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Why Do Dogs Cover Their Faces with Their Paws? 6 Common Reasons

Written by: Nicole Cosgrove

Last Updated on July 9, 2024 by Dogster Team

Sheep dog covering her nose with her paw

Why Do Dogs Cover Their Faces with Their Paws? 6 Common Reasons

Dogs have a lot of habits and actions that can seem strange to us humans, but they can give away a lot about the dog’s emotions. As they can’t talk in the same way as people, dogs have to rely on other methods of communication, and we have to rely on other ways of understanding our canine companions.

One common habit that we see in a lot of dogs is covering their faces with their paws. Your dog may be simply scratching its face, or it may be a sign of anxiety, fear, submission, or as a means of protecting its face. It may also be a learned behavior: if you have acted positively to how cute your dog looks while covering its face, it may do it again to try and elicit the same positive response.

Read on for more information about this action, its likely causes, and some other common habits dogs have.

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The 6 Reasons Dogs Cover Their Faces With Their Paws

1. Scratching

Your dog may just be itching its face. Irritation can be caused by anything from a piece of grass or falling hair to fleas and in the same way that people itch to alleviate the discomfort or irritation, so do dogs. It should be quite obvious if your dog is covering their face while scratching, rather than covering their face for a longer period of time. Dogs that are prone to tearing are more likely to want to scratch their faces, and if you see your dog scratching more than usual, it is worth checking for fleas or mites.

The guilty dog covers his muzzle with his paw
Image By: Natalya_Maisheva, Shutterstock

2. Anxiety

Anxiety is more common in some dogs than others, and it can be caused by a variety of factors. Your dog may be anxious because of an unexpected and unexplained noise or activity. It could be anxiety because of a change in surroundings or habits. Other signs of anxiety can include inappropriate urination, drooling, panting, destructive behavior, and excessive barking. Try to find the cause of the anxiety and remove it or do something to take your dog’s mind away from the cause.

3. Fear

Fear is similar to anxiety and can be caused by many of the same things. If there’s a storm or loud weather conditions, the noise and activity could scare your dog. If you have introduced a new dog to the house, either the new or existing dog could be scared of the other. Even if you or other family members have been shouting or arguing, this could have scared your dog. Covering the eyes is your dog’s way of trying to ignore the cause of their fear.

Beautiful Collie border breed dog lying in bed covering her face with a paw
Image Credit: Kuznetsov Alexey,Shutterstock

4. Submission

Covering the face may be a submissive gesture and it could be aimed at you, another person, or another animal in the house. Other signs of submission include lying down and stretching out, rolling on their back, and flattening their ears. Unwanted signs of submission can also include urination.

5. Learned Behavior

It can look cute when a dog covers its eyes, and if you do find it cute, you have likely responded positively to this action in the past. If your dog recognizes this positive reaction. By putting their paws over their face again, they may be hoping for the same positive reaction. Alternatively, if your dog has responded this way to fear or anxiety in the past and you have provided reassurance or offered them treats or some other positive experience, they may essentially be feigning anxiety in a bid to try and get another treat or enjoy some more attention.

Black and white border collie dog covers face on grey background
Image Credit: JessicaMcGovern, Shutterstock

6. Protection

Dogs are vulnerable while they’re asleep, and while your pet doesn’t need to worry about being attacked in its sleep, it may be an instinctive response. This can be more common in rescue dogs that have endured a difficult upbringing and is more common in dogs that have endured attacks in the past.

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Should I Stop My Dog Covering Its Face?

Generally, there is no reason to stop your dog from covering its face with its paws, unless it is causing problems for the dog. If your dog is scratching its face, rather than simply using its paws to mask its eyes, you should find the cause and try to remedy the problem. If your dog is attention seeking, you may want to ignore the problem so that they stop this habit.

Why Do Dogs Bury Their Face in Blankets?

In the wild, dogs would sleep and rest in dens or other confined spaces. By burying themselves in blankets while sleeping, they are reenacting this wild habit and ensuring they are safe and protected while at their most vulnerable. Certain breeds, like Dachshunds, are especially prone to this kind of activity because they have been bred to burrow. Unless it is causing problems with breathing, there is no reason to stop a dog from covering itself in blankets.

sleeping dog burrowing in blankets
Image Credit: Sdf Rahbar, Unsplash

Why Do Dogs Rest Their Head on You?

Typically, a dog resting its head on you is a sign of affection or a sign that your dog wants attention. It may be gently letting you know that it’s time for a walk or dinner time. It may simply want a head rub, or your dog might just be letting you know that it’s there.

Why Does My Dog Stare at Me?

Your dog staring at you is another sign of affection. It is known to release oxytocin when a dog stares at you and you stare back. This hormone is known as the love hormone and its release can help build a very strong bond between the two of you.

Why Do Dogs Turn Around Before They Lay Down?

Circling before lying down is quite common in dogs. It’s not usually a taught action, which means that it is a natural or inherent action that stems from the dog’s day of living in the wild. Turning in circles allows your dog the opportunity to fully check its surroundings before laying down and it also enables them to get into as secure a position as possible for safety.

seal and white boston terrier dog lying on the carpet
Image Credit: Stephen Albi, Shutterstock

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Summing Up

Dogs have many habits and actions, some of which can be difficult to explain, and many of which have several possible causes or reasons. Look for context when determining the cause of any such action and use this to ascertain whether your dog is feeling anxious, scared, in pain, happy, emotional, or content.

Your dog may be covering its face because it wants a positive reaction from you, or it may be scared of unexplained noises that it can hear in the distance. As long as it isn’t causing injury or other potential problems, it isn’t usually necessary to stop your dog from covering its face in this way.

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Featured Image Credit: Taras Verkhovynets, Shutterstock

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