Why Does My Dog Bury His Head in Me?

By John Martin - November 17, 2023

Puppy burying head in owner's arm

Has your dog been exhibiting unusual behavior recently, like burying their head in you? While this is adorable to witness, the behavior can be quite puzzling.

Dogs are a man’s best friend. They make life joyful, and every dog parent wants to ensure that they receive the best care.

While you may understand their behavior most of the time, certain behaviors like burying their head in you might leave you confused.

Is it a good thing or a bad thing? Let’s find out!

Why the Odd Behavior?

Dogs exhibit certain behaviors to communicate with you and alert you to their state of emotions.

If the act of burying their head in you becomes a common occurrence, you should understand the reasons behind it and come up with appropriate solutions.

There are several common reasons why your dog may bury their head in you. The reasons range from showing affection to feeling fear.

It is up to you to understand the behavior and make your furry friend feel secure.

Reasons Why Your Dog Buries Their Head in You

Dogs, too, have a wide range of emotions like you. They express these emotions in their own quirky ways. However, occasionally, you will notice an odd behavior that you are not familiar with.

Here is a list of reasons why your dog is burying their head in you.

A Sign of Affection

Most dogs express happiness and affection with tail wags, jumps, barks, licks, etc. However, it is also common for them to show love through touch.

Just as you enjoy giving them a good head rub, they love showing affection for you by burying their head in you. If you can cuddle with your loved ones and show love through touch, so can they!

Since their sense of smell is really strong, this behavior gets their noses close to you and helps them bond more deeply with you.

Looking for Comfort

Your dog is most comfortable with you. One of the reasons why they might be burying their head in you is for comfort. It is a natural instinct toward a parent (you are a dog parent, after all!).

If a dog trusts you and feels secure in your presence, they will show their comfort level by getting into a comfortable position, such as burrowing their head in you.

It is also very likely that this behavior was encouraged the first time they did it, and now, it is a repeat pattern.

They may also be seeking comfort against cold weather. Short-haired dogs like pugs feel cold quickly and will seek you out for your body heat.

Also Read: Why Does My Dog Bury His Head in the Couch?

Expression of Fear

Your dog’s behavior of tucking their head in you could be a signal that they are fearful of something. Since you are the place of comfort for your furry little friend, it is only natural that they turn to you when they are scared.

Some dogs are more nervous than others. If you notice this behavior, try to pinpoint the cause of the fear. Was there a loud thunderstorm or any other startling noises in your environment when they sought comfort? Was there another animal present?

Some dogs suffer from trauma developed from unpleasant past experiences. They might associate certain triggers in their current surroundings with danger, and this can result in them becoming fearful and seeking their favorite human as their safe place.

Separation Anxiety

Dogs do not like being alone. Some get more anxious than others if their owners are away from them for longer durations.

If your dog suffers from separation anxiety, they will exhibit strong emotions once they sense you are about to leave. They are clever animals and can quickly pick up on the signals that you will depart soon.

If they suffered through any unpleasant experiences in the past, such as neglect, they may feel scared when they are left alone. They may even exhibit strong symptoms. In this case, you will have to get professional help to remove the fear and anxiety.

If you are away from home a lot, burrowing their head in you is just a way of communicating that they do not want you to leave them alone.

A Show of Empathy

Dogs are remarkably attuned to your emotions. If they sense strong emotions coming off you, such as grief or anxiety, they will react to it. They are even able to differentiate between emotions and facial expressions.

Their sixth sense allows them to understand when their favorite human is feeling sad, unwell, or just requires some comfort. One manner of showing empathy involves putting down their head in your lap.

They are likely aware that being close to you will offer you comfort and help your bad mood disappear—it is like receiving a hug, but from your dog!

Also Read: Why Does My Dog Drool Around Other Dogs?

Marking Their Territory

Dogs are very territorial. It is no surprise that they view you as part of their territory. Their adorable tuck in your lap could just be a way for them to mark you and establish ownership.

Dogs are very territorial. It is no surprise that they view you as part of their territory. Their adorable tuck in your lap could just be a way for them to mark you and establish ownership.

In theory, they have scent glands in their furry faces that allow them to leave their scent on you.

So by rubbing their face on you, they are essentially warning all other dogs that you belong to them and asking them to back off!

They may exhibit this behavior if you are around new dogs or other animals. However, it is difficult to pinpoint if they are doing this on purpose.

Alerting You

Dogs are extremely alert animals. They sense danger quickly, even if they have not been trained to do so. A lot of them seek out their humans to warn them if something does not seem right.

