Your puppy is likely lunging at your face out of excitement or as a way of showing affection. However, if there’s biting, growling, or teeth-baring with the lunging, the pup may be frustrated about something.
More often than not, puppy lunging is normal. But it’s essential to control the behavior at a young age before it develops into a bad habit.
You’ll know that your puppy is lunging at your face out of excitement when you see one of these signs:
- Tail wagging
- Tongue hanging out
- Relaxed ears
- Relaxed facial expression
Some pups will also whine slightly when they don’t get the reaction they’re waiting for. That means the puppy is in a relaxed mood.
There’s nothing to worry about in this case, especially if the puppy doesn’t do it frequently.
However, if the puppy’s actions turn aggressive when you don’t respond, you need to work on stopping the behavior. The same goes if the puppy is lunging at strangers or other dogs.
Helpful Dog Training Resource:
How to Know Your Puppy Is Lunging Out of Aggression
It’s easy to recognize an aggressive puppy when you see one. Here are signs that your puppy is lunging at your face out of aggression:
- Attempting to bite
- Snapping or growling
- A stiffened body posture
- Loud barks
- Non-playful nips
These may be subtle details, but it’s vital to keep an eye out for them. When you control this behavior at a young age, the puppy will stop doing it when he’s older.
Puppies aren’t aggressive by nature. They may be playful and too active for you to catch up, but they shouldn’t take it as far as attempting to bite your face.
There are three main reasons for puppy aggression:
Fear is the most common reason for puppy aggression. Contrary to common belief, dogs aren’t aggressive or dominant by nature; such behaviors are the results of fear.
If you commonly push your puppy physically or close his mouth using your hands, you're scaring the puppy. These actions encourage his aggressive behavior rather than stop it.
In this case, the pup isn’t lunging to play; he’s protecting himself from your reaction.
If your puppy only lunges at your face when you reach out for his toy, that’s his possessive side acting out.
Some pups show the same reaction when you reach for their food, water, or bed.
Such tendencies are more common in shelter puppies because they don’t feel safe. They're also common when there's a new puppy or a stranger in the house.
Dogs tend to create territories in their heads. When a stranger crosses the territory, they feel threatened and may lash out.
If your puppy is still not used to his surroundings, his lunging may be a result of territorial aggression. The behavior may also increase when a new puppy joins the household.
This usually happens because of environmental factors, but some pups are extra-territorial because of medical conditions.
Helpful Dog Health Resource:
How to Stop Your Puppy from Lunging At Your Face?
If you don’t control the pup’s behavior, he’ll likely start lunging at strangers when you go out. Even worse, he may begin lunging at other dogs, which is a recipe for disaster.
Here’s how to stop your puppy from lunging at your face:
When you give an excited reaction or shout out in anger, you’ll only encourage the puppy to continue lunging at your face.
The same goes when you try to physically push the puppy or throw your arms in the air.
The puppy will get overstimulated, and the next time, he may start biting instead of only lunging.
To solve that, give a dull reaction to the lunging, or don’t react at all. When the pup attempts to lunge, look the other way and cross your arms.
That way, the pup won’t feel any fun out of his doing, and he’ll eventually stop doing it.
Puppies choose to lunge at faces rather than other body parts because they're closer. When you bend down to your puppy’s level, you’re making your face too available.
To fix that, start commanding your pup from a high position. Follow these steps:
- Address the puppy when you’re sitting in a chair. Your face will then be too high for him to lunge at it.
- After a few times, sit on a low footstool or a pouf, leaning your face away.
- When you’re sure the puppy isn’t interested in lunging at your face, you can sit on the ground normally.
If your puppy is extra playful, he’ll likely want to lunge and bite at something. So, when your face is out of the question, try offering your hands instead, holding out a toy.
Sit on a chair and put your hands out for the puppy. This will allow you to gauge his reaction and whether he’ll attempt to bite.
Hands are less sensitive to bites than faces, so it’d be wise to try that first. Besides, the toy will distract the dog from your face.
Use a Flirt Pole
If you want to stop the lunging action, try to tease your puppy with a flirt pole.
Stay seated in a chair, and keep the pole’s end close to the floor. That way, you encourage the puppy to play and have fun without jumping.
You can use a tug-toy instead, but don't lean your face towards the dog when you're holding it.
Training your puppy to adopt an alternate behavior will eventually stop him from lunging.
To do so, offer your hand to the pup, letting him touch it with his nose. If he doesn’t give a reaction, show him how to do it.
Give the puppy a treat when he touches your hand with his nose, so he’ll know that this behavior is okay.
Paul has been creating content for the dog niche for many years. The information he shares comes his first hand experience growing up in dog lovers household and then owning multiple dog breeds of his own as an adult. Paul enjoys doing the hard research to collect, analyze and present our dogtemperament.com readers with the best answers to their questions.