I spent much of the weekend researching wolf behavior. As a huge dog lover I am also a lover of wolves and their behavior. Watching dog behavior can keep me transfixed for hours and hours at a time; so can wolf behavior. But when I watch wolf behavior I am constantly comparing; they are very, very similar, dogs and wolves.
Recently I was away for several days. When I returned I received my customary greeting from Luke and Elsa. It is much more exuberant than a day to day greeting; often accompanied with whining and face biting. My face, yes, Luke has always been a face biter when I have been gone for several days or more. He also whines and carries on for an elongated time span. This face biting is reserved for me and me alone. Oh, and my very good friend Theresa; she also gets face bites. I know it is coming and I prepare for it. It is very respectful and heartfelt when I receive it. Luke and I have a very special bond; the kind that you can only hope for when you add a dog to your family.
My absence is felt when I am away and there is much celebration when I return. Face biting is something that both wolves and dogs do. The biting is gentle and delivered to my mouth area; the chin or side of chin but never above my mouth. His tail is slung low and wagging madly; his ears flat back in submission. Luke is very emotionally demonstrative with his mouth in other ways as well. When he is happy his mouth will open. If he is very happy he will huff as well. His mouth says many things but it is used frequently when he is showing joy.
Face bite greetings are typically reserved for pack members or friends. You should of course never, ever put your face in a dogs face. It is a human behavior that makes me shudder. So many people have no idea of dog behavior when they lean into kiss a strange dog. Real face bites that result from crossing boundaries are nothing like a face bite for greeting purposes. DO NOT PUT YOUR FACE IN A DOGS FACE, unless that dog is your dog.
Elsa face bites also but her bites are more like nibbles rather than full open mouth. She is even more submissive in her greetings. Her eyes are always squinted, with her whole body posture slung low along with her tail. She wags madly which creates much whipping that both Luke and I must watch out for. She is a ferocious wagger; so much so that it gives her a hinged in the middle illusion.
When she face bites it is a more closed mouth nibble compared to Luke's full open mouth one. It is accompanied with much licking as well.
Watching Elsa and Penny play is entertaining and fascinating. As the more dominant dog in the relationship; Elsa is often face biting Penny. There are many meanings behind the face biting; anything from greeting, affectionate nurturing bites to more serious discipline face bites. All are clearly understood by Penny. Before Penny is even in the door Elsa has her mouth over Penny's very large muzzle. It is a greeting and wonderful to watch.
A wonderful pictorial from the Wolf Howl Animal Preserve
Face biting is very common in both dogs and wolves. Some do it more than others; some never do. How many images do I have of a very young Elsa with her whole face in Luke's mouth; loving every moment of it? I cannot count how many. Even though my dogs are far from the preconceived wolf; they are very much still under there, albeit in poodle clothing.