Why Do Dogs Headbutt? (+ Solutions to Prevent It)

Have you ever been headbutted by your dog and wondered what on earth they were trying to say?

It’s not just a weird way of trying to get your attention – there are actually a lot of reasons why dogs do this!

If you’re wondering why do dogs headbutt, it is a common behavior for dogs and they do it for many different reasons besides impersonating a ram.

Some people think that dogs headbutt as a way of showing affection, while others believe that it’s a sign of dominance or fear.

No matter why your dog does it, it’s important to understand why he’s doing it so you can understand him better and respond in the right way.

Keep reading to learn more about why do dogs headbutt and what you can do about it!

a light tan dog sits in a man's lap and headbutts a lady

12 Reasons Why Dogs Headbutt

If you’re a dog owner, you’ve probably noticed your furry friend likes to do this behavior.

You might get concerned and ask why do dogs headbutt? Let’s find out why.

1. To Show Affection

a dachshund headbutts a lady while she kisses it

Your dog loves you, there’s no doubt about it. But have you ever wondered why does my dog headbutt me like a ram?

One reason dogs headbutt is to show affection. Your dog is trying to get close to you and show you how much they love you.

Just like how dogs have their own ways of showing affection to each other, like licking one another’s eyes or muzzle, dogs use headbutting to show their affection for us humans.

So if your dog ever gives you a headbutt, just know that they are trying to say “I love you!” in their own special way.

Your dog may also try to bury their head into you or lick up your nose as another way of showing affection.

2. To Get Attention

If you’ve ever had a dog headbutt you while vying for attention, you’re not alone. Though this behavior may seem odd, there’s actually a reason behind it.

Dogs are social animals, and they crave interaction. When they headbutt you, they’re simply trying to get your attention so that you’ll engage with them.

Dogs may headbutt their owners if they feel that they’re being ignored and they are craving attention.

If your dog wants something (like a treat or to go for a walk), they may headbutt you to let you know.

When you stop petting your dog, a headbutt from them will alert you that they want more pets. If you’re petting another dog or talking on the phone, your dog may headbutt you in an effort to get some of your attention.

So next time your dog bumps his head against you, take a moment to pet him and show him some love. It’ll make him feel appreciated.

3. Play Behavior

a light tan dog headbutting a man with a blue ball in its mouth

Some dogs headbutt as part of their play behavior.

If your dog seems happy and playful when they headbutt you, they’re probably just trying to have some fun.

Headbutting can be used to initiate play.

By headbutting you, your dog is inviting you to play with them. It’s their way of saying “let’s have some fun!” 

Dogs can be impatient if you’re not ready to play.

Expect your dog to headbutt again or even jump on you or bark at you.

Luckily, playful headbutts are usually done with a soft touch and your dog may even wag their tail while doing it (so cute).

4. Scent Marking

Another possibility is that headbutting is a way for dogs to spread their scent.

Dogs have special scent glands in their faces that secrete a unique smell and headbutting allows them to transfer this scent onto you.

This chemical marker serves as a way of claiming you and showing they trust you.

5. As a Greeting

While it may not be the most conventional form of greeting, many dog owners have experienced their furry friend headbutting them when they come home.

Dogs show their excitement in different ways like wagging their tail, barking, or jumping around.

Your dog may choose to express his excitement by headbutting you.

This is often seen as a way of greeting, as your dog is happy to see you and wants to show you how much they love you.

So the next time you come home and your dog starts headbutting you, don’t be offended – just give them a big hug!

6. When Scared or Anxious

Another reason why your dog is headbutting you is that they’re feeling scared or anxious.

When dogs are feeling anxious, they often turn to their human companions for comfort and reassurance.

Headbutting is often part of this comforting behavior along with burying their head into you.

By leaning into you and making physical contact, your dog is trying to create a sense of closeness and security. It’s their way of saying, “I trust you and I need your help.”

If your dog is headbutting you more than usual, it could be a sign that they’re feeling anxious or scared.

Pay attention to their body language and see if there are any other signs that they’re feeling uneasy.

Some common things dogs are scared of are brooms, flies, strangers, and the vet.

Read next: 12 Surprising Reasons Why Dogs Are Scared of Brooms

7. When Excited

One moment you’re enjoying a peaceful nap on the couch, and the next you’re being jolted awake by a furry headbutt.

Your dog is trying to show you their excitement and that they want you to join in on their fun!

Dogs may headbutt their owners when they’re feeling playful or happy.

Headbutting when excited is usually accompanied by tail wagging and maybe even barking.

If you grab the leash or pick up their favorite toy, your dog may headbutt you in anticipation.

They know it’s time for a walk or some playtime, and they’re excited!

8. Herding Behavior

a border collie headbutting and herding sheep

If you own a dog breed that is known for herding like an Australian Cattle Dog or Border Collie, you may have noticed that they love to headbutt their people.

This is actually a behavior that these dogs use to herd their pack mates.

By headbutting people, they are trying to move them in the desired direction.

So the next time your dog starts headbutting you, don’t be surprised – they’re just following their natural instincts!

When dogs headbutt us, they may be trying to herd us in the same way that they would herd sheep or other animals.

They may even try to herd your children or herd the broomstick when you’re sweeping!

They may see us as part of their pack and be trying to keep us safe by moving us away from danger or bringing us closer to the rest of the pack.

Whatever the reason, it’s clear that herding is instinctive for dogs, and it’s something that they’re driven to do.

They are trying to tell you where to go like nudging you to the door if they want to go outside or to the toybox when they want to play.

9. To Ask for Something

Headbutting is often used as a way to request something from their human companions.

For example, if your dog wants to go for a walk, they may headbutt your hand in an effort to get you to grab their leash.