While some bark aggressively or whine to get your attention, others will approach you and lay down their head on you to grab your attention.

Communication between a dog and a human can be difficult, and if your dog feels you are not getting the message, they will do other things to alert you.

If you have a service dog, then something might have triggered them to alert you. They are usually trained to detect fluctuations in blood sugar, seizures, etc. Depending on their training, once they detect something out of the ordinary, they will bury their head in you.

In any case, heed their signal and find out what they are trying to tell you.

Seeking Your Attention

If your dog has been insistently burying their head in you, it might be a signal that they want your attention.

Dogs love getting attention from their beloved humans. If they seek you out in this manner, it might be time for some pets, especially if you have been ignoring them for a while.

If this happens frequently during meal times, you may have inadvertently trained your dog to ask for food in this manner.

Some other reasons for seeking your attention could be that they need a toy, they are feeling unwell, or they have to attend to nature’s call outside.

Whatever the reason, if your dog is persistent with the behavior, you should investigate and see where it leads you.

Is the Behavior Cause for Concern?

Dogs use a lot of nonverbal cues to communicate with you. To understand their form of communication, you need to be observant.

Watch their body language and learn to associate it with meaning. Mark the time when such behavior takes place. Were there emotions involved? Was there a loud noise? Is it separation anxiety? Take note of environmental cues around the behavior.

While the behavior itself is not considered bad, the cause for concern depends on the reason why they are burying their head in you. Once you get to the root of the issue, you can comfort them and reciprocate in a positive manner.

If your dog has anxiety or is feeling unwell, this behavior is definitely concerning. You should always be alert so you can address any issue arising from it.

Identifying the reason behind the behavior and addressing it is a big part of successful communication with your furry friend.

However, you should not be rewarding this behavior if it is linked to reasons such as anxiety or fear.

How to Put an End to This Behavior

As a responsible dog parent, you should never reinforce negative behavior. Your dog burying their head in you is not considered bad behavior unless it is associated with a negative reason.

On the other hand, if the behavior is simply affectionate, you do not have to discourage it. Simply enjoy the extra love and shower them with attention!

If it is a direct result of a serious issue such as fear or anxiety, you should address the issue and modify or put an end to the behavior. There are several ways to do this.

Avoid Encouraging It

Every time your dog repeats the behavior, if you reward them with attention or treats, it will reinforce the behavior and result in a loop of undesired behavior.

Once they learn that they can get you to react by burying their head, they will be encouraged to persistently display the behavior. Do not encourage the behavior.

Train Your Dog

Training a dog is part of owning a well-behaved dog. If you instill good training, your dog will immediately respond to your simple but effective commands.

You can train your dog to modify their head-burying behavior and get them accustomed to new circumstances.

Divert Focus

Once your dog starts displaying the behavior, you should try to divert their attention. Shifting their attention to something fun, like playing with them, can help them lose focus of their undesirable behavior.

However, you will have to take care that this pattern is not reinforced and that your dog does not start to associate the new behavior with the old one. Burying their head in you should not mean it is playtime.

Investigate Reasons Behind Anxiety

If the behavior is linked with anxiety, investigate what is causing the anxiety. Once you get to the root cause, try and curb the conditions, giving rise to the anxiety.

For instance, if they suffer from separation anxiety, make sure to spend plenty of time with them before you leave. If you can, ensure that there is someone else present to spend time with them when you are not home. If the issue is severe, you should consult a professional for support.

If they are anxious because of crowds, do not go on walks in crowded places. If they are fearful, comfort them and provide them with a secure place.

Get rid of whatever is causing their anxiety or fear. If you notice the behavior around loud TV or other loud noises, lower the volume and secure a peaceful environment for them.

The only way to reduce the head-burying behavior is to find the link behind it and get to the right solution.

Change Your Dog’s Location

Another way to discourage this behavior is to get up and walk away from your dog. While it feels rather unkind, doing so will prevent any reinforcement of the behavior.

You can also change the dog’s location to another room or corner where they are not likely to seek you out. If they cannot get to you, they will not get the opportunity to bury their head.

Also Read: Why Does My Dog Scratch the Floor?

Parting Thoughts

Dogs burying their heads in you can be quite comforting to you. While it may be a form of affection, it can also be a result of something much less appealing and more serious.

You should be attuned to their way of communication and figure out why they have developed this habit. Understanding your dog’s actions is paramount to remedying any problems.

There are several ways for you to reduce the behavior if you wish to do so. Otherwise, you can simply enjoy the doggy cuddles!