Dogs have lots of quirky habits that seem odd to us, but are perfectly normal behaviors to them. Sniffing is one of them. Why do dogs sniff? Well, the answer might surprise you — because it’s much more complex than you’d likely first think.
Let’s sniff out all the answers… (Did you see what I did there?)
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Why Do Dogs Sniff?
A dog sniffing a lot isn't actually a bad thing. It’s a GOOD thing!
Dogs sniff for a wide variety of reasons, but it is primarily to gather information. Dogs have a much better and more refined sense of smell than us mere humans. When your pampered pooch sniffs and smells, they're learning more and more about the world around them, and the people or other animals in it. Recent research even proves that a dog's scent can even be used to detect COVID-19.
Species of Dog With the Best Sense of Smell
Although all dogs have an amazing sense of smell, some breeds are known to be better at sniffing things out than others.
- Bloodhounds (reportedly have more than 300 smell receptors!);
- Basset hounds + other hound breeds;
- German shepherds;
- Golden Retrievers;
- Terriers (particularly Scottish).
Why is My Dog Sniffing a Lot?
Is there a new person in your home? Have you been somewhere brand new, or met someone you’ve never met before? You could have all sorts of new scents on you when you come home from a long day of doing whatever it is that humans do.
As soon as you get home, your dog will want to sniff you all over, using those smells to work out what you've been doing, where you've been, and who you've seen.
When Should You Worry About a Dog Constantly Sniffing?
Although sniffing behavior isn't something you should worry about, generally, there are times when a dog constantly sniffing is a bad thing.
Dogs will sniff more when they are anxious or nervous, and they will continue to do so until that apparent 'threat' has gone away. If your dog doesn’t like another dog, for example, they might sniff a lot on approach, and for the entire time the other dog is around, and long after the other dog has gone.
Dogs do this to make sure that the ‘threat’ has definitely gone, allowing them to relax once again.
The same process works with most (if not all) things that your pooch doesn't like or feels anxious about — certain people, other animals, the car, specific places (such as the vet), certain foods or smells, and more.
It’s in a dog’s nature to sniff, especially because they have an incredible sense of smell. However, you never know what your dog might sniff, especially when walking outside. If they accidentally sniff or lick toxins for example, this may cause serious symptoms that call for a pet emergency.
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Why is My Dog Sniffing the Air and Looking Up?
Dogs will sniff the air with their noses raised, looking up, because they have caught a whiff of something, and they're trying to process the information as well as absorb more of it.
It is essentially the same idea as when you face your ‘good' ear towards someone talking to you, so you can hear them better. Dogs will raise their noses to try and inhale more of a scent.
My Dog Is Sniffing the Floor Like Crazy. Why?
You will often notice your dog sniffing the floor like crazy while pacing backwards and forwards. This is often a sign that your dog is anxious, nervous, or bored and under-stimulated. The latter can lead to the former.
Your pooch might just have picked up a new scent on the floor, but you will need to monitor your dog's general and overall behaviour to find out if anxiety or under-stimulation is becoming a problem. If the obsessive sniffing dog behaviour continues for a prolonged period of time, and consistently, it might be time for you to make an appointment with your vet.
If you are unsure of just how long your dog is sniffing the floor and acting in other unusual ways, why not consider getting a Petcube's interactive pet camera? You can keep an eye on your furry friends no matter where you are in the world, and you can get a better idea for how they're acting while you're not around.
Why is My Dog Sniffing Everything in the House?
If your dog can smell something new in the house, there is a chance that they will sniff out every corner of the building to try and find it. Although sometimes annoying, the sniffing behaviour is just your doggo’s way of figuring out whatever is new or has changed.
As previously mentioned, pacing and obsessive sniffing can be a sign that your dog is experiencing mental health problems, including anxiety, nervousness, boredom, or under-stimulation.
If the behaviour is becoming repetitive or obsessive, you should discuss your dog intensive sniffing with your vet.
Why Does My Dog Roll in the Grass After Sniffing?
In order to answer this question, you'll need to cast your mind back to a time where dogs were still wild creatures, and weren't as domesticated and pampered as we humans have made them.
When dogs were out looking for food - prey items - they would give the game away with their natural scent. In order to combat that problem, early doggo ancestors learned to mask their own scent, with the scent of the world around them.
Your dog will have a good sniff in the grass, and when they find the 'right' scents, they'll roll around in that patch to absorb the, and cover up their own.
It's a clever camouflaging technique in a world where smell really is everything!
Read more: Why Do Dogs Roll in Grass?
Why is My Dog Making Weird Sniffing Noises?
Weird sniffling noises can be a symptom of a number of doggy conditions, and is actually more common in dog breeds such as Boston terriers, bulldogs, and Shih-Tzus, to name but a few.
