Dogs do odd things all the time, some of which can be explained away as a funny quirk or possibly could be indicative of health or behavioral issues. Dogs that rub themselves against walls and furniture could actually be telling you something important, or it might be nothing. In this guide I wanted to share with you all the possible options.
Why do dogs rub up against walls? Most dogs will rub against walls when they are scratching an itch or to mark their territory as scent. If this happens occasionally, there is no cause for concern. However, if your dog is constantly rubbing against walls it could be a sign of anxiety, stress, boredom, or injury.
That’s the short answer; as you can see there’s no one reason why your dog is rubbing against the wall. If you have any concerns by the leaning, rubbing, and wall hugging behavior, please call a vet.
However, if you do have the time, I’d like to share with you more detailed information on why you will see a dog leaning against a wall. It includes views from owners who have noticed their own dog walking close to the wall, hugging right up against it, and rubbing their face against it.
Dog leaning against wall: 5 reasons for rubbing
Read all these points, as the final point is the most serious reason why your dog is rubbing his face on a wall, with the close-up hugging and leaning behavior.
1. They need to scratch an itch and it feels nice
Many dogs will rub against walls when they have an itch that needs to be scratched. Your own dog may have a favorite chair or carpet to rub himself on because of how the texture feels… it could just feel nice!
Repeated scratching up against a wall could be the sign of an infection under the fur, an allergy, or even a parasite of flea infestation. Check carefully to see if you can find anything between the hairs.
2. They want to leave their scent on the wall
Sometimes dogs will rub themselves against walls, furniture or carpet to leave their scent; after all, scent is the language dogs most often use to communicate.
As dogs have a very powerful sense of smell, this will mark their territory, so other dogs or cats know it’s their domain!
3. They might feel anxious
Other times dogs may rub themselves against walls as a result of anxiety; repetitive behaviors can be calming to some anxious dogs similarly to how some anxious people display repetitive behaviors.
If you notice your dog doing this infrequently, it probably isn’t something to worry about. However, if your dog is leaning against the wall and rubbing into it constantly it’s time to call the vet.
4. Their collar or harness might be too tight
If you notice your dog rubbing against the wall when they are wearing a harness or collar, check the fit; it might be too tight, and your dog might be trying to tell you it is uncomfortable.
If your dog is constantly rubbing himself on a variety of surfaces and does not stop after a reasonable amount of time, there is likely a reason behind it. It could be as simple as a tight collar or fleas, or it could be something more, like an allergy or a more serious medical issue.
5. Head pressing can be a possible nervous system problem or poisoning
When dogs lean against walls, and then progress to head pressing and rubbing their face into it, then this could be the sign of a serious health condition.
According to vet websites I read, head pressing into the wall can be a sign of a serious health condition that won’t go away – please, please consult with your vet if your dog presses his head into the wall constantly.
There is a clear distinction between head pressing and wall rubbing; head pressing is certainly a sign of something more serious.
Handy Hint: Does your dog get up into your warm seat when you leave the room? The reasons for dogs stealing your spot when you get up are very interesting, so read what the poll results say.
How to stop your dog rubbing up against walls
Providing it’s not the head pressing behavior, but instead the rubbing up and hugging close against the walls, you might be able to discourage it.
Some dogs will rub themselves on specific items of furniture of carpet because they like the texture. While your dog may think it is harmless, the fur and drool they leave behind is not ideal. There are a few ways to discourage them from this behavior:
- Offer an acceptable outlet for his rubbing: Try to encourage your dog to scratch on something that you do not mind them using. If you do not mind your dog rubbing against the wall, but you do mind the unsightly marks he leaves behind, consider installing taking them to an outdoor wall when it happens.
- Groom and bond: Purchase a pair of grooming gloves (view on Amazon) to use on your dog. Both you and your dog will love this; it is a great bonding experience.
- Observe for triggers: Watch your dog and make note of the situation when he rubs himself on something. If he appears to be doing the behavior repetitively, try asking him to come to you and sit. Anytime he gets back up, ask him to sit again or to do another simple command. Anxious dogs often like having a “job”; it can make them feel more secure, which may stop the rubbing behavior.
- Restrict access: You could install a gate to keep your dog out of the room where his favorite inappropriate place to scratch is. Reduce the hassle by using something like a baby gate.
- Enlist the assistance of a trainer: If you would prefer not to install a gate, consider hiring a dog trainer to help you train your dog to stop the unwanted behavior. Be sure to search for an ethical and kind trainer who uses positive reinforcement methods.
