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Why Do Dogs Rub Their Faces on the Ground? 4 Vet-Reviewed Reasons

Written by: Elizabeth Gray

Last Updated on February 15, 2024 by Dogster Team

golden retriever dog rubbing its itchy face on the floor

Why Do Dogs Rub Their Faces on the Ground? 4 Vet-Reviewed Reasons

VET APPROVED

Dr. Chyrle Bonk Photo

REVIEWED & FACT-CHECKED BY

Dr. Chyrle Bonk

DVM (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

Learn more »

One of the joys of owning a dog is discovering all the quirky, charming habits they possess. However, if your dog seems obsessed with rubbing their face on the ground, you might wonder what’s happening. So why do dogs rub their faces on the ground?

Sometimes, this canine behavior is, indeed, just a unique habit. But dogs can also rub their faces on the ground due to medical issues, scent-related urges, or a misguided attempt at grooming. In this article, we’ll discuss the common causes behind dogs rubbing their faces on the ground and when you should be concerned about this behavior.

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The 4 Reasons Dogs Are Rubbing Their Face on the Ground

1. Smells

Your dog may rub their face on the ground outside to cover up their scent or take on an odor they find interesting. Dogs retain the instinct to cover their scent as a survival method or to hide from prey. Your dog might also rub their face on the ground after a bath because they don’t like their odor and want to hide it.


2. Grooming

If your dog’s face is dirty, they might rub it on the ground to try cleaning it. Food, dirt, or other debris can get caught in hair or wrinkles on the face. You might spot your dog trying to lick it or wipe it off with their paws, but rubbing might be the next step if that doesn’t work.

French bulldog rubbing face in the grass
Image Credit: Tienuskin, Shutterstock

3. To Remove a Leash or Muzzle

If you walk your dog with a muzzle or gentle leader-type harness, they might rub their face on the ground to try and remove them. However, you can curb this behavior by distracting your dog with food or a toy. Teach your dog to accept the leash or muzzle slowly by offering treat rewards as they’re wearing it to build positive associations.


4. Medical Issues

Various medical issues could trigger your dog to rub their face on the ground. Itching is one of the most common. Your dog’s face might itch from parasites, allergies, or an infection. Dental disease, ear infections, and eye injuries might drive your dog to rub their face on the ground as well.

Some small breeds, especially Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, can suffer from a neurologic condition called Chiari malformation that can cause facial rubbing.

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Should You be Concerned That Your Dog Is Rubbing Their Face on the Ground?

vet examines dog
Image Credit: SeventyFour, Shutterstock

As you can see, dogs rub their faces on the ground for many reasons, so you don’t automatically need to worry about the behavior. However, because it can be a sign of a medical problem, you shouldn’t completely ignore it either. If you notice signs of fleas, red or irritated skin, or dirty ears, have your pup checked by a veterinarian.

If you don’t notice any signs but your dog is still rubbing their face on the ground frequently, it could have progressed into obsessive behavior. Dogs can develop obsessive-compulsive behaviors just like people. Talk to your vet about strategies to help deal with this issue.

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Conclusion

While your dog rubbing their face on the ground may not seem concerning, there could be numerous reasons behind it. As we discussed, facial rubbing can be a sign of health issues that require medical treatment. It could also just mean your dog needs a quick face wash. Observe your dog’s behavior carefully to determine whether you should be concerned about them rubbing their face on the ground.


Featured Image Credit: PILAIPHUN, Shutterstock

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