Many dog owners are shocked the first time their sweet little pup head-butts them like some bareknuckle brawler in a basement fight club. One minute you’re minding your own business as your dog runs around the yard, and the next minute: BAM!
At this point, you’re likely confused and in a state of disbelief as you try to process what just happened. Depending on the size and strength of your dog, you may even be feeling a good deal of pain. It’s perfectly common to think there might be something wrong with your dog, but what most people don’t know is that head-butting is a common behavior for some dogs.
When you think of animals that head-butt, a ram is probably the first, and one of the only, to come to mind; but head-butting is actually fairly common throughout the animal kingdom, and it can be done in defense or in jest. Pitbulls, Airedale Terriers, Australian Shepherds, Great Pyrenees, and Blue Heelers are just a handful of dog breeds known to have a proclivity towards head-butting.
Why Your Dog Is Head-Butting You
Your dog is head-butting you because they want your attention. They want you to play with them, or give them a treat, affection, etc…
You may have already noticed your dog usually head-butts you when you’re ignoring them, or when you stop doing something they enjoy, like petting them. Head-butting is simply their way of saying, “hey, keep doing that!” or “stop what you’re doing, and come play with me!”
Some dogs also head-butt other dogs for the same reason. It’s not a form of aggression, they’re just saying, “let’s play!” Your dog thinks you are in a pack together, and therefore you are basically just another dog to them, so why not head-butt you when it’s time to get something they want?
Some dog owners might find this behavior amusing, but most will probably grow tired of it if it becomes a regular thing. The good news is, most dogs will outgrow this behavior; however, it may take a few years.
How to Stop Your Dog From Head-Butting You
Your dog thinks it’s okay to head-butt you because they think you are equals. In fact, your dog may even think that they dominate you. This is what needs to be fixed, and the easiest way to do it is by not giving your dog what they want when they head-butt you: your attention.
Whenever your dog head-butts you, you need to firmly tell them, “no,” and make it clear you don’t like that. Then instruct them to lay down or go away, as you turn your back to them and ignore them. Eventually, your dog will learn that it’s not okay to head-butt you, and that it actually gets them the opposite of what they want.
Dog’s are so adept at head-butting, police in North Wales trained their K-9s to head-butt criminals instead of biting them.