Our dogs do the darndest things, and rubbing their face on the carpet or furniture is one of them. Sometimes it’s adorable, like these two Shelties having a good time exploring the texture on this carpet:
But when a dog rubs their face against the floor, ground, carpet, or other objects, it can also be a cause for concern. Another form of face rubbing is when a dog keeps rubbing its face with its paws. So let’s look at the reasons a dog might do this.
10 reasons for dogs rubbing their faces against the carpet
A dog rubs their face against an object simply because they don’t have hands. If something causes them pain, irritation, or an itch, they need to rub their face on something to eliminate the problem. But since our dogs can’t talk either to tell us what’s bothering their face, we need to look at the ten most common reasons.
1. Eye irritation
Maintaining good eye hygiene with dog eye cleansing wipes is essential to avoid infections, tear stains, or dog pink eye. Certain breeds are particularly prone to eye issues, like eyelashes that turn inward and constantly irritate the eye.
If your dog keeps rubbing their face on things, or if you see them rubbing their face on the floor and crying, immediately examine their eyes. Look for signs of redness, swelling, or discharge. Always let your vet check out any eye problems, because infections and injuries can lead to blindness in severe cases.
2. To wipe their faces off
Yes, if a dog is rubbing their face on the floor after they are eating, they may well be wiping their muzzles clean. Some dogs even do it after drinking water, but you may find heavy droolers prefer wiping their drool on the nearest human. After all, what are humans for?
3. As part of rolling on the carpet
If the carpet is plush and soft, your dog may decide to roll in it just to enjoy the feeling. A dog roll is a natural behavior and a sign of dog relaxation. They may also rub their face on the carpet when they do this.
You may also see a dog rubbing their face on the grass. Often this part of enjoying the outdoors and rolling about, especially when playing. But they also do this when they are rolling in something stinky. As much as dogs love to cover their bodies in bad smells, they usually rub their face in it too!
4. Foreign object
For dogs that roll around outside, sometimes something could get stuck and cause them distress. This could lead to rubbing against objects to remove it. Check their nose and ears for grass awns (a common problem), and their face for splinters, burs and anything else lodged on the face that should not be there.
Note that some objects, like grass awns, can get quite far up a dog’s nostrils or in their ear canals, and you may need a vet to find the problem.
5. External parasites
Another common problem is parasites. Many dogs are allergic to flea saliva, so a flea bite can cause them to itch, scratch, or rub their face. They can even get mites in their nose that will cause them to paw at their muzzle. Ticks in the ears can also aggravate them enough to rub their head against furniture.
6. Skin infections
Skin infections like bacterial or yeast infections can also irritate a dog’s face. Dogs with hot spots on their face will often rub the area against anything if they can’t scratch it. Check the facial folds of dogs like Shar Peis or English Bulldogs for skin fold pyoderma and the lip folds in dogs like Spaniels.
Skin infections can also create folliculitisor other skin problems that may irritate your dog.
A common reason for itching, inflammation, and pain is allergies. Dog eye allergies often have dogs pawing at their eyes or rubbing them on the carpet.
Allergies also create itchy skin, and the scratching and rubbing can lead to secondary infections when the skin is broken. Dogs can be allergic to substances in their environment or have food alergies to ingredients in their dog food.
8. Dental pain
Another common reason dogs rub their face against objects, or the floor is dental problems. 80% of dogs develop periodontal disease, and 5% develop tooth cavities. The pain and discomfort can leave many dogs rubbing their muzzles and showing signs of distress, like crying.
9. Brain tumor
Sadly, neurological problems can also cause dogs to rub their head against the carpet or other items in the house. The pressure, pain, and discomfort from a tumor may leave showing signs of distress and trying to relieve the pain in their head.
10. Ear infection
Dogs with ear infections are known for shaking their heads, but they will also try to rub their ears on surfaces to eliminate the pain and the itch. If you suspect an ear infection, examine the canal for discharge, redness, and swelling.
Ear infections do not go away on their own, so your vet will need to diagnose the type of infection and decide on the best course of treatment.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Why do dogs rub their face on the ground?
Dogs may rub their face on the ground to wipe them off or when they roll in something. But they also do it if they have any pain, itching, or irritation. This could be from allergies; infections in the mouth, skin, ears, nose, or eyes; brain tumors; parasites; or a foreign object lodged in the facial area.
Why is my dog rubbing his face on me?
Dogs rub their face on people to show affection or to get attention. There is an idea that they also “mark” people with scent glands, but only cats have scent glands in their cheeks, not dogs. They may also rub their heads against people if they have an itch or irritation they’re trying to get rid of.
Why does my dog rub her face with her paws?
Some dogs rub their faces with their paws to settle down, almost like a cat may groom themselves. However, excessive rubbing indicates pain, itching, or irritation in the mouth, nose, eyes, skin, or ears.
Dogs may rub their faces on their carpet for several reasons. A soft carpet might be a great place to roll in when they are relaxing and enjoying the texture on their face. Sometimes they may roll around and rub their face on things when they are excited and playing.
But a coarse carpet may mean they are scratching themselves. If they rub their face on multiple objects and show signs of distress, then your dog may have something wrong. Dental issues, ear infections, conjunctivitis, or parasites are just some of the reasons they may be rubbing their face on anything they can reach.
Tamsin De La HarpeAuthor
Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions.
Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.