My new dog insists on nosing me when I enter the front door. Why is yelling at her the wrong thing to do?

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Poking—when the dog gently (or sometimes not-so-gently) pokes you with her nose– is sometimes annoying, but you should never yell or punish her because:

• It’s always a submissive gesture. It can mean anything from a gentle “Hello, I’m here and I want attention,” to a rebuke or even a way to “herd” the owner to the food or treat. Given that she could employ other methods, such as barking, an arrogant stare, jumping, growling or biting, the poking is pretty benign (and cute).

• Scent is the dog’s most refined sense, and dogs live in a world of odors. Their noses contain over 200 million scent receptors in the nasal folds compared to our 5 million. Moisture helps to capture scent and transmit it onto odor-sensitive nasal membranes, which cover bones which then contain folds to capture the tiniest amounts of scent.

Scent is how they “read” and the way your dog can monitor moods and any relevant changes. Dogs sniff other dogs and their owners; in fact, have you ever notice how the dog always sniffs your legs the minute you get in the door?

• Touch is the first sense a dog develops and remains a powerfully important sense throughout her life. Mothers begin touching her newborns almost immediately after birth by licking and nuzzling. The entire body, including the paws, is covered with touch-sensitive nerve endings, making the physical sense of touch is very sensitive.

Add it all up, and the nose-poking is a very important gesture!


Well, no one really knows for sure. It really depends upon the breed and probably your relationship with the dog. To make the best determination, first understand the importance of scent and touch and then try to examine the dog’s body language and existing circumstances.

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