Why Is My Dog Sniffing That?

March 14, 2019
We're often bemused by our dogs' constant sniffing. Especially when they meet and greet one another.

Why is my dog sniffing that?! I don’t even want to think about the kind of trouble humans would get into if we greeted each other the same way our dogs do!

The olfactory system of dogs is a lot more developed than ours, and that’s a fact. But, what exactly does a dog smell when it sniffs? We’ll tell you in this article.

What is my dog sniffing?
A Dalmatian dog sniffing.

According to a professor at the Horowitz Dog Cognition Lab at Barnard College, there are different ways of sniffing. The method used by people is not necessarily the most advanced, as is the case with dogs. Humans have 6 million olfactory receptors, but the dogs can have up to 300 million.

Another canine record is that they can inhale between 5 and 10 times per second (we can only do it once every second and a half). It was also proved that dogs exhale better than humans. They use the openings in the sides of their snout. In this way, they maintain a continuous flow of air into it. This really transform them into sniffing experts!

The olfactory capacities of dogs are exceptional. Many breeds have vision problems, but they compensate for it with their extraordinary ability to smell. Sometimes dogs lick unpleasant things, but that also has an olfactory explanation.

Canine sense of smell is really complex, and is connected to their brain. For them, there are no repulsive or noxious odors. They seldom hesitate to lick something that’s unpleasant to humans, such as poop or dead animals…

Why do dogs smell other dog’s tails?

There’s a beautiful story that tries to answer this very same question. Legend has it that there was a party that only dogs were invited to. Just as people take off their hats when they get to a place; the canines took off their tails and left them hanging by the door.

While they celebrated, a big storm began and the animals had to leave quickly to return to their homes. In the confusion, every dog took a tail without noticing that it wasn’t their own. Consequently, it’s for this reason that they smell each other’s butt, as they’re looking for their missing tail!

Why is my dog sniffing constantly?A Beagle dog sniffing.

The above story is an amusing one for children, but not so much for most adults, and even less so for scientists. According to the American Chemical Society, this action that may seem repulsive to people, helps a dog collect a lot of information.

For example, when a dog smells another dog’s tail it learns about their emotional state. It finds out how their immune system is doing, and even what they ate in the past few days. The components of dog secretions, and also of their wolf ancestors, are produced by the glands present in their anal sacs.

Dogs process chemical messages through their sense of smell. The data collected goes directly to the brain, and they decide whether the other dog is reliable or not. Under those circumstances, when dogs sniff each other, they’re learning and recognizing the other animal’s intentions.

Finally, this answers another question that you may have: why do dogs wag their tails? Well, they do so to spread their own individual scent. They don’t understand that human beings lack the ability to understand it as they do.

The next time you see your dog sniffing away, don’t stop them. Particularly if they’re greeting another dog.

It seems disgusting to human beings, because we use “civilized” tools, like words and gestures, in order to get an idea about one another. But dogs are quite primal, instinctual and curious, and they need to sniff everything.