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Why Do Dogs Rub Their Faces With Their Paws?

Why is your dog rubbing their face with their paws? Is it a behavior quirk or a sign of more serious trouble? Read on to learn more.


Written by Animalia Team

Dogs Rub Their Faces With Their Paws

Does your dog ever rub their faces with their paws? If so, you may have asked whether the unusual behavior is cause for concern or a simple attempt to scratch a nagging itch. 

From responding to emotional triggers to simply alleviating boredom, there are a few reasons why a dog might rub their face with their paws. Let’s explore some of the most common causes behind this familiar canine behavior.

Fleas, mites, and ticks

One of the most common reasons a dog might cover their face with their paws is to scratch at fleas, mites, and ticks. Dogs are particularly sensitive to these parasites and may itch to the point of injury to alleviate pain and discomfort. If you suspect an infestation, consult your vet and make sure you’re taking all the necessary steps to protect your pet from blood-sucking critters. 

Fleas are hungry beasts. The pests typically enjoy between 10 to 15 meals of canine blood each day.

Dry skin

We’ve all known someone who can’t spend time around dogs without suffering serious allergy symptoms. Dogs can suffer allergies too as a result of environmental and dietary irritants. These allergies may manifest in itchy, dry skin around your dog’s snout, neck, and face. Repeated scratching may offer momentary relief, but it can also eventually exacerbate the issue. A topical treatment or medication may be enough to address this behavior and its consequences.

Emotional response

Dogs can’t tell us exactly how they’re feeling, but they have plenty of ways of expressing their emotions. Pawing at their face could be a sign of some emotional distress or simply serve as a sign of boredom or tiredness. Try offering up an exciting toy to stimulate your dog and divert their attention. 

Anxiety or fear

Sometimes, a dog’s rubbing of their face is a sign of something more serious. Constant pawing and rubbing could be a sign of persistent anxiety, fear, or stress. Work with your dog’s vet to determine the underlying cause of their anxieties and mount an effective response.  


Submissive behavior

A dog’s decision to cover their face with their paws is an instinctive behavior that is often a sign of submission. It’s a way for them to communicate with people and other animals as well as an occasional source of comfort. When a dog paws at their face, they’re likely trying to show that they feel comfortable and safe in their environment. They may also be trying to appease another animal or person with a message of submission. Think of it as your dog’s way of saying, “I’m not a threat. I’m not going to fight you.”

Eye irritation

Dogs may cover their faces with their paws when they experience eye irritation. This behavior is usually observed when a dog has dry, itchy eyes or an infection. It may also be seen when a dog is experiencing irritation related to irritants like pollen. If your dog is rubbing their face with their paws, it is important to check for any foreign objects that may be causing trouble. If the issue persists, take your pup to the vet as soon as possible to determine the cause of their discomfort.

Our cats and dogs have one more eyelid than we do. Also called the nictitating membrane, the third eyelid sits between the cornea and lower eyelid and is usually only partially visible. A red, irritated nictitating membrane could be a sign of an eye infection.

Prepare for the unexpected with pet insurance

Unfortunately, some conditions that may cause dogs to cover their faces with their paws are expensive to treat. Pet insurance may be able to help, offering reimbursement for a range of unexpected expenses. Your policy may help cover everything from expenses associated with accidents to hospital bills and prescription medications. Get a quote from Animalia today to learn more. 


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