Sniffing is a behavior that comes as naturally to dogs as eating, drinking, and breathing. Thanks in no small part to their extremely potent sense of smell, canines experience new sensations through their noses.
There’s more to a dog’s tendency to sniff and inhale. We’ll answer every question about this behavior in our guide.
Table of Contents:
- 1 Why Does My Dog Sniff Me So Much?
- 1.1 Why Does My Dog Sniff Me When I Get Home?
- 1.2 Why Dog Sniffs Me Too Vigorously When I Get Home – How Do I Calm Them Down?
- 1.3 My Dog Keeps Sniffing My Friend, and it Scares Them
- 1.4 My Dog Won’t Sniff Somebody – Do They Not Like Them?
- 1.5 Why Does My Dog Sniff My Face?
- 1.6 Why Do Dogs Sniff Your Private Parts?
- 1.7 What Does it Mean When a Dog Sniffs Your Stomach?
- 1.8 My Dog Keeps Sniffing the Air
- 1.9 Why is My Dog Sniffing Everything in the House?
- 2 My Dog Sniffs Everything on Walks
Why Does My Dog Sniff Me So Much?
There are many reasons why a dog will sniff their owner, or indeed any other human.
It largely revolves around the following factors:
- Pure instinct. Dogs have a sense of smell that’s up to 1,000 times better than that of a human. Sniffing is an ideal way of taking us in.
- Their noses may be brilliant, but dogs see the world differently to humans. They can rely on their smell more than their vision.
- Your dog can smell food on you, and they’re expecting you to hand over a treat post-haste.
- Your dog is giving you a physical. Dogs can smell sickness, and it stands to reason that a pet will want to make sure you’re healthy.
- They could detect something new, like a different cologne or perfume.
- You may be wearing make-up or a form of oil that they are keen to lick off.
Don’t take it as a threat or any kind of issue that a dog wants to sniff you constantly – they are not saying that you need a bath. It’s a way of your dog getting to feel closer to you, and understand what adventures you’re having when they’re not keeping you company.
Why Does My Dog Sniff Me When I Get Home?
When you return home, your dog wants to know everything about what you have been up to without them. You may have only been out for thirty minutes having nipped to the local shops, but for a canine that can feel like you have been MIA for hours. By giving you a thorough sniffing, your pet is learning where you were, and if you interacted with anybody else that they might find interesting.
- The soles of your shoes enable your dog to recognize streets and towns.
- By sniffing your hands, they will know if you have been fraternizing with other dogs or cats.
- Your dog will be able to tell if you have been rolling around in mud or something else equally fun from your clothes.
- Your dog may even be able to smell your breath and work out exactly what you’ve been eating that day.
A dog sniffing you when they haven’t seen you for a while is their way of expressing their interest in you and your activities. Sure, there may also be an element of marking you as their own – if you do happen to smell of another animal, your dog will want to make sure that you are coated in their scent again before long to rectify that.
Why Dog Sniffs Me Too Vigorously When I Get Home – How Do I Calm Them Down?
If you are a little worried by just how excited your dog gets when you return, and you find the sniffing a little excessive, it may be advisable to teach your dog to calm down a little.
Resist the temptation to coach them out of sniffing you at all, as this will not benefit anybody. You’ll be trying to force your dog to resist every instinct that they possess, and whether you’re willing to admit it or not, you’ll start to miss the attention. Nobody likes to be ignored!
If you need to bring a little zen into your dog’s life, take a look at our guide to calming an excited pooch. It will be more than possible to teach your pet that it’s possible to greet you with enthusiasm without smothering and endangering you.
My Dog Keeps Sniffing My Friend, and it Scares Them
This is because your dog is sensing that fear through the power of pheromones, and approaching the person in question for that very reason. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that your dog is being mean and trying to terrorize the poor soul, though.
When a dog can smell fear in a human, their instinct as a companion is to offer reassurance and make friends. Even if the dog starts to understand that they are the one that is sparking such anxiety, they’ll be keen to show that they are no threat – which may involve lots of sniffing and licking.
Use the same advice as above to stop a dog from approaching somebody that would rather they didn’t. Eventually, your pet will acknowledge that person’s scent from a distance and stay away, as they associate it with somebody that will not welcome their attention.
