for dogs to clean themselves effectively. Sure, they can lick themselves in some miraculous places, but what about the face? 


Here’s where rubbing can come in. Your dog may simply be trying to clean its face and the ground, especially carpeted ground, is perfect for the job. This can be a tough behaviour to break but it can be lessened by wiping their faces clean at regular intervals.

Collar Irritation

Does your dog wear a collar? They could be rubbing their face on the ground because their collar is irritating their skin. A dog's skin is sensitive, and a collar that is too tight or made of harsh materials can cause irritation. 

If you notice your dog scratching at its collar or rubbing its face on the ground, it's a good idea to check the fit of the collar and see if it needs to be adjusted. You may also want to consider switching to a collar made of softer materials. By keeping your dog's skin healthy and irritation-free, you can help them stay comfortable and happy.

Itchy Eyes

A dog's paw is not the most delicate of instruments. While they're great for digging, jumping, and fetching, a dog's paw is not particularly well-suited for scratching an itch around the eye. The risk of a sharp claw puncturing the eye is simply too high. That's why dogs will often rub their face on & scratch at the ground instead. 

It may not be the most efficient way to scratch an itch, but it's certainly the safest. Check if your dog is favouring around the eyes, or on a particular side of the head, this can be a sure sign that it’s relieving an eye itch.

Itchy Ears

A common reason for dogs rubbing their heads on the ground is because they have an irritation or buildup in their ears. The action of rubbing is your dog trying to relieve the irritation or loosen the buildup.

Our Floofs Ear Cleaner is an excellent solution designed to help loosen wax buildup and relieve irritation within the ears. If the ear irritation persists and you can’t see any obvious reason, it is recommended you contact your veterinarian.

Scent Marking

It is common for dogs to rub themselves on surfaces to mark them with their scent, especially if they are in a new place & keen to make their mark. This behaviour is most often seen in male dogs who are more likely to be territorial - but even female dogs and puppies may engage in this activity from time to time. 

To pick up other scents

Just for added confusion, rubbing on surfaces can be for the exact opposite purpose - collecting other scents onto their own fur.  If you have ever seen a dog sniff another dog's rear end, they are also trying to collect information about the other dog. By smelling their scent, they can learn things like what gender they are, what pack they belong to, and even what their mood is. If they especially like the scent, they will even rub themselves in it to cover themselves in it. 

Another reason a dog might wish to cover itself in another scent is because of natural hunting instinct. By camouflaging its own scent your dog may see itself as more able to sneak up on potential prey. The extreme end of this would be your dog rubbing itself or rolling in another animal’s poo.

For pleasure

Have you ever had an itch, found the spot and just couldn’t stop? Sometimes it just feels good to scratch an itch or rub your skin and this goes for your dog too! Dogs take part in something called “contentment ceremonies” - these can be things like stretching after walks, rubbing their faces on the ground and more. They’re simply actions your dog does when it’s happy!

Allergies

This point is more of a reason your dog is rubbing its face. If you've ever noticed your dog rubbing its face on the ground, there's a good chance that it's trying to relieve some discomfort. Allergies are a common problem for dogs, just as they are for humans, and they can cause itchiness and irritation in the ears, eyes and face

Dogs can take antihistamines to help relieve their allergy symptoms, but they usually need a smaller dose than humans. If your dog is rubbing its face a lot, it might be time to talk to your veterinarian about whether or not it may be suffering with allergies.

Fleas, Ticks or Mites

Another common possibility is that your dog may have fleas, ticks or mites. These tiny creatures can cause a lot of irritation, and it's important to get rid of them as soon as possible. The good news is that there are a number of effective treatments available. Your vet can prescribe medication that will kill the pests and relieve your dog's discomfort. 

In the meantime, you can help to soothe your dog's skin by using a mild shampoo and avoiding harsh chemicals. With a little patience and care, your dog will be back to its old self in no time.

Mouth Irritation or Pain

It’s entirely possible that your dog may be rubbing its face on the ground because it has something stuck in its teeth or is experiencing dental discomfort. If your dog has been rubbing its face more than usual, it's a good idea to take a closer look and see if there's anything stuck in its teeth. 

If you can't find anything, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian to have your dog's teeth checked out. In the meantime, try offering your dog some chew toys or bones to help ease any discomfort it might be feeling.

They’ve just had a meal

If your dog regularly rubs its face on the ground after a meal it’s likely just trying to clean its mouth and jowls. While it may not look very elegant, this behaviour is actually quite common among canines. Dogs have long lacked the ability to fully clean their own mouths, so they've developed this method of using the ground as a way to remove food debris and other particles. 

2 comments

  • Jennifer
    • Jennifer
    • August 21, 2023 at 9:59 am

    My doggo does this with his butt up in the air. We call it “broken dog.” Funniest thing ever.

  • Jane Bamford
    • Jane Bamford
    • October 14, 2022 at 9:56 am

    Very informative..
    Thank you 🐶

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