My Dog Cover His Face With His Paws – 5 Possible Reasons

Why does my dog cover his face with his paws? Whatever the reason for this behavior is, it’s undeniable that such a gesture is very cute. It’s an adorable habit, which can indicate an emotional response, submissive behavior, scratching, or even fear.

In this post, we discuss this topic to give you an idea of why your dog keeps covering its face. We also discussed similar behavior that your dog might also be exhibiting.

Why does my dog cover his face with his paws?

It’s normal for dogs to cover their faces using their paws. It’s similar to how a dog wags their tail to show its emotional state.

If you’re wondering why your dog is exhibiting this adorable behavior, the following might be the possible reasons:

1. Scratching an itch

why does my dog cover his face with his paws
Photo Credits – Hillspet

The most common reason why dogs will paw their faces is a physical itch. Since canines don’t have fingers, they will rub their faces with their paws, which will appear as if the dog is covering its eyes.

It could be the gunk that accumulated around the eyes or an insect that bit your dog. It’s worth checking your dog’s face to see if the canine needs help. If it’s reddish, swollen, or irritated, you provide treatment immediately.

Also, if this keeps happening, you should first rule out the possibility of a skin infection around your dog’s face. Take note that chronic rubbing and scratching of the face is painful and can eventually lead to infections.

2. Showing submission

Covering the face with its paws is also a sign that your dog is exhibiting submissive behavior. In the wild, this behavior is a canine’s way of submitting to their alpha.

Aside from that, this behavior means that your dog trusts you. This is because covering their face makes dogs vulnerable since they can’t see well.

Oftentimes, domesticated canines will also roll to their backs and expose to their belly while covering their faces. This is a clear sign that your dog doesn’t see you as a threat.

3. Expressing fear

While covering their faces with their paws can be a positive thing, dogs can also do this to express anxiety or fear. It might be a sign that your dog is upset and using this behavior to soothe its anxiety. This is often accompanied by crying, destructive behavior, and excessive barking.

It’s important to check the environment to see if there’s something stressing your dog. If your pet always shows this behavior, you shouldn’t discount the possibility that it’s suffering from an anxiety disorder.

4. Pleasing their owners

Photo Credits – Blue Ridge Humane Society

Dogs learn various behaviors that their owners reinforce. If your dog is receiving a response by covering its face with its paws, it will likely repeat the same behavior for attention.

Canines are highly perceptive and many breeds are also eager to please. Over time, your own dog can identify the behaviors that amuse you.

Overall, this is harmless behavior. However, you may notice your dog pawing its face often to seek attention or food reward.

5. Saying sorry

Other dogs will put their paws on their face when feeling guilty. It’s possible that your dog chewed on something you’re yet to find.

While the jury is still out whether canines can feel complex emotions like guilt, the anecdotal experience of pet owners says that it’s possible. This is because their dogs would often cover their faces after doing something wrong. It’s also accompanied by cowering, visible whites of the eyes, and a tucked tail.

It’s like your dog saying ‘If I can’t see them, they won’t see me’. It’s cute, but you better check the house for anything that’s broken or chewed.

Should I worry if my dog covers his face with his paws?

Overall, there’s nothing to worry about this behavior as long as your dog isn’t exhibiting other unusual symptoms.

So if your dog is crying, whimpering, or breathing rapidly while covering its face, you should consider talking to the vet. It can be a case of anxiety, skin issues, or other problems that require veterinary attention.

If the behavior is triggered by anxiety, training and desensitization will go a long way. Take note that the goal here is not just to stop your dog from covering its face, but to tackle the root cause of the problem.

Why do dogs cover their ears with their paws?

This behavior may look like a meme template, but dogs do actually cover their ears with their paws from time to time.

When your dog put its paws over its ears, you may want to check for ear infection. Pawing might be your pet’s way of scratching the itch or discomfort.

If your dog’s ears are clean and infection-free, you should check its pinna and surrounding skin. There might be parasitic insects or skin infections triggering an itchy feeling.

Like covering its face, putting its paws over its ears are considered harmless among canines. As long as it’s not causing any injury to your dog’s ears, we don’t think this calls for an emergency vet call.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Why does my dog cover his face with his paws?

A: When a dog covers its face while asleep, it might be trying to cover its eyes. Also, it’s possible that your dog is dreaming and acting it out. Overall, dogs exhibit quirky behavior while sleeping, so this one isn’t really a big deal.

Q: Why does my dog cover his face with his paws when I pet him?

A: Covering his face when you’re trying to pet him might be your dog’s way of showing satisfaction. Since this behavior is often learned, canines will exhibit it to induce reaction or attention from their owners. As long as the behavior isn’t accompanied by any aggressive reactions, it shouldn’t be a cause of concern.

Q: Why does my dog rub his face then licks his paws?

A: If your dog is rubbing its face and licking its paws afterward, the canine might be trying to clean off something from its face. You should inspect your dog’s paws and face to see if it has any form of irritation or injury.

Q: Why does my dog keep licking his paws?

A: If your dog is licking its paws or any body part too much, it’s a sign that such part is injured or irritated. Licking is your dog’s way of easing the discomfort. However, this habit can lead to injuries and infection as incessant licking can lead to chewing.

Q: Why is my dog putting its paws on his face and squinting?

A: If your dog is putting its paws on his face and squinting, something surely got on its eyes. It could be allergens or an infection that will get worse if not treated right away. It’s important to act upon this behavior to ensure that your dog won’t suffer further.

Final words

Why does my dog cover his face with his paws? This behavior is normal and likely your pet’s way of scratching an itch, soliciting attention, or simply expressing fear. Overall, it shouldn’t be a cause of concern unless the behavior is becoming unusually recurring.

If you’re worried, you can always consult your dog’s veterinarian. This way, you’ll get professional advice about your dog’s behavior and treatment for your pet if need be.


  • Brad

    Hi I'm Brad, the founder of Having been a vet of 6 years I work alongside our team to provide valuable insight into your dog's health. I have a frenchie myself named Senzu who is my pride and joy!

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