man and dog in headbutts

Why Does My Dog Headbutt Me?

Dogs, our beloved companions, display their affection in various ways.

One less common but equally endearing gesture is the headbutt.

So, why does your dog headbutt you, and what does it mean?

1. Affection:

A gentle headbutt is often a canine’s way of showering you with love. This soft nudge is comparable to a hug or a kiss, expressing their fondness and devotion.

2. Attention seeking:

If your dog headbutts you persistently, it’s likely their way of demanding your attention. They might want you to play with them, pet them, or simply engage in some interaction.

Headbutting can be a dog’s way of seeking attention. It’s similar to a cat rubbing against your legs or a human giving a hug.

Dr. Sarah Wooten. The veterinarian and animal behaviorist

3. Greeting:

Similar to a human handshake, a headbutt can be your dog’s way of greeting you when you return home or after a period of separation. It’s a friendly gesture that signifies their excitement to see you.

4. Playful invitation:

A playful headbutt, often accompanied by a wagging tail and excited barks, is an invitation for playtime. Your dog wants you to join them in a game of fetch, tug-of-war, or any other activity they enjoy.

5. Seeking reassurance:

If your dog is feeling anxious or insecure, they might headbutt you for comfort and reassurance. This behavior is similar to how they would seek comfort from their mother as puppies.

6. Herding instincts:

Certain dog breeds, particularly those bred for herding, may use headbutts as part of their herding behavior. They might attempt to nudge you in a specific direction, trying to “herd” you where they want you to go.

7. Displacement behavior:

In some cases, headbutting can be a displacement behavior used to redirect anxiety or discomfort. This might occur in unfamiliar situations, during veterinary visits, or when meeting new people or animals.

8. Marking their territory:

Some dogs use headbutts to leave their scent on objects or people, marking them as their own. This behavior is more common in unneutered males.

Dealing with Unwanted Headbutting

While headbutting can be a cute and loving behavior, it’s important to discourage it if it becomes excessive or forceful.

1. Ignore the behavior:

If your dog headbutts you for attention, simply ignore them. This will teach them that headbutting is not an effective way to get your attention.

2. Redirect the behavior:

When your dog headbutts you, redirect their attention to a toy or activity. This will help them learn to express themselves in more appropriate ways.

3. Teach basic commands:

Training your dog to obey basic commands like “sit” and “stay” can help you control their behavior and prevent unwanted headbutting.


Remember, your dog’s headbutts are their way of communicating with you.

Pay attention to their subtle cues and respond with love and understanding.


Should I discourage my dog from headbutting?

If the headbutts are gentle and don’t cause pain, you may choose to allow them. However, it’s best to discourage the behavior if the headbutts are forceful or unwanted.

My dog only headbutts certain people. Why?

Dogs often headbutt people they feel most comfortable and bonded with.

Is headbutting a learned behavior?

Puppies often headbutt their mothers to get milk, and they may continue this behavior into adulthood.

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