Although the weird sniffing noise can just be that - a weird but benign sniffing noise, there are times when it could be what is often referred to as a “reverse sneeze”. This isn’t actually a sneeze at all.
A “reverse sneeze” is a spasm in the dog’s soft palette, known as Pharyngeal Gag Reflex. The spasm causes the airway to block for a moment, which makes it difficult for the poor pooch to then breathe.
The spasm can have a huge array of causes. Common “reverse sneeze” triggers are similar to genuine sneeze triggers:
- Dust mites, pollens, and other allergy-agitators;
- Over-stimulation, excitement, or happiness;
- Various viral infections;
- Food or other items stuck in the nose, throat, or other areas of the respiratory/digestive system;
- Very strong smelling food, perfume, candles, room sprays, etc.;
- Cigar or cigarette smoke;
- Vape clouds.
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Why Does My Dog Drool When Sniffing?
In the same way that a dog would comically drool when they smell something good cooking for dinner, they also drool when they get a good whiff of something when out in the wild. This could be a wide variety of things — another dog's urine or the smell of an opposite sex dog, for example.
Some dogs will sniff, drool, and chatter teeth or smack lips at the same time. Once again, these are signs of scent-enjoyment. Your doggo has found something they like the smell of.
How to Stop My Dog From Sniffing Everything on Walks
Although there are things you can do to try and stop your four-legged friend from sniffing literally EVERYTHING when you go on walks together, what you are basically asking your dog to do is, stop being a dog.
Dogs sniff. That is literally what they do. They sniff to learn, sniff to prepare, sniff to eat…
The more bored your dog is, the more they are likely to ‘play up’ when you are out and about. They will make the most of the time they have sniffing the big, bad world.
Here’s How to Cure Dog Intensive Sniffing…
First thing’s first, you will want to make sure that you have eliminated all medical causes behind your dog's excessive and obsessive sniffing. This is especially the case if it has become a repeated problem, or the behaviour is relatively new for your doggo and has been consistent for a prolonged period of time.
Following on from that, you will need to work at training your to follow dog certain commands, if they don't already.
- Leave it;
These commands, when taught correctly, will give you more control over your dog when you are out. If your pooch doesn't know the ‘leave it’ command, they won't know to leave the scent they are obsessively sniffing.
You should never discipline your dog with violence, shouting, or other forms of punishment. Sniffing is a natural reaction and behaviour for a dog. It is a biological instinct for them. You cannot scare your pooch into leaving behind a trait that has followed the species for thousands of years.
Violence, shouting, and other forms of punishment are not efficient ways of training dogs. They react much better to positive reinforcements and a simple ‘no’ than negative interactions that cause fear, sadness, anxiety, and genuine pain.
A dog that is scared of you, is less likely to follow your commands.
Should You Worry When Your Dog is Sniffing and Coughing?
You should be concerned when your dog develops a cough, whether the sniffing behaviour comes with it or not. A cough, when not treated, could lead to severe infections and other, more dangerous medical conditions.
If your dog regularly interacts with other dogs - in the park, at doggy classes, in kennels, etc. - then you should visit your vet to get your pet checked out for a highly contagious doggy condition called kennel cough, also medically known as infectious tracheobronchitis. This usually goes away by itself after a few days or a couple of weeks, but some cases require medical intervention.
In cases where medical intervention is necessary, not receiving appropriate care and treatment can be fatal for dogs with kennel cough.
Signs of a Dog Losing Sense of Smell
Just as with humans, dogs can experience a decline in their senses as they age. This includes sense of sight, hearing, and sound.
Excessive sniffing is not usually a symptom of a dog losing its sense of smell. Instead, your pooch can display anxious behaviours, such as biting or snapping, because they have been ‘snuck up on’ by you. They didn’t hear or smell you coming, therefore your presence startled them.
A reduction in smell, which is closely linked to taste, can often bring a reduced interest in treats your dog would usually love, and foods they'd normally wolf down.
My dog keeps sniffing my stomach, could I be pregnant?
If it's biologically possible, there is a chance you could be pregnant. Some people, including medical and dog experts, believe that dogs can smell and sense chemical and hormonal changes inside the body when pregnancy occurs. Usually, however, a dog sniffing your stomach is not a sign that you should run out and buy a pregnancy test.
Why does my dog keep sniffing my legs?
Your doggo has probably got a whiff of something you picked up while you were out of the house. It could be the restaurant you ate at, the house you visited, or the cat you pet on the way home. Your dog is sniffing your legs (or elsewhere in your body) because they’ve found something new and want to learn more about it.
Why does my dog keep sniffing and licking me?
Sniffing and licking are two slightly different process, of sorts, for dogs. Although linked, licking is often a form of affection or communication, whereas sniffing is known as learning behaviour. Your dog gets information from smells in the air and then processing them with the Jacobson's organ.
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