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Why Do Dogs Lick Their Nose? A Complete Guide To Nose Licking

why do dogs lick their nose

If you’ve ever wondered, “Why do dogs lick their nose?”. Dogs lick their noses to keep them moisturized to help absorb scents which helps intensify their sense of smell.

Cuts, scratches, and dryness are other reasons your dog may lick their nose. Some dogs may need a hydrating balm whenever their nose is too dry to keep them from getting chapped.

This article explores nine possible reasons for your dog licking their nose and whether or not you should be worried.

Why Does My Dog Lick Their Nose? (9 Reasons)

Smell is a dog’s greatest sense, and all the nose licking they do is usually to help them smell better. Besides intensifying smell, dogs lick their nose to cool down when it’s hot by introducing cool saliva to the nose. While the licking is usually regular, it can also indicate issues like anxiety and medical issues.

Dogs have an incredibly impressive sense of smell, to say the least. With over 100 million olfactory receptors (whooping 300 million in bloodhounds), their smell is thousands of times better than ours. As if that’s not enough, the part of the brain dedicated to analyzing smells is 40 times larger in dogs.

With such blessed nasal genetics, you’d expect dogs to stop at that, but they don’t. Canines lick their noses to make their already sensitive noses even more receptive to environmental scents.

1. Increasing their sense of smell

Licking moisture to the nose intensifies a dog’s already sensitive sense of smell. This is because a dry nose doesn’t capture scent particles like a wet one. Licking the smell allows all those scents and odors to literally stick on the nose.

2. Nose licking is a way to cool down

As animals that don’t sweat, dogs’ bodies have found other interesting ways to perspire through their paws, tongues, and even noses. When a dog wets their dog with cool saliva, the heat evaporates through the saliva by convention. This effectively brings down their temperature.

3. Clearing the way for smells by cleaning the noses

Dogs sometimes lick their noses to seemingly clean their nose. When a dog sniffs something they really like, another dog’s butt or food, they’ll lick the nose. It’s almost like they’re resetting the whole body part to get a better whiff of what they’re smelling.

4. Licking the nose can indicate anxiety and submissiveness

Licking their nose is one coping mechanism for nervousness and anxiety in dogs. Some dogs have separation anxiety, while others have generalized anxiety triggered by thunder, fireworks, or even car rides. Nervous dogs may also lick their privates, paws, and furniture to self-soothe.

5. Dehydration and nose licking in dogs

Dehydration is a huge cause of dry noses in dogs, and dogs will lick them in an attempt to hydrate the nose. Other signs include dry and sticky gums, excessive panting, and lethargy. Dehydration is a severe issue in dogs that can even be fatal if there’s an underlying medical condition.

6. Allergies and foreign objects

Allergic dogs can easily pick up allergens during walks since they lead with their noses. As these allergens irritate, dogs will lick their noses vigorously as they attempt to eliminate them. You may also see sneezing and discharge.

If dogs inhale foreign objects like grass awns that get stuck in the nose or pick up a nose mite infestation, you may also see them licking their nose in frustration. These cases usually need veterinary treatment.

7. Respiratory infections

Respiratory illnesses cause blockages and stuffiness that is generally uncomfortable for your dog, who will try to lick away the discomfort. Licking is a dog’s natural response to a runny nose due to respiratory illness. You’ll also notice sneezing, the body being warm to the touch, and congested breathing.

8. Nausea

Many dogs suffering from nausea lick their noses as a response. They may also appear to lick the air as a response to the general discomfort they feel. Vomiting and decreased appetite occur with the licking in nausea cases.

9. Nasal tumors or injuries

Nasal tumors cause sneezing and discharge, to which the dog will respond by licking. Cuts, abrasions, and other injuries can also cause incessant licking of the nose. You can identify injuries if you inspect your dog’s nose.

Why does my dog keep licking their nose and yawning?

Why does my dog keep licking their nose and yawning?

Yawning is also often a stress signal in dogs that owners often overlook. You may see a dog yawn when given verbal commands they don’t understand. Lip licking is another stress signal in dogs, which can look like nose licking, so if you see yawning and nose or lip licking together, these are usually subtle signs that a dog is stressed or anxious.

