Why Does my Dog Headbutt Me? 11 Reasons to Justify This Behavior

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Barking, whimpering, howling, sighing, and growling are some vocalizations that dogs use to communicate. Non-verbal cues like the famous ‘puppy eyes,’ cuddling, sloppy kisses, and nuzzling are ways to show their love.

Understandably, placing headbutting into the list of non-verbal can get confusing. Why does my dog headbutt me? Is it happy, is it sad, or is this behavior aggressive? How should I react to it?

Why Does my Dog Headbutt Me 11 Reasons to Justify This Behavior
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Let us learn more about dog headbutting reasons and tips to deal with it.

Is Headbutting Normal in Dogs?

Yes, dogs dishing out headbutts is entirely normal. It is one of those non-verbal behaviors that they use to communicate with their humans. Some dog breeds are prone to headbutting because of their genes and evolution.

Headbutts, at first, may seem like violent behavior. If your pet belongs to one of the larger dog breeds, the habit could get irritating and, in some cases, hurtful. Please do not get angry at the dog. Headbutts are more or less harmless. If you do not want your dog to headbutt, you can use training techniques to correct the behavior.

Headbutt is a behavior that you should not ignore either. Try to understand why your dog is behaving so. They might need your attention; they could be anxious or just hungry. We will look at the reasons in detail below.

Reasons Why Your Dog Headbutts You

Why does my dog headbutt me? Of course, communication is the primary answer. But, what is the dog trying to communicate? Let us find out possible justifications behind headbutts.

1. The Dog is Excited

The Dog is Excited
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What do you do when you are excited? Exhibiting behavior such as clapping, jumping, laughing out loud, and high-fiving your friends is common. The same goes for your furry friend.

When excited, dogs can show behavior such as jumping, wide mouth grin with tongue hanging out, vocalizations, and headbutting.

For example, if you come home to the dog after a long day at work, your pet will be excited to see you. So, when you enter the door and sit down to pat them, they might give you a headbutt. It is your dog’s way of saying, ‘I am so happy to see you.

2. Instinctive Trait to Herd

If we look back at history, dogs have always been employed to herd cattle. Dogs made sure that cattle were safe in the pasture land and escorted them to the barn and vice versa. They would stare, chase or nip at the cattle’s feet to keep them with the herd.

Instinctive Trait to Herd
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Depending on the purpose of the dog breed, headbutts can be a trait that has been ingrained in them. Today, these dogs may not be used for herding, but their instinctive traits remain sharp. For example, the dog might headbutt you or your children around the house to control your movements.

The dog is not deliberately trying to misbehave or show aggression. Instead, the behavior is triggered by movement. Trying to divert their attention to other tasks and investing more time into obedience training can help.

Some of the popular dog breeds that belong to the herding group are:

  • Australian Cattle Dog
  • Border Collie
  • Terriers
  • Australian Shepherd
  • German Shepherd
  • Old English Sheepdog, among others

3. Your Dog Needs Some Attention

Your dog will headbutt you for the simple reason of getting your attention. You can decipher what it wants from you, depending on the time of the day. For example, is it time for your dog’s evening walk? If yes, your dog will headbutt and gently push you in the direction of the door.

Some dog breeds require a lot more attention. For example, Siberian Huskies are famous for their dramatic flair and attention-seeking behavior. Other dog breeds that require constant attention are:

  • Border Collie
  • Cocker Spaniel
  • Labrador Retriever
  • English Bulldog
  • Boston Terrier
  • Jack Russell Terrier

Be careful of the attention-seeking headbutt. If you react, every time the dog does this, you are reinforcing the habit that a headbutt is the only way to get attention from you.

4. It is Hungry

It is Hungry
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If you are running behind at mealtime, the dog will make sure to remind you. For example, if your dog headbutts you before lunch or dinner, it means it is hungry.

Keep the pet well-fed. Please do not wait for the dog to tell you that it is hungry constantly. You might be feeding them too little or waiting for a long time between meals.

Experiment with food portions or give them small meals throughout the day. If you are wary of overfeeding the dog, consult with the vet. The vet can help you formulate a healthy nutritional plan.

5. The Dog Wants to Play

Some dog breeds are highly energetic and require plenty of physical exercise and mental stimulation. An hour of walking will not do the job. You will have to play with the dog and give toys or puzzles to keep them busy.

Dog breeds belonging to the ‘working group’ need their exercise demands met. Them headbutting you could be an indication that they want to play. They have been bred to work for the majority of the day.

The Dog Wants to Play
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Before bringing home a dog, research their needs. For example, if you do not have enough time for exercise and play, your dog might indulge in destructive activities to release their pent-up energy.

Few dog breeds that require the most exercise are:

  • Belgian Malinois
  • German Shepherds
  • Siberian Huskies
  • German Shorthaired Pointers
  • Golden Retrievers
  • Vizslas

Bonus Read: Ultimate Guide To Dog Health

6. It is Marking You

Dogs tend to mark their favorite things. For example, it can mark its bed, toys, or the house’s backyard. It is the dog’s way of showing ownership.

The dog will try to pick up the smell from objects that heavily smell you. Dogs have scent glands on their faces, so they could try to spread their smell on you with headbutting. It is a territorial behavior.

