Firstly, for context, your dog’s nose is amazing! In fact a dog’s sense of smell is, according to James Walker*,10,000 to 100,000 times as acute as that of a human!  This actually explains a lot of the reasons why dogs are avid sniffers, but there is a bit more to it.

Why does my dog hate it when I blow in his face, but loves to hang his head out of the car when it’s going top speed?

It’s all about the smells!  Just imagine what smells a dog can pick up out of the car window, with that amazing nose, and compare that to your singular breath smell.  No competition here. The range of smells is simply much more exciting to your dog.

On top of that, blowing in your dog’s face can be really scary – especially if it means direct eye contact and leaning over – that could be experienced as a threat to your dog.  Hence the discomfort with a blow in the face compared to the blow of the wind out of a car window.

When your dog sticks his or her head out the window, the experience is one of magnificent smells. There is possibly also the feeling of the wind which is pleasurable for your pooch.

Why does my dog like the dirty laundry?

Ask any vet who has operated on a dog’s stomach to tell you what they have found.  The most interesting I have heard of, is 2 pairs of panties, and one chewed up golf ball, the culprit being a Labrador – well known for their joy of eating pretty much anything – and it all starts with the smell!

We all can tell the smell of individuals, and for dogs they love the smell of us, regardless of our personal hygiene habits.  The things that they like the most tend to be well worn – with traces of the been worn smell, in particular shoes (who hasn’t had their shoes chewed by their pooch?), socks and undies.  The solution is easy really – put your gear out of reach, and provide safe chewing alternatives.

It is entirely normal for dogs to be partial to your home or items of your clothing.  It helps them feel close to you when you are not around.

Why does my dog want to sniff EVERYTHING on a walk?

Dogs adore a good sniff.  And their nose is the highlight of a walk – and can you imagine the sensations and smells they get with that extraordinary sense of smell.

In fact, dogs can tell from sniffing a tree or lamppost when a dog has passed, who it is and what status they have – male/female, top dog or not, and its reproductive status.  How much fun must that be?  Other interesting smells include food that has dropped on the ground and other animals’ faeces or decomposing body parts. While this seems gross, dogs take in all the information with gusto!

Of course some breeds are better than others when it comes to sniffing ability with long-nosed dogs able to distinguish scents better than the short-faced ones. The Bloodhound is thought to have the best scent-detection abilities of all dogs while Gundogs (like Retrievers and Spaniels) spend most time sniffing when out on walks.

Remember the dog’s nose is in charge. This is their main sense and they experience and gain information via their nose more than any other sense.  This is why dogs like to stop and smell the roses – and everything in-between too!

Sometimes it can be annoying when the sniffing never seems to end, in this case, it’s time to take charge.  But be sure to allow plenty of sniffing time and when you want to move on, give them the “Move On” command, and reward them for doing as they are told.

Why do dogs sniff people?

When a dog gets up close and personal and has a big sniff of us, they are busy gathering dog intelligence about us. They are checking to see whether we are familiar or strangers.

Unfortunately dogs do not appear to distinguish between the regions of the human body which they sniff. Your armpits, to your dog, smell very similar to your feet, and some dogs are not so polite when it comes to gathering the olfactory information.

Some dogs are happy to gather information from the air around them, but others need to get up close – sometimes a bit too close for comfort when they decide it’s  a good idea to smell our breath or our crotches.

If you are embarrassed by your dog’s sniffing habits, try to distract them. When visitors call, put your dog on a lead to control their movements. Teach them to say hello by sniffing the person’s hand and reward them for staying calm.

Why dogs sniff other dogs bottoms?

While you dog may recognize the shape of another dog, they can get a lot more informed by sniffing up close and personal.  The best place to sniff is where there’s the most smell … this tends to be around the ano-genital area.  Hence it’s the natural choice when they want to learn more about their canine friends.

Don’t worry about this behavior, it’s entirely normal (for a dog), but if your dog is getting annoying to other dogs then you should take change and direct them towards other exciting activities.

To wrap up – sniffing is entirely normal, and a very important part of a dog’s life!

*Former director of the Sensory Research Institute at Florida State University.


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Liz Walden

Liz has a passion for all things cat and dog, and was one of the first in Australia to bring Pet Insurance to the market. She has headed up Petsecure marketing for the past 10 years, and is committed to promoting and supporting the amazing work done by rescue groups around Australia, and those who work to promote a better life for all animals

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