Why do dogs hate it when you blow in their face? Many dog owners notice that their dogs don't like to get blown in their face, which often doesn't make much sense considering that dogs don't seem to mind at all hanging their heads out the car's window and being blown at full force by the wind. So what gives?
Until dogs can talk, we can only make assumptions as to why dogs hate being blown in the face so much, in the meanwhile though, it's important to practice caution and stop blowing in a dog's face so to play it safe. Following are some possible reasons as to why dogs might not like to get blown on their face.
Too Close for Comfort
Dogs might not appreciate being blown in the face for the simple fact that they don't really understand what is going on.
First of all, in order to blow in a dog's face, one must put the face pretty close to the dog. Some dogs are not comfortable with this. It could be they don't feel comfortable having a face up so close and/or they might not like the direct stare.
This is one of the reasons children are often bitten, their height puts them close to the dog's face and dogs may not be comfortable with such closeness.
Many dogs show subtle signs of discomfort when people put their faces up close to their faces such as licking lips, yawning, turning the head and showing whale eyes.
Therefore people should avoid putting their faces up close if they notice these subtle signs (and of course, the more evident ones) or are not sure how their dogs react to this.
The Unexpected Air
Some dogs might not mind having their owners' faces up close, but then comes the unexpected blow of air. Dogs cannot blow air out of their mouths as we do, so being blown in their faces is something totally unexpected.
When dogs don't understand something, they are more likely to react in an instinctive manner which can translate into a growl and/or air snapping in the best scenario. A bite to the person's face would not be a surprising reaction to being blown in the face though and this is the reason why it's best not to do so.
Why do dogs like sticking their head out of car windows but then hate being blown in their faces? The answer is simple. An unexpected blow of air is very different than air flowing constantly through the open window of a car during travel.
Dogs understand and are familiar with air currents and wind. The air is not coming from a person approaching closely near the dog's faces. It's natural air that, not only may feel good (especially on a hot day), but it's also rich with scents that dogs loves to investigate with their powerful sniffers.
Also, in an open window scenario, if the air bothers the dog, the dog can always move away from the window, rather than being forced to endure air being blown directly in their faces from a person who suddenly comes up too close for comfort.
A Potentially Wrong Interpretation
Another reason why dogs may hate being blown in their faces is the fact that they may misinterpret our intent.
In the dog world, puffing cheeks, which takes place when dogs exhale air, causing their cheeks to puff out, can signify an impending attack. There are therefore chances that when we blow into our dogs' faces, they are interpreting it as a threat, basically a precursor to aggression.
When dogs perceive a threat, they often may react instinctively. Some dogs may back away, but others may respond aggressively, especially if they are cornered and cannot readily move out of the way.
"Puffing is when the dog rapidly exhales a small amount of air, that causes her cheeks to puff out. Puffing is a precursor to aggression."~ Courteous Canine, Inc
Heeding the Warning
When a dog growls or snaps upon being blown in the face, he's giving out a warning that he doesn't like this type of interaction so it's best to play it safe and stop blowing in his face. Many people underestimate a dog's growling assuming it all just stops there.
A growl or snap is the dog's version of saying "Stop it! I don't like that!" If the dog owner continues, the dog may at some time decide to escalate to a bite.
Pat Miller, dog trainer and owner of Peaceable Paws says that a growl is a gift, something to be greatly treasured because it's the dog's effort to try his best to avoid resorting to biting. But if that growl is ignored, the dog's behavior may intensify, with more tension than before, and perhaps the dog may resort to a muzzle punch or an air snap or even a full-force bite next time.
Now That You Know...
If your dog tends to react aggressively when you blow in his face, please be careful and absolutely don't let children do it. Whistling can also be perceived as blowing air, if done near the dog's face, so careful to avoid doing that too.
Many people post videos on YouTube of dogs trying to bite when being blown in the face, and many people find these videos funny, but they are not.
At some point, the dog may feel the need to escalate and bite, and with the person so close to the dog's face, the bite can do lots of damage. Every year, people undergo costly medical expenses and cosmetic surgery for serious dog bites to the face.
If your dog is acting aggressively when you blow in his face, please stop doing that and seek the help of a professional. Look for a professional using positive, reward-based methods.
In the video below, you can see how the late veterinarian and behavior expert Sophia Yin worked on addressing a dog who would react when blown in the face. She is using a powerful behavior modification method known as counterconditioning.