Why does my dog rub his face after eating? And Other Strange Behaviors

adorable purebred puppy in metal bath in house

Have you ever found yourself asking the question: why does my dog do that? This is a question that all dog owners ask themselves from time to time. Take my friend’s dog Zach, for example. Zach will be treated to a can of top-notch brand canned dog food with his bowl of kibble once or twice a week. After devouring it, he promptly commences with what we fondly call his “happy dance”.

During Zach’s ‘happy dance’ he takes a running leap onto the couch, flops over on his side and stretches out the full length of his body on the couch. Then, he begins rubbing his face and back on the cushions – happily snorting and sneezing. Once he has completely trashed the couch, he slinks onto the floor where he resumes his routine for another couple of minutes. Finally, he lets out a satisfying sigh and goes limp.

One afternoon my friend has asked me, ‘why does my dog rub his face after eating?’ Is he allergic to the food, or does he just like it a lot? As it turns out, dogs can rub their faces and muzzles after eating for several reasons: enjoyment, irritation, or a possible allergic reaction. But how do we know which type of response it is?

Similar to humans, a dog’s body language can tell you a lot about their mood and health. To better assess your dog’s body language, watch their behavior. Additionally, take notice of any physical changes such as skin irritations, redness and/or swelling. Most importantly, consider if veterinary intervention may be required.

The Contentment Ceremony – Expressing Their Inner Dog

According to psychologist Stanley Coren, dogs will display these ‘happy dance’ signals when something makes them feel good or happy. By simply watching you prepare their meal – or after eating a good meal – the beginning stages of this glorious ceremony can be prompted. By rolling and wiggling their bodies across the floor and furniture, rubbing their muzzles and noses with their paws or across your favorite chair, your pal is expressing his/her contentment.

Another example of this display is when your pooch gleefully pounces onto the grass and rolls and wiggles their back and side across the lawn. Not only does it feel good to work out all those itches, but they’re happy to be outside with a host of smells and other senses.

The little jig can happen any time your canine buddy is on the receiving end of something that makes them extremely happy. The ‘happy dance’ is merely a demonstration of their inner-dog expressing delight. This is what we have determined to be Zach’s method of madness to be.

Cleanliness is Next to Dogliness

Since they don’t have soap and wash clothes, dogs will lick their paws and then rub their face or muzzle to clean those areas. They clean their ears in a similar manner by licking their paws and using them to rub inside their ears. Some dogs tend to be more cleanly than others. For pups who can’t stand a piece of food left on their face or between their teeth, they might rub their face across carpet, upholstered furniture, or even grass to get those hard-to-clean spots.

It’s important to note that your dog’s muzzle, inside the folds of their lips, corners of the mouth, teeth and gums can hold food particles and bacteria. If these areas are left unchecked and uncleaned they can become a breeding ground for infections – causing itching, inflammation and more. Frequently examine these areas for black tarry residue, foul odors, swelling andinflammation. If your pup is doing more self-cleaning than usual, it could be an indicator of problems ahead.

A little TLC and monthly grooming can be a real treat for your canine BFF. The grooming services at the Bed and Biscuit of North Austin and Lakeway are available to help clean your furry friend with our very own Organic Sensitive Skin Shampoo. Our professional groomers are experts at making your pooch squeaky clean – with a soothing, luxurious bath that will remove those food particles, replenish valuable oils to their skin and fur safely, leaving them happy and healthy.

girl giving dog a snack

It Tastes So Good, But Itches So Bad!

Food and environmental allergies are notorious for giving dogs itchy faces and bodies. If you suspect that your dog has a food allergy, take notes on what they’re eating and try changing up foods.

Even if your pal loves his food, if he has an allergy he could be experiencing rashes, hives and an insatiable itch. Allergic reactions can be mild to severe, and could cause death. Negative reactions are not always visible and immediate – allergens may build up over time and present symptoms later. In either case, they should never be ignored and should be acted on immediately.

Seek immediate veterinarian help and take note of these occurrences:

  • Skin and mouth irritations such as;
    • Rash
    • Hives
    • Swelling
    • Redness
    • Sores
    • Watery, itchy and/or swollen eyes
  • Excessive drinking
  • Drastic change in body temperature
  • Unconsciousness
  • Lethargy
  • Change in breathing
adult brown and white shih tzu

Getting on Their Last Nerve

Rubbing their faces or muzzles can also be indicative of irritations. This behavior usually presents itself out of the blue – as opposed to a ritual. Take notice of things like goopy or swollen eyes that would suggest eye inflammation. Sore gums or teeth are also symptoms to keep an eye on. Conditions such as infections, loose or damaged teeth, gingivitis, foreign objects lodged in their eyes, teeth, gums or muzzles should be watched extremely closely.

Do they veer away or flinch when you touch their face or muzzle? Do they whine or appear to be eating differently? Draft the help of an adult friend or family member to help you examine your dog’s facial area. That is, if your dog will allow such efforts. Look for anything out of the ordinary. If you don’t find anything or the dog will not allow you to examine them, then promptly schedule a visit with your vet to better assess their condition.

A thorough examination by your veterinarian can uncover the unsuspected wood sliver caught between their teeth after Fido ‘helped’ you clean up fall branches last weekend. Or possibly a brewing eye, ear or mouth infection, a previously unseen tick lodged in their muzzle or an ulcer.



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