Our dogs can be alternately entertaining and infuriating, and sometimes both at the same time, depending on what they are doing! Whilst both humans and dogs are mammals and so, have a lot in common, we are also very different too of course-and many common canine behaviours make little sense to humans, and the same is true the other way around as well!
Dogs tend to prefer walking and playing on grass than they do on hard surfaces like gravel or asphalt, and few dogs can resist running off into a field of long, lush grass and rolling around in it for a while! Many dogs also seem to make it a hobby to rub their faces in the grass at every possible opportunity, often leaving them with grass stains and a collection of seeds and burs around their head and ears too!
If this sounds like your dog, you may well wonder what causes them to be so keen to rub their head and face in grass, what it means and if it is normal or not. In this article, we will answer these questions, and look at some of the most common reasons behind why your dog might be obsessed with rubbing their head and face in fresh grass. Read on to learn more.
The dog’s most powerful sense is of course their sense of smell, and yet despite the sensitivity of their olfactory senses, dogs do love to get up close and personal with whatever they are sniffing at the time! If your dog is determined to get up close and personal with the grass, they may be immersing themselves in the various scents within it, gaining feedback about the environment around them.
As well as the nose itself, dogs have a scenting organ in the roof of their mouths too, and the surface of their tongues helps to pick up and process larger molecules of scent, such as pollen.
Additionally, if your dog is in a new area or has recently had a bath (and so, they can tell a distinct difference between their own scent and that of their environment) they may be trying to imbue themselves with the scent of their immediate area, in an evolutionary defence against becoming a target for predators due to their distinctive scent.
For some dog owners, walks require a high level of vigilance in order to ensure that the pooch in question does not home in on something smelly and disgusting (such as poop or a decaying carcass) and roll in it, one canine behaviour that is a constant source of confusion and annoyance!
For dogs that are apt to roll in stinky things, rubbing the head and face in the grass may present in certain situations if your dog has sniffed out something unusual that passed through-even if there is nothing to see or smell to us as humans-and trying to amplify and process the scent by getting as close to it as possible.
Every person and dog has the odd itch that they cannot resist scratching, and of course if we feel achy or stiff, we are apt to unconsciously rub or massage the area in question. If your dog rubs their head in the grass, they may be scratching an itch, attempting to relieve pressure or discomfort, or simply enjoy the tactile feedback from a combination of the hard ground and the cushioning grass.
The behaviour of a dog that is playing and having fun can both be really funny and also confusing, and in some cases, determinedly rubbing their head in the grass may simply be a fun activity that provides sensory feedback to the dog at the same time as delivering all of the scent information outlined above.
If your dog does not often get the chance to really enjoy themselves off the lead in a field or other green space or if the area in question is particularly lush and tempting, you are apt to see a lot of haring around, as well as rolling, rubbing and generally having fun in a variety of ways!
Finally, if your dog suffers from an allergy that causes their skin to itch or that causes irritated eyes and a tickle in the back of the nose, your dog may find that rubbing their head in the grass will temporarily ease their symptoms. This is not always a good thing-for instance, if your dog suffers from hayfever or a pollen allergy, it may worsen the issue-and so it is worth considering whether or not your dog may be manifesting the symptoms of an irritating allergy or other problem.
Additionally, ear mites are a common and very contagious problem for dogs, particularly in breeds with long, floppy ears such as the Springer spaniel. Ear mites can be very hard to spot for the dog’s owner, but will nonetheless be very itchy and irritating for your dog.
If your dog rubs their head and particularly ears in grass and also, on other surfaces regularly, it is wise to ask your vet to give them a quick check-up to make sure they are not suffering from ear mites or a similar parasitic problem.