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Why Dogs Cover Their Faces With Their Paws

By Cuteness Team
published: December 4, 2018 - updated: November 30, 2021 • 2 min. read
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Key Takeaways

  • Dogs use their paws for grooming, scratching and wiping away dirt and grime.
  • Dogs may cover their face out of embarrassment or to receive positive attention.
  • Some dogs cover their faces when they are scared or anxious.
  • Covering the face is a sign of submission in dogs.

Humans cover their faces with their hands for a myriad of reasons. They may be covering their mouth while eating or stifling a yawn. They may be surprised or frightened. Do dogs cover their faces for the same reasons?

The human-pet relationship has evolved for thousands of years, which has lead to better understanding of a dog’s emotions based on body language, such as curious head tilts or playful tail-wagging. But, why do dogs cover their faces with their paws?

Rubbing, scratching or wiping

Wag Walking notes it’s important to remember that a dog’s paws are only tools, much like their mouth, that she has to do things such as scratch and groom herself. If a dog wipes its face after eating or drinking, it is grooming itself. If a dog swipes at its eyes or around the eyes, it may be trying to scratch an itch or wipe away eye goop. If you catch your dog doing so more frequently to the point where there’s irritation there could be more to it, such as a rash, an allergy, eye irritation, or even an infection.


Emotional response

Another possible reason dogs may cover their faces is due to emotional response. If a dog is scolded, it may hide its eyes out of embarrassment. If a dog receives affection or praise while covering its face, it may repeat the action in hopes of additional positive attention. This may also explain why dogs swipe at their owner’s face, for more attention.

Anxiety or fear

It’s possible a dog might also hide its face when scared or anxious, similar to humans. Pay attention to the frequency of this event and possible triggers. If this is very frequent and the dog is displaying other symptoms, such as loss of fur, consult a vet for potential anxiety issues. Yes, dogs can have anxiety issues that can be diagnosed and treated.

Submissive behavior

Dogs’ social structures are based on dominance. Signs of dominance include making eye contact and holding the gaze. Similarly, dogs may show submission when covering their eyes with their paws.

This article is provided by Cuteness—the go-to destination for passionate pet parents. Cuteness has answers to all of your health, training, and behavior questions – as well as the cutest, funniest, and most inspiring pet stories from all over the world.

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By Cuteness Team

Cuteness is the place for pet people. Whether you’re looking for adoption guides, in-fur-mation on your pet’s weird habits or showcases of pure pet cuteness, we’ve paw-sitively got it all. At Cuteness, we’re committed to working only with experts we’d trust with our own pets. We’ve done the legwork for you so you can focus your energy on loving and caring for your furry friends. We’re passionate about all things pet and fostering a community of pet lovers. Caring for pets isn’t always a walk in the park – but we’ve got you covered! Cuteness and Healthy Paws Pet Insurance had a content sharing agreement until 2021.

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