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Why Do Dogs Smell Each Other

↯ Key takeaway points

  • Dogs sniff each other as a form of communication and to learn more about each other, using their highly advanced sense of smell and a specific organ in their nasal cavity called Jacobson's organ.
  • Through scent, dogs can quickly identify the gender of the other dog, their mood, health, and even whether there might be a prospect of mating in the future.
  • Allowing another dog to sniff their anal glands is a friendly and welcoming way of communicating, while sitting down may be a form of protection or sign of wariness.
  • While it is a perfectly normal behavior in dogs, there are safety concerns such as misjudging a situation, contagious diseases, and risks of pregnancy.
A pet lover passionate about educating readers about animal health and care. Love reading studies and recent research.
Veterinarian and veterinary microbiologist working as a veterinary science lecturer at the UVAS, Lahore.
Published on
Monday 13 September 2021
Last updated on
Wednesday 10 May 2023
why dogs smell each other
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Dog behavior is both very interesting and unique. Sometimes it can be humorous trying to identify, such as seeing your dog sniff another dog’s butt. But sniffing is much more than it is to us. For dogs, it is a form of communication, identification, and aids them with their understanding of the world and those around them. If you have an interest in why dogs smell each other, you, and everything else, then we can help.

We will be explaining the reason behind this behavior and what it means. Furthermore, the safety, and even concerns of a dog sniffing another. Interested? Let’s dive into it.

The Reason Behind Dogs Smelling Each Other

Dogs smell each other as both a form of communication, but also to learn more about the other individual. A dog’s sense of smell is much more advanced than ours, this means their sense of smell is a tool to transfer and receive information from another dog. Compared to us, their sense of smell is 30 times better than ours. Olfactory receptors are the parts that allow us to receive information about smells, the more we have the more advanced our senses. Humans have around 5 million whereas dogs have around 220 million.

Furthermore, dogs have a Jacobson’s organ, something we do not. This little organ exists in the nasal cavity to help your dogs to communicate specifically through chemicals. The way that this organ is different from your dog sniffing to detect smells is what it can actually pick up. It has been found that this organ is able to detect smells that the nose cannot which may be those that are left deliberately for communication. It is most well adapted for instinct-driven behavior such as mating, motherhood, and general hormonal responses. From the moment a newborn puppy is born they can use this sense to seek out their mother’s milk. This organ is also suspected to help identify family members, even after a number of years have passed, therefore there is a suspected link to memory as well.

What Does It Mean When Dogs Smell Each Other

The forms of communication that two dogs use through scents are extraordinary. In the manner you or I would discuss traits, interests, and defining features, a dog can assess in mere seconds through scent. They can quickly identify the gender of the dog, and if there would be any prospective mating in the future. They can also understand the dog’s health. Although the depths of this point are not yet entirely understood, it is believed a dog can see injury and illness. This is why dogs are so using to detecting oncoming seizures, sugars dropping in diabetics, and other health issues in humans.

This isn’t all though! A dog can also identify the mood of the other dog immediately, arguably why they can be so empathetic. However, it can also be a very useful tool to help keep them safe. If a dog is upset, angry, or scared, these moods could all result in a potential bite. Therefore, they may try to avoid dogs that appear to be in a negative mood. Similarly, if they are ill, they may be more reactive.

Sniffing the anal glands in the dog’s butt can also provide a lot of information. Allowing another dog to sniff them to obtain this information is a friendly welcome, whereas sitting down may be a form of protection or signify wariness.

dogs smelling each other
Smelling is a dog’s way of communicating and greeting other dogs.

Is It Safe To Let My Dog Smell Others

This is a perfectly normal behavior in dogs, so in this sense, it is safe. However, there are some safety concerns you should be aware of. These may include your dog misjudging a situation, those with contagious diseases, and dogs who are not neutered or spayed.

Although dogs have these scent receptors, like with us, they can misjudge situations. They may detect an adrenaline increase but attribute this to excitement as opposed to anxiety. They then could run-up to a nervous dog to sniff them, and the other dog may bite them. Furthermore, sniffing is not the only sense that dogs use to judge another but also use their sight as well to see if a dog appears happy. They will use their sight as well to see if a dog appears happy. Those that are unsocialized may not understand aggressive or anxious behavior. Therefore, they may go up to sniff another dog and misjudge that dog’s behavior. It may also be that the other dog has difficultly judging features, such as long, black fur covering the face. This makes the features difficult to discern.

Whenever you take your dog out for a walk, it is important that they are properly vaccinated. Those that are not could catch many contagious diseases which may have severe consequences. Even those that are vaccinated may be at a slim risk of contracting parasites, such as fleas and worms. Be sure to keep your dog up to date on their deworming and flea treatment. Lastly, if your dog is in season, or is a male who meets a female in season, there could be a risk of pregnancy. When your dog smells the pheromones then they may react, and this can be especially concerning in very young individuals or females that are not well.

Dogs Smelling Each Other: FAQ

Still some questions? Take a look below to find the answer you need.

Do dogs make friends with other dogs through sniffing?

Dogs use sniffing as a form of communication so it can certainly help with bonding. Dogs can relay positive emotions as well as a willingness to relay more information by allowing them to sniff each other’s butts. It can also relay if they want to play or are feeling more calm emotions and may want to rest.

Should I let my dog sniff other dogs before my dog finishes its vaccine?

When you own a puppy who is not yet vaccinated, you should not let them go outside or meet other dogs until they are vaccinated. This is because it puts them at risk of catching diseases and becoming very ill. If you are worried about your dog’s exercise levels before they are eligible for vaccination, consider alternate options like playing with toys. Buying some self-enriching toys or toys you can use to play together with your dog can help them burn off that hyper energy.

Can a dog understand me by sniffing me?

A dog can understand your health, emotions, gender, and other factors about you depending on their training. Those with advanced training can predict certain behaviors or negative health consequences before they arrive. This is why dogs can be used as therapy dogs as well, to aid with panic attacks, anxiety, and depression. However, note that dogs are not guaranteed to understand everything you are thinking and feeling. Some may misinterpret it.

Dogs can learn so much about one another simply by sniffing each other. With 30 times as many receptors as us, it is no wonder they are able to communicate and use this sense so much more thoroughly than we can. There are some concerns like with misjudgments of emotions. But with proper socialization and training of your dog, everything should be okay.

One comment on “Why Do Dogs Smell Each Other”

  1. morehappawness

    Thank you for the very useful post

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