Why Dogs Touch Noses: Communication And More

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By Stanley Coren, Ph.D. for Psychology Today

Not too long ago I was watching a familiar canine ritual. A female dog approached a litter of pups (not her own). As the four little puppies bounded over to her, she lowered her head and touched the nose of each with her nose. For some she nuzzled their faces a bit, and sniffed other parts of their bodies, however the opening contact was almost always a nose to nose touch.

For those of us that have studied animal communication this snout contact appears to be part of a greeting ritual. It is actually more common in cats than in dogs, where the nose touch may sometimes be accompanied by rubbing against the body of the other animal or continued sniffing of the other’s head or body. Cats will use this greeting nose touch with virtually any cat that they meet which appears to be nonthreatening.

Dogs appear to be more selective in their nose to nose touching. Not every greeting is accompanied with snout contact. However, it is quite common for adult dogs to engage in nose touching with puppies. It is also quite common to use nose touching when greeting another nonthreatening species. Thus dogs can be seen nose touching with cats and kittens, horses and so forth.

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