Why Does My Dog Cover Her Face with Her Paws? (Meaning)

Dogs seem to have many adorable habits, like covering up their faces with paws. This cute move looks like they’re playing peek-a-boo; but what are they doing?

Are they embarrassed, tired, or stressed? Like many doggy mannerisms, this move is another insight into their thoughts and feelings.

why does my dog cover her face with her paws
Why does my dog cover her face with her paws? (Meaning)

They may make this look for a variety of reasons, so let’s get into what they are.

So, Why Does My Dog Cover Her Face With Her Paws?

If your dog is covering her face with her paws and isn’t whining, here is what she’s trying to tell you.

She’s Got An Itchy Face

You’ve probably had a random tickle on your face from your hair grazing your cheek, a bug landing on you, or just out of nowhere.

Well, dogs can experience a similar sensation and will use their paws to wipe or scratch their faces or eyes.

Some pups have excessive tearing, and that eye gunk can build up, causing some mild irritation. Most under-eye goop isn’t severe, though some types of discharge may cause blindness.

Contact your vet if your dog continues to rub her eyes, especially if she has a green or yellow-colored discharge, bloodshot eyes, or dilated pupils.

Of course, your pup may just have something stuck in her fur that she’s trying to get out. 

why does my dog scratch his face
Why does my dog scratch his face?

Your Pup Is Feeling Anxious or Afraid

When something scares us, it’s a gut reaction to reach for our faces and sometimes cover our eyes with our hands.

Like us, dogs may shield their eyes when something scares them or makes them anxious.

Much like a child hiding under a blanket to “disappear” from the monster in the closet, your pup could be trying to cover her eyes.

Your dog isn’t exactly hiding, and it’s just her own response to an intense emotion. If a lightning storm or something is stressing her out, do what you can to comfort her.

All dogs experience anxious feelings; however, it can become an issue for some.

If your dog is acting anxious in other ways, in addition to hiding her eyes, it may be time to take a trip to the vet to discuss it.

Other signs of dog anxiety include:

Boston Terrier looks scared in blanket
Boston Terrier looks scared in a red blanket.

She’s Showing Submission

When your dog covers her face with her paws, she may be exhibiting submissive behavior. Pups will show deference to the alpha of their pack, aka you.

If your dog makes this move, she may be showing you that she feels safe with you and trusts you with her life. She may also be signaling that she doesn’t want you to feel threatened.

Submissive behavior is a sign of respect and affection. Your pup sees you as the dominant member in your relationship, which is a good thing.

In addition to covering her face, she may also roll on her back, exposing the belly. The stomach is a vulnerable area, so showing it to you is a big sign of trust.

Other submissive behaviors include:

It’s important to note that submissive dogs will still defend their “pack” or families but also recognize they aren’t the alpha.

sad looking Pug
Sad Pug looks up.

Because You Find It Adorable

Dogs love to make their owners happy and will continue to show certain behaviors to get a smile on your face or to hear you say, “Aw!” 

Research shows that dogs are manipulative and have evolved to move their facial muscles to communicate with humans.

Perhaps your dog had an itch on her face and covered her face with her paws for the first time. You saw this, immediately exclaiming, “Aw, you’re so cute!” and giving her an ear scratch.

From that, she learned that you’ll give her lots of love, attention, and affection when she does this little trick.

Although dogs don’t understand cuteness and don’t understand how adorable they are, they’re very perceptive.

So, if your dog covers her face a lot, she may simply be trying to make you happy and get rewarded for it.

Jack Russell Terrier petting
Petting Jack Russell Terrier by his owner.

An Emotional Response

Similar to how dogs cover their faces when worried or anxious, they may hide behind their paws out of embarrassment.

On the other hand, she may be trying to elicit a positive response. As previously mentioned, she knows how to turn on the charm and may be trying to make up for her mistake.

Border Collie
Border Collie covers face while lying on the floor.

As a Protective Position During Sleep

When your dog covers her face while sleeping, she may be protecting her eyes and throat. Sleeping is a vulnerable activity, which could cause internal instincts to kick in.

If your dog routinely sleeps like this, it may be to rest feeling safer and more comfortable. Your dog may also sleep by covering her eyes during a storm or noisy night out of fear.

covers eyes with paws
A dog covers eyes with his paws while owner touching his head.

Should You Discourage a Dog From Hiding Their Face?

If your dog isn’t exhibiting any other problematic behaviors, then there should be no reason to discourage her adorable face-hiding habit.

However, it’s crucial to identify the reason behind why your dog is covering her face. If she’s constantly itching or acting up, it could signify something more serious.

Most of the time, however, dogs hide their face as a way to communicate with their dog parents.

woman holding Dachshund
Dachshund looks up with a woman holding him.

What if My Dog Rubs Her Face and Whines?

If you notice that your dog often whimpers or whines while covering her face, this may mean something is irritating her.

Your dog may also rub her face against a couch or carpet to scratch the itch if something is causing her discomfort.

Here are some reasons your dog may be rubbing her face and whimpering:


If your dog has allergies from medication or a reaction to something that touched her face, she may try to rub her face.

In addition to rubbing, you may notice some facial swelling. 

puppy on a carpet
Puppy rubbing it’s face on a carpet.

Fleas or Mites

Fleas and mites are irritating little bugs that sometimes make their home on a dog’s face. She may scratch it with her front paws or hind legs.

Mites and fleas can also cause some swelling in their face.

face scratching in dogs and anxiety 
A dog scratching his face due to anxiety.


Blepharitis is a condition that causes inflammation to your dog’s eyes, specifically the eyelid and outer skin.

This irritation will cause your dog to paw at her eyes repeatedly. If you notice any eye inflammation, schedule an appointment with your vet.

dog's eyes swelling
A dog’s eyes swelling.

Insect or Animal Bite

If your dog sniffed through the grass and got a bee sting, for example, she will likely experience burning, itching, and facial swelling.

Take your dog to the vet if you suspect an insect infestation or bite.

lying on a carpet
Puppy scratches his face on the carpet.

Dental Infection

If your dog has an infected tooth or gums, she may have some facial swelling on the side of her face.

Your dog may keep rubbing it to relieve the pain and discomfort.

Contact your veterinarian immediately if you suspect your dog has a tooth abscess or another infection.

tooth pain or dental problems
Tooth Pain or Dental Problems

Final Thoughts

Dogs have some adorable mannerisms, including covering their little faces with their paws.

If you notice this habit and wonder, “Why does my dog cover her face with her paws?” there are a few reasons.

Your dog may be feeling anxious, scratching an itch, showing submission, or simply doing it to make you smile.

However, if your dog has any signs of inflammation, swelling, or other abnormalities on her face, contact your vet to rule out something more serious.