If you haven’t wondered it aloud yourself, you are bound to encounter a young child who will ask: Why is the dog sniffing my butt? Believe it or not, there’s a science behind butt sniffing among canines—and why they do it to people, too.
It’s one of those “funny, not funny” situations—especially when you welcome a visitor to your home and Fido strolls up to stick his snout right in the unsuspecting person’s crotch. Since a dog’s butt-sniffing habit is pretty rude, we’ve also got a few tips to help you curtail your dog’s nosy nose from poking at people’s private parts.
Scent is How Dogs Communicate
To answer the big butt-sniffing question, we first need to review the role of a dog’s sense of smell as a means of communication with both other dogs and their humans.
The Power of a Dog’s Nose
A dog’s olfactory senses far surpass that of any human nose. The typical dog’s nose contains 150 million olfactory receptors whereas humans have just 5 million receptors. This gives your dog a sense of smell that is 100,000 (or more) times more sensitive than yours. Essentially, your dog could sniff out a rotting tooth in an Olympic-size pool full of sand!
Smell is also part of a dog’s survival gear. It is so vital to a dog’s health that 30% of their brain mass is dedicated to detecting and identifying odors. Only 5% of human brain tissue is reserved for olfaction.
Dogs Have a Specialized Olfactory System
Dogs also have a specialized organ called Jacobson’s organ, which sits inside the nasal cavity and opens into the roof of the mouth, just behind the incisor teeth. This is a specialized olfactory system designed specifically for chemical communication with the brain.
Both of the olfactory systems work together for scent detection, but the sensory cells in Jacobsen’s organ respond to different odors than those picked-up by your dog’s snout. The nerve cells in Jacobson’s organ respond to odors that would otherwise be undetectable. What might these barely detectable odors be?
The sensory cells in Jacobsen’s organ help your dog to pick-up chemical messages that:
identify pheromones (secretions that tell a dog if another dog is male or female)
identify if a dog is available for breeding
help puppies identify their mother as well as find her milk
help puppies differentiate their mother from another nursing mother
Canine Communication: It’s All About the Scent
These chemical messages that your dog picks up on also help it to identify another dog’s gender, mood, and basic info about another animal's (or human’s) “personality”. However, dogs don’t usually rely on first impressions….
Dogs get up close and personal to assess if their first impression is accurate or not—and that is where the butt sniffing comes into play.
Messages from the Backside
Every dog has a unique scent, which is concentrated around specialized glands at the dog’s backside. Dog’s sniff each other’s butts to determine if they’ve met before or if this is a first-time meeting. Like humans, dogs also have the ability to associate scent with memory and past experience. So, good or bad, scent can tell a dog how to respond: playfully, fearfully, with aggression, relaxed, or indifferently.
The anal secretions from another dog also help establish which dog will be more confident in that situation. This also sets the foundation for the canine relationship. A dominant dog initiates butt sniffing while the more passive dog waits her turn. Dogs may growl during the “sniff n’ greet.” Sometimes a dog will sit down on its tail to let another dog know, “Hey, that’s enough.”
And the Reason Why Your Dog Sniffs Your Butt is…
Getting back to a dog’s memory and scent…if a family member dog has been away a while, dogs will butt sniff to catch up on things such as where the dog went, what the dog ate, and even what he did! So, if you’ve been away from your dog for a few hours or longer, your dog will sniff your butt to figure out where you went, if everything is okay, and—believe it or not—as a way to calm down and reduce stress from having been separated from you!
When a dog sniffs a human butt, she or he is learning if that human…
is male of female
is menstruating or not
has given birth recently or is pregnant
And if that human happens to be a toddler with a diaper full of duty, sniffing may tell the dog a lot about the toddler’s eating habits and mood.
Fun Fact: Dogs super scent-detection abilities are even being used to detect the COVID-19 virus -- with remarkable accuracy!
How to Curtail Your Dog’s Butt Sniffing Habit
Butt sniffing is instinctual and necessary for canine survival. So, don’t try to train it out of your dog—it’s never going to happen. However, no house guest wants to be greeted with a nose-up-the-backside. To curtail your dog’s butt sniffing habit, do these two things:
Train your dog to sit whenever anyone new enters the house. Reward that behavior. Ignore the dog otherwise or crate her
Instruct your guests to immediately offer their hand to the dog for sniffing and making their acquaintance.
You can also channel your dog’s sense of smell into sport activities, which will tire her out and maybe make her less interested in gathering information about your house guests via crotch sniff.
The Best Dog Sitters in Delaware
Here at Weather or Not Dog Walkers, we are accustomed to working with all kinds of dogs—each with their own degree of sniffing habits. We know how to gently channel your dog’s nosey-nose to more constructive activities. Whether you’re away on vacation or working long days in the office, you can rely on our professional team of pet sitters to care for your four-legged family members. Get in touch with us, today! 302-304-8399
Don't forget we also provide exceptional cat sitting services through Kitten Sittin of Delaware.