It happens all the time: You take your dog out for a nice walk, hoping to help your best buddy get some exercise. But your dog sniffing ground constantly interrupts the walking flow. A lot. Keep in mind that while stopping and sniffing may be frustrating to you, it’s extremely important to your dog.
Here’s why dogs sniff the ground and why it’s so important that you let them.
Is Your Dog Sniffing Ground Nonstop During Walks Or At Home? The Interesting Reason Why
The canine nose is fascinating. It’s basically your dog’s way of understanding their environment. Humans do this using their eyes. When you take in your surroundings, you typically do it visually. But your dog does this through their sense of smell.
A dog’s nose contains up to a billion scent receptors – humans only have about 6 million. The main reason your dog sniffs so much on a walk is that they’re gathering information about other dogs that have been in the same area.1
Dogs are incredibly curious about their surroundings. That’s why they spend so much time smelling the air and – as gross as this may be – even the urine and feces of other pooches. They want to gather as much “intel” as they can on the other dogs in the neighborhood.
Your Dog’s Nose And Sense Of Smell: How They Work
A major portion of a dog’s brain is devoted to one thing – analyzing smells.2 That’s probably a huge reason why dogs undergo training in areas like sniffing out drugs and finding escaped fugitives. A dog’s nose is not only exponentially more powerful than a human’s, but it also works in a different way.
When people breathe through their noses, they smell and inhale through the same airways. A dog has a small area of tissue in the nostril that allows them to perform these functions separately. Humans exhale the same way as they inhale. People don’t smell anything during exhalation. Dogs, on the other hand, have slits on the sides of their noses. This helps them experience new odors even as they’re exhaling.3
Why Does My Dog Like To Sniff Humans In Embarrassing Areas?
Your dog’s affinity for sniffing isn’t just limited to a walk around the neighborhood. There are times, of course, when your pet might come up to you – or even worse, someone visiting your home – and sniff in a “delicate” area. There’s actually a reason for this embarrassing example of a dog’s behavior.
There’s a part of a dog’s nose known as the Jacobson’s organ. This is not a scent organ. Rather, a dog uses it to detect humidity. Areas of the human body that contain the most humidity are the underarms and, well, the crotch area.4
Dogs sniff this area for the same reason they sniff each other’s rear ends – they are sniffing pheromones. Pheromones give them a lot of information on the dog (or person) they’re sniffing.5
For example, research suggests that some dogs might be able to detect when a woman is pregnant. Farmers will often use dogs to help identify cows that are in heat. This information is extremely important for farmers who artificially inseminate their cattle for breeding purposes.6
Training Your Dog To Sniff And Smell Less: Should You Even Attempt This Type Of Training?
If you’re tired of your dog pulling on the leash to sniff every single patch of ground when you’re on a walk, you’re not alone. But should you teach your dog not to do this? Is dog training necessary to stop this behavior? The answer to both questions is “no”. There are some benefits to letting your dog sniff the ground.
The most important reason is simply that dogs are happy when they sniff. When they take in scents, their brain releases hormones that have a calming effect, making them feel content.7
Sniffing is also a mental workout for your pup. Dogs don’t just get tired from the physical exercise they get on a walk. They also get tired from the mental effort required to determine the various elements of a scent.8
Concerned About Your Dog’s Breathing Or Smelling? See A Veterinarian
There is a big difference between a dog smelling during a walk and one who might have breathing issues. If you notice that your dog is working harder to breathe, breathing rapidly, or panting in an abnormal fashion, you should probably head to your veterinarian’s office.
Signs of a potential issue include open-mouth breathing (without panting), nostrils flaring when breathing, and breathing in a more shallow fashion than usual.9
Let Dogs Sniff To Their Hearts’ Content
It can be a lot to ask of a pet parent – to let their dog sniff and sniff some more while on a walk. But this is a very important activity for a dog. Whether you have a puppy or an adult, your dog simply loves to sniff around. It’s a cue to their brain that there’s a lot going on in the neighborhood. They want to find out all they can.
This isn’t to say that you have to let your pooch sniff constantly on each and every walk. Just try allowing this every once in a while. You don’t need a dog trainer to help you change this behavior.
Just let your dog explore the neighborhood a bit with their nose – once you see that tail wagging, you’ll know just how happy it makes your pet.