You might notice this behavior can turn excessive in the company of other humans and dogs. It is an indication for the other dogs to stay clear of you.

7. It is Their Love Language

Do dogs really love you? Oh yes, they do. And we have science to back it up.

According to a study in Japan, when dogs and humans gaze into each other eyes, their brains release the well-known love hormone, oxytocin. Another study found that when dogs smell their human parents, their brain lights up differently than smelling random individuals.

It is Their Love Language
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So, yes, dogs love you and will be vocal about their feelings. For example, when you both are comfortably snuggled into the sofa, with you petting them, do not be alarmed if you get a gentle headbutt in return. It is one of the ways the pet conveys its feelings.

8. They Do Not Feel So Good

Dogs cannot tell you if they feel sick to the stomach, are hurt, or are in pain. Instead, they might try to get your attention with headbutts. So if your dog starts headbutting excessively, out of the blue, it could mean it is in distress.

It would be best if you watched out for symptoms. If the signs are obvious, like vomiting, diarrhea, bleeding, drooling, swelling, you need to consult with the vet.

You need to monitor your dog’s behavior to catch the non-obvious signs. For example, your dog could be nauseous, feeling dizzy, or might be experiencing neurological symptoms. If the dog headbutts obsessively, it is best to get them examined by the vet.

9. The Dog Feels Anxious or Scared

If your dog feels anxious or scared, it might prefer to be in the company of its favorite person – you. They might headbutt to let you know they are uncomfortable.

The Dog Feels Anxious or Scared
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Take the circumstance into account. For example, is there a person in the house your dog is not familiar with? Or is your dog scared because of the persistent and loud thunders? In such cases, your dog will seek security from you, and headbutting could be their way of communication.

1o. The Dog is Testing You

If it is the first time your dog has headbutted you, it may mean the dog is testing your boundaries. This behavior is expected in young dogs between the ages of 7 months to two years.

The puppy is curious during this stage. They are trying to figure out and learn what behavior is acceptable and what is not. They also have a lot of energy they want to let out.

The Dog is Testing You
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A puppy that is in the process of obedience training may resort to headbutts to seek your attention. You need to ignore the headbutting and stick to a proper eating and training schedule to avoid the behavior from becoming a habit.

11. Certain Dog Breeds Like Headbutting

As seen above, headbutting is not a learned behavior but more instinctive. So certain dog breeds will be predisposed to this kind of behavior.

Dogs belonging to the herding and working group of animals are energetic and require plenty of exercise and attention. They were bred to be around people and other animals.

If you are not able to fulfill the dog’s needs, they will use headbutting to dictate your behavior and boss you around.

What to Do When a Dog Headbutts?

Now that you have the answer to the question: why does my dog headbutt me? Let us see what you should do next.

1. See What They Want

For the majority of the time, your dog wants something from you. Consider the time of the day, the activity you were doing, and your dog’s behavior. For example, if your dog is hungry, satisfying its immediate need can cease the headbutting.

It would help if you drafted a routine that your pet and you are comfortable with. Set up time windows for meals, exercise, and playtime. Ensure the water bowl is full at all times. Keep their chew toys and puzzles handy.

Your day may not completely stop headbutting, but anticipating and fulfilling its basic needs can surely help.

2. Obedience Training

If you react every time the dog headbutts, it will become a habit for the pet. It might think a headbutt is a way to get what it wants. This may lead to the pet assuming the alpha position and disobeying your commands.

Obedience Training
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It may seem difficult, but you need to keep patient and repeatedly train them for commands like sit, stop, watch me and leave it. Shouting these commands alone will not be fruitful.

It would be best if one ignores the headbutting behavior. Instead, treat them to a little reward when the dog calms down and listens to your command.

3. Identify and Addressing Stress Triggers

Identifying and addressing triggers that cause anxiety and fear in your pet can make them feel at ease. If a big group of people stresses them out, keep the pet in a different room. Slowly and gradually introduce them to new people. Please do not force them to get comfortable quickly.

If your dog does not like being left alone, see if you can make alternative arrangements. For example, can you leave the dog at a family or friend’s place, hire a dog sitter or sign up at doggy daycare?

If you live in areas like Southeast US, where thunderstorms are frequent, invest in good-quality ear muffs for your pet.

Do You Want Your Dog to Headbutt You?

The answer to the question depends on the reason and your personal choice. For example, if the dog is hungry or in pain, headbutts would be a good way of communication. Or a gentle nudge when you both are lazying around the sofa can convey love.

Do You Want Your Dog to Headbutt You
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But, if the dog uses this behavior to get your attention for the most trivial things, it should be ignored or discouraged. Saying no to your beloved dog may seem difficult. However, it is necessary if you want them to obey your commands.

If headbutting is made into a habit, your dog may indulge in destructive behavior when it does not get its way. Thus, start training the pet from an early age.

Summary

Why does my dog headbutt me? It is how they convey their feelings and needs. It is how the dog shows that it loves you, is happy to see you, and enjoys your company. It is also how they tell you that they are hungry, thirsty, frustrated, or in pain.

You need to consider when and why the dog is headbutting. Look at their behavior. Take into account environmental factors as well. Please do not get mad at them; instead, figure out what they want.

If your dog suddenly starts headbutting obsessively, it is best to visit the vet clinic.

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