If they’re hungry, they may butt their head against your leg until you give them some food.

So if your dog gives you a nudge with their head, it’s likely that they’re just trying to tell you what they want!

10. Feeling Sick

Dogs are social animals that form strong bonds with their owners.

When they’re feeling ill, they may headbutt you as a way of seeking comfort and reassurance.

If your dog suddenly starts headbutting you more frequently, it could be a sign that they’re sick or ill.

If you notice other changes in your dog’s behavior, such as lethargy or loss of appetite, take them to the vet for a check-up.

11. Hunger

Have you ever noticed that your dog will headbutt you when they’re hungry?

It’s not just a cute quirk – it’s actually their way of telling you that it’s time to eat!

If you notice that your dog is headbutting around mealtime, it’s likely because they’re trying to tell you that they are ready to chow down.

They might also headbutt you when you’re eating something that they want, like if you’re sitting on the couch with a plate of food.

They know that you have something that they want, and they’re trying to get you to share!

12. Breed Trait

an english bulldog sits in the grass

There are a number of reasons why your dog may headbutt you. It could be due to their breed and is a breed-specific trait.

Dogs with flat faces tend to headbutt often as a way to communicate.

For example, Bulldogs often headbutt their owners as a way of asking for attention or food.

Similarly, Boxers are known for their headbutting behavior, which is thought to be a way of showing affection.

Should You Let Your Dog Headbutt You?

Now that you know why dogs headbutt, you may be wondering if you should allow your dog to do it.

The answer is that it depends on the situation.

If your dog is headbutting you as a greeting or to ask for affection, then it’s probably okay to let them do it.

However, if your dog is headbutting you out of aggression or dominance, then it’s best to discourage the behavior.

How to Stop Headbutting

Headbutting is a perfectly natural behavior for dogs, but that doesn’t mean you have to like it.

If your dog is headbutting you and it’s not welcome, there are a few things you can do about it.

a white and tan dog's head looking to the side

Figure Out Why It’s Happening

The first step is to try to figure out why your dog is headbutting you. If it’s a sign of affection, you may not want to stop it entirely.

However, if your dog is headbutting you as a way of asking for something, you’ll need to teach them that this behavior is not acceptable.

Make Sure Their Needs Are Met

If your dog is headbutting for affection or to get your attention, make sure their emotional needs are being met.

Spend more time playing with your dog, going on regular walks, and giving them plenty of opportunities to cuddle.

If they’re headbutting for food, make sure they’re getting enough to eat and that their meals are spaced out throughout the day. 

Ignore the Behavior

The best way to discourage headbutting is to ignore your dog when they do it.

Don’t give them any attention or reward them with attention or treats.

Eventually, they’ll learn that headbutting doesn’t get them what they want and they’ll stop doing it.

Redirect the Behavior

Another way is to direct the behavior to something else.

For example, if your dog headbutts you for attention, have them sit or lie down before you give them any petting or affection and then reward that behavior.

Or if they are repeatedly headbutting you, try grabbing a toy or a puzzle and getting them to focus on that instead.

Use Positive Reinforcement

Whenever your dog doesn’t headbutt you, make sure to give them plenty of praise and rewards.

If your dog usually headbutts you as a greeting when you arrive home and this time they didn’t, give them treats or some extra attention.

This will reinforce the behavior you want to see and help them learn that headbutting is not acceptable.

The more they realize that good things happen when they don’t headbutt, the more likely they are to stop the behavior.

Be Consistent

It’s important to be consistent with whatever method you choose to stop your dog from headbutting.

If you only ignore them sometimes or you give in and pet them other times, they’re going to get confused and the behavior is more likely to continue.

Discouraging headbutting behavior may take some time and patience, but eventually, your dog will get the message if you take the time to train them.

Why Does My Dog Headbutt Other Dogs?

Have you ever wondered why your dog headbutts other dogs?

It’s actually a very common behavior, and there are a couple of different theories about why dogs do it.

If your dog is excited, wagging their tail, and headbutting another dog, it’s likely they’re just trying to get them to play.

When an older dog headbutts a younger dog or puppy it could be because they are asserting dominance and trying to show them who is in charge.

They could be trying to teach the puppy what’s acceptable behavior and what’s not.

If your dog’s headbutting is aggressive, it could be because they’re feeling threatened or anxious and are trying to warn the other dog to stay away.

It would be best to separate the dogs in this case, especially if they bare their teeth.

Consider consulting with a professional trainer if this issue persists.

Why Does My Dog Headbutt His Food Bowl?

You’ve may have noticed your dog headbutting their food bowl.

While this behavior may seem strange, there are actually a few possible explanations.

If their bowl is empty when they headbutt it, it could mean that they’re hungry and are trying to tell you that they need more food.

Some dogs will headbutt their food bowl when food is in it to tell you they don’t like the food.

This is more common with picky eaters, but it can happen with any dog.

They could also headbutt a full food bowl to say they aren’t hungry.

Another possibility is that they’re trying to move the bowl.

Sometimes, dogs will headbutt their bowl because they want to move it to a different location.

This is usually done because they’re not comfortable eating in the current location.

To solve this issue, you can buy a raised food bowl or one with silicone grippers on the bottom so your dog can push it around.


We hope you got your answer to why do dogs headbutt.

It is a common way for dogs to communicate, show affection, ask for attention, or even as a way of asking for something. 

If your dog is headbutting you, it’s important to figure out why they’re doing it.

If your dog is headbutting you and it’s not welcome, the best thing to do is to ignore it.

Eventually, they’ll learn that this behavior doesn’t get them what they want.

Dogs are smart creatures and with a little patience, you can train them to stop headbutting.

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