Dog Behavior Series: Sniffing
Join us for a month-long series of understanding dog behavior!
First up, sniffing
If you’ve spent any time around dogs, it’s clear that they LOVE to sniff. They’re really good at it too. Dogs have some of the most powerful smelling organs in the world. From food, to drugs, to diseases, dogs can sniff out just about anything. However, their “nosiness” can be a great source of frustration and embarrassment for dog owners. With this first blog in our dog behaviors series, we’ve researched the biological basis of sniffing behaviors and how to handle an “excessive” sniffer.
Biology of Sniffing
Dog’s were born to sniff. Evolution has perfected their sniffing capabilities over thousands of years. The canine brain has a specialized smell processing area that is 40 times larger than in the human brain! In addition, they have 45 times the number of smell receptors that humans have. All of this means that dogs have nearly 1000 times the smelling power than humans. It’s no wonder why they spend so much of their time sniffing around!
Sniffing behavioral patterns
Other than just smelling around for food, dogs sniff for a number of behavioral reasons.
Nervousness: Sniffing the air and pacing around may indicate that your dog is feeling nervous. They may have heard or seen a strange animal or person and are trying to sniff out their identity.
Investigation: One of the main behavioral reasons for sniffing is simply investigation. Because their sense of smell is so powerful, their noses are their way to “read” the world around them. If your dog is sniffing around the room, it could be that they’re trying to find the source of the smell.
Avoidance: Dogs sometimes use their nose as a way to avoid unwanted situations. For example, if you take your dog on a walk and they see a strange person, they may start sniffing the ground until they have passed.
Stress: Increased sniffing is also an indicator of stress in dogs. Similar to avoidance, dogs use sniffing as a way to distract themselves from a potentially stressful situation. In highly stressful situations they may also exhibit symptoms like yawning, lip licking, shaking, stretching, freezing, refusing to eat, having sweaty paws, and excessive shedding. If this is the case, you may want to remove your dog from the stressor.
Unfortunately, dogs can get a little too excessive with their noses. Owners can start to find walking their dogs a terrible chore when their dog has to stop and sniff every inch of grass. In this situation it’s up to the human to set down some rules. Allow them to satisfy their sniffing needs (up to a point) and then give a command to move on. Some dogs can get a little too eager to sniff other people. This can be quite embarrassing for their owners when guests come in and get greeted with a dog snout in some “personal” areas. To work on eliminating this habit, start by putting your dog on the leash when a guest enters the house. Allow the dog to sniff the guest’s hand to greet them and then reward them for their calm behavior. As your dog progresses, try taking them off the leash and see if they will calmly greet on their own.
Keep an eye out for the next blog in our dog behavior series! As dog owners and lovers, it’s important to know how to read and understand their behavior. Only by learning their way of communicating will we establish harmonious and long-lasting relationships with our furry family members!