Like licking the nose, yawning is non-specific and doesn’t necessarily mean something is wrong with your canine. However, when they do it repetitively, it could mean your pup is stressed, anxious, or has a stomach upset.

Yawning signifies moments of transition, like waking up from falling asleep and vice versa. From an anxious state to a calm state, and boredom to alertness.

Have you ever caught someone yawning and felt the urge to yawn yourself? Yes? I knew it. As this is true for humans, yawns are also contagious in dogs. Dogs will yawn if they see another dog yawning or someone they are close to.

Yawning and nose-licking are also signs that your pup might be bloated. Bloating affects the stomach, and if left untreated, it can lead to the death of your buddy.

Why Does My Dog Lick His Nose at Night?

Dogs will lick their noses at night to cool themselves, especially when the room temperatures are high. Dehydration is another reason, along with coping with anxiety your pup has been dealing with throughout the day.

Also, pups will lick their noses at night when trying to clear their nasal linings.

My Dog Keeps Licking His Nose and Sneezing: Meaning?

Dogs will lick their noses and sneeze once in a while when they have inhaled irritants or foreign objects. Pups aspirate these objects through sniffing and play. The tiny objects get stuck in their respiratory lining, causing more uncomfortable situations like coughing, sneezing, nose bleeding, fever, and face pawing.

Consistent sneezing and nose licking can signal that your pup suffers from Canine Influenza (CID). This is a viral upper respiratory infection in dogs caused by the Influenza A virus. Other signs of this disease are cough, runny nose, fever, eye discharge, and reduced appetite.

How To Stop Dogs Licking Their Noses

Stopping a dog from licking their nose can be difficult and requires patience. Different conditions may lead to your dog licking their noses, and the first thing to do is find out why.

Here are some steps that you can follow to help your dog stop licking their noses:

1. Keep Them Calm

Scared and anxious pups will try to communicate their feelings by regular nose licking. Other signs include; tails tucked between legs, shaking, restlessness, hiding, yawning, licking lips, and aggression.

Try giving them a calming supplement like Chamomile or pet-friendly CBD oils. These will help in lowering your dog’s heart rate.

2. Look for Damage To Your Dog’s Nose

If your dog has scratches on their nose, they will try to handle the pain by licking. First, clean the area, then put a little dab of antibiotic ointment over the wound to help in healing. If there is a foreign object in the nostril or evidence of mites, you may need to see the vet.

3. Check for Dental Health Problems

Frequent nose licking, bad breath in your dog’s mouth, bleeding gums, excessive drooling, and difficulty in chewing are signs your dog has dental problems and needs a vet visit. Dental health issues can be fatal if left untreated.

4. Give Them Plenty of Water

Lack of enough water in your dog’s system will lead to a dry nose. Your canine will try to moisturize it by licking it consistently. Make sure they have enough water, especially when you notice their nose is dry.

5. Try Changing their Environment

Walking your dog will help them relax and distract them from what makes them nervous. Take them away from their current environment if it’s possible. If not possible, try distracting them with chew toys.

My Dog keeps Licking His Lips—why?

Pups communicate non-verbally, and licking their lips is one way to do it, especially when they are stressed and uncomfortable. Dogs will also lick their lips when salivating and after they devour their favorite meal. Even if this is so, regular lip licking can signify your dog’s suffering from health issues like stomach upset or dental issues.

Dog Licking Nose and Coughing?

It’s normal for dogs to lick their cute noses every now and then. However, when done repetitively, accompanied by a cough, it’s likely your do has an upper respiratory infection like kennel cough. They may be licking their nose in response to their fever. It’s also good to check for foreign objects or mite infestations.

If A dog keeps licking their nose does it mean they have allergies?

Dogs may lick their nose if they have discharge from allergies, although this is not usually the main symptom.

Dogs are prone to three types of allergies. These are Flea allergy, food allergy, and environmental allergy. Environmental allergens are more common since dogs lead with their noses. When your dog is allergic, they tend to have other signs such as:

  • Sneezing
  • Runny nose
  • Red, Inflamed skin

Final Thoughts

It’s normal for dogs to lick their noses once in a while. They will lick their noses when they are anxious, salivating after having their meal, and for communicating. However, when they do it repeatedly for more than a day, you should get concerned as it suggests an underlying problem.


Tamsin De La Harpe


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.

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