When to be concerned about a health and medical problem
If you notice your dog constantly rubbing himself against walls and furniture, then here’s what the possible medical issues could be:
If your dog does not usually scratch or rub himself often, then begins constantly scratching and rubbing himself, it is likely that fleas are the cause. To determine if this is the case, begin by inspecting your dog’s coat. If you see lots of little black dots (flea waste) and notice little black bugs that move quickly and jump high (fleas), you are dealing with fleas.
Even if your dog is an indoor dog who spends minimal time outside, they can still get fleas. This is easily preventable by giving your dog monthly flea and tick preventative medication year-round.
If you discover that your dog is suffering from a flea infestation, there are simple steps you can immediately take at home, such as bathing him with flea killing shampoo (view on Amazon) and treating your home for fleas with flea powder (also on Amazon). Be sure to act quickly, as fleas bite people too.
Dogs suffering from allergies often deal with itchy skin. In addition to rubbing himself on the walls and furniture, you might notice flaky skin, hives, red skin, swelling, watery eyes, and frequent licking or constant grooming.
If you do not see fleas, allergies are likely the cause, and veterinary care should be sought to determine the cause and to implement treatment to help your dog feel better.
Why your dog is rubbing his face on the wall
While it may be as simple as wiping the extra food off his whiskers after a meal, when the rubbing is focused on the face and/or head, there is a bit more cause for concern as I’ve already highlighted.
I mentioned possible neurological issues earlier for head pressing, but there are also some other less serious possibilities.
If your dog is rubbing his face on the walls and furniture or pawing at his face often, and his eyes are watery, it could be because his eyes are itchy.
Dogs trying to itch their eyes may unintentionally injure their eyes by scratching them with their nails or another rough surface; due to this risk, seeking veterinary treatment promptly is recommended.
Dogs suffering from ear infections may rub themselves on a variety of surfaces and paw at their ears for relief from the itchy discomfort of the infection. If you notice your dog paying extra attention to his ears, start by smelling his ears.
Ear infections produce a sour odor that smells distinctly different than a dog’s ears normally smell. If you notice a funky odor and redness or hives in the ears, your dog likely has an ear infection. In very severe cases, the hives may trail across the crown of their head between the ears.
Dental issues are little easier to detect as more symptoms go along with them than eye or ear issues. A dog suffering from dental issues will often struggle to eat, hesitate to pick up toys, and have foul breath.
Sometimes dogs with dental issues will rub their faces on a variety of surfaces, but more often than not, they will be overly sensitive to their face and mouth being touched.
Why does my dog walk closely to the wall?
If you notice your dog walking more closely to the wall, there is generally a bit more cause for concern. There are several reasons this may be happening:
Dogs who suffer from anxiety may not feel comfortable walking through the middle of a room and may walk close to wall because they feel safer there.
A dog who cannot see well or who is blind may use walls to navigate the house. Sometimes as dogs age their eyesight suffers and they may begin walking closer to the wall because of it.
If your dog has not had sight issues before and has recently begun walking closely to the wall, schedule an appointment with a trusted veterinarian.
If a dog struggles with balance, they may lean against a wall to walk or run into a wall when they lose their balance. There is a disease called vestibular disease which causes balance issues. The vestibular system in a dog’s body is responsible for the regulation of balance.
Symptoms of this disease may include head tilting, loss of balance, disorientation and jerky eye movements. These symptoms usually come on very quickly. Be sure to seek immediate veterinary care if you notice your dog exhibiting these symptoms.
When you should call a vet
If you are not sure if you should take your dog to the veterinarian, consider the following:
- Appetite: Is your dog eating and drinking normally?
- Energy level: Is your dog lethargic, or are they functioning at their normal energy level?
- Personality: Is your dog acting like himself, or does he seem off?
- Sensitivity: If your dog is in pain, he might be sensitive to being touched.
- Frequency: Is your dog rubbing against the wall consistently and regularly? If so, it’s the sign of an issue.
- Head pressing: A dog that presses its head into a wall is almost certainly suffering with a serious condition and should be seen immediately by a vet.
Most of the time your dog will be rub himself against the wall to scratch an itch; it’s entirely normal behavior. However, there are some health issues that may cause your dog to rub against the wall or fall into the wall when they are walking.
From my online research, a dog that is head pressing into a wall is the one that is most serious, so don’t waste any time if you see this happening.
A dog that leans into the wall could be doing so for a number of reasons.
The bottom line is this; contact a trusted veterinarian to determine if your dog needs medical treatment no matter what is happening.
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