My Dog Won’t Sniff Somebody – Do They Not Like Them?
It’s entirely possible that this is the case, as Vetted explain. With dogs having such a potent sense of smell, they will form an immediate impression of somebody – and that may not always be positive.
If the person in question has a scent that your dog finds unpleasant (maybe you have encountered this individual’s pet and it was unwelcoming, or they have a perfume or cologne that reminds your dog of somebody that mistreated them in the past), they will not want any part of the human in question.
Remember, dogs can see, but they can smell much better. This means that their primary trigger for recognizing anybody and anything will always be the distinct aroma that somebody or something comes with.
If you want your dog to start showing a little more interest in another human and overcoming any pre-existing bias against them, it’s easily done. Have this person carry a treat on their person, and suddenly your dog’s nose will be immediately attracted to them. Positive associations will quickly follow.
Why Does My Dog Sniff My Face?
We have previously mentioned that a dog may be interested in your breath to get an idea of what you have been eating, but that is not the only reason why your pet will be looking to sniff your face.
Dogs tend to greet fellow members of their pack by rubbing their faces together, and most pets will consider their owner to be a part of their pack. This is why your dog will be getting up close and personal with you, and why they will potentially follow up the sniffing with slobbery kisses.
It may not be appealing to everybody, but you should not necessarily deter your dog from taking a lungful of your face or breath. Set boundaries by all means, but try to avoid preventing your dog from ever expressing their affection. It may just save your life.
How? Well, remember that dogs can often pick up on human sickness with their astonishing sense of smell, and many ailments can be detected by sniffing. If your dog smells your breath and seems reluctant to leave your side, it may be worth making an appointment with a doctor. Your pet could be trying to tell you something.
Why Do Dogs Sniff Your Private Parts?
One of the more embarrassing and less appealing behaviors that many dogs indulge in is insisting on burying their face into a human’s private parts and sniffing. This is mortifying if they do it to your grandmother, and not much better if your dog reserves the habit just for you. What is it all about?
The fact is, dogs don’t know anything about human anatomy and thus have no idea that they are misbehaving. What they do know is that your genitals and rear end contain specialist sweat glands referred to as apocrine glands. These give off a particular set of pheromones that provide your dog with information about you, so they’re always keen to pick up whatever messages they can.
Ovulating women and people that have recently had sex are the most likely to attract the attention of a dog, as the pheromones unleashed by the apocrine glands are at their most potent during these periods. If you’re wondering why your dog is particularly interested in getting up in your business at these points, you can blame biology!
What Does it Mean When a Dog Sniffs Your Stomach?
Is there any chance at all that you are pregnant? This is the most likely explanation, as a dog will be detecting the changes in your body’s chemistry through their sense of smell. As your body goes through changes, so will your natural pheromones – and your dog will pick up on that even before you do.
If pregnancy is not an option, consider consulting a healthcare professional. Your dog is picking up on something that is going on, and you may need a scan to assess if there is any surgical or medical intervention required.
My Dog Keeps Sniffing the Air
It may look to you that your dog is sniffing the air, and by extension filling their nose with the scent of absolutely nothing. It’s the opposite that’s true – your dog is taking in the smell of everything within a multiple mile radius, as the wind carries a wide variety of different aromas to them.
It’s hugely important to encourage your dog to do this, as someday it could save their life. If your pet was to bolt while out on a walk, sniffing the air will mean that they can find their way home by failing a trail of metaphorical nasal breadcrumbs.
It means that your dog will be able to sniff any threats or dangers in the distance – including intruders that would invade your home or an aggressive dog that is not leashed and has ill intentions toward the pair of you.
Of course, all of this doesn’t take into consideration the fact that it’s also fun for your dog to stop and smell the air. We all know the saying, “stop and smell the roses,” and dogs take that a little more literally than humans.
Just recall how much joy the scent of freshly cut grass on a summer’s day brings you, and then multiply that by a thousand. Suddenly it’s clear why your dog is quite so delighted to be running around in the park on a summer’s day, isn’t it!
Why is My Dog Sniffing Everything in the House?
Your dog is a creature of habit, and they like things to remain exactly as they are as much as possible. That means that they’ll sniff their way around the place to get their bearings, and if you decide to move the furniture, they’re likely to it all a little disconcerting!
Also, your dog may find some comfort from sniffing items in your home. If a friend or family member that your pet has a great deal of affection for hasn’t visited in a while, there will be traces of their scent all over the property.
If your dog is feeling a little insecure because they are alone, they’ll hunt down a part of the house that smells comfortingly familiar such as a pillow or a blanket. Maybe they have left a treat or favorite toy under the sofa, and are trying to find it!
The only time to be worried is if your dog is sniffing in circles constantly and seemingly with intent, for what looks like no good reason. This could be a sign that your dog is stressed and agitated, and the sniffing behavior is a way of calming themselves down.
My Dog Sniffs Everything on Walks
If you are worried that your dog is sniffing excessively while out on a walk, there’s a simple solution – stop worrying, and leave them to it.
Sorry if that sounds facetious, but it’s true – a dog sniffing is an essential element of their walk. That’s the operative word here, too; it’s their walk. Sure, taking a stroll together is part of the bonding process with your pet, but it’s primarily for their benefit.
Dogs Sniffing Other Dogs
It’s a tale as old as time – a dog encounters a strange canine while out on a walk, and so begins the merry dance of circling each other and sniffing at each other’s bottoms.
Mental Floss explains why this occurs – and despite what you might believe, it isn’t because dogs have an innate and unwelcome poop fetish. Dog rear ends contain Jacobson’s Organ, which helps them ignore the scent of feces and instead helps them focus on the chemicals found within – and gain access the apocrine glands that we previously discussed.
More than facial expressions or anything else that humans will use, these chemicals will tell your dog everything they need to know about their new canine companion’s mood, hopes, dreams, and aspirations.
It may not be a behavior that we are keen to repeat with each other as humans, but it works for dogs. Leave them to it, unless it appears that the other animal is likely to not take kindly to the intrusion of your pet’s nose and a fight is going to break out.
Dogs Sniffing Other Dogs’ Pee
We have previously discussed why dogs pee so much while on walks, and the sniffing is a natural extension of this. When a dog pees they are leaving a trace of their presence behind and marking territory as their own, but there is little point in doing that if no other canines are going to acknowledge their hard work.
Your dog will be sniffing away at urine patches to discover if friends or foes have been in the vicinity, how long ago they may have been in the area, and which pets have been teaming up to form packs. This is all useful intel that your dog will use before approaching another animal in the future.
Dogs Sniffing Their Surroundings
It’s not just other dogs and their pee that provide the entertainment for Fido while he’s taking a walk, though. The truth is, every scent they encounter provides a new sensory experience and stimulation. This mental stimulus is every bit as important to a dog as physical exercise, so bear this mind when you are planning a lengthy jaunt with your canine.
You may not necessarily have to hike for miles and throw a ball for hours to tire your dog out. Just let them explore a new and previously undiscovered territory such as woodland or a park, and all the excitement of sniffing out new aromas will exhaust them. Investigating new terrain is a fast track to an extremely happy and contented dog, and sniffing if how they will conduct these explorations.
Dogs Riding in Cars
Anybody that has taken a car ride with a pooch in tow will know that dogs love to stick their head out of a window. The reasons for that are pretty simple – every possible scent under the sun will reach their nostrils at a rate of knots while your dog is hurtling along the freeway.
It can be dangerous, and you should wind up a window before you travel too quickly to prevent flying debris from getting into your pet’s eyes, but indulge them a little sniff while you travel. The way the wind brings smells from miles away into your little dog’s nose will make their day!
Sniffing is arguably the most pivotal part of any dog’s daily routine, and it certainly isn’t something that you should discourage. Telling a dog not to sniff is like telling a child not to ask questions – you will be denying them a hugely important part of their development, and refusing to allow them to indulge their natural instincts.
When your dog insists upon giving you a good old sniff all over when you walk through the door, treat it as the compliment that it is. Your pet is trying to find out what their best friend has been up to all day, and get an idea of how you pass the time when you’ve been separated.
A dog shoving her or her nose up in your grill is saying, “I love you.” It’s when they show no interest in taking in your scent that you need to start worrying, as canine indifference is rarely a good thing.