Dog Butt Sniffing 101

Yesterday I witnessed a dog owner on the street, get very angry at her little dog for sniffing Logan’s bum while we were standing at a red light.  I watched her go into a full fledged lecture, yelling at her (obviously frightened) dog that Logan’s back end is dirty, and it’s rude to sniff other dogs’ butts.

When the light turned green, she quickly snapped the dog off in the opposite direction.

 What does it mean when a dog sniffs another dogs’ butt?

It can be embarrassing when you run into a neighbor while you’re both walking your dogs and all your dog wants to do is smell the other dog’s butt. Relax a little; that’s normal dog behavior!   If you pull on the leash to get your dog to stay away from the other dog’s butt, you might cause a fight to break out: by pulling your dog, you might make him look threatening to the other dog.

Powerful Sense of Smell

Humans can’t completely understand all the information a dog gets from smelling another dog’s butt. At least 33 percent of a dog’s brain is designed to process smells, as opposed to about 5 percent of a human’s brain. A dog’s sense of smell is so powerful that he can tell, for example, whether the dog before him in the veterinarian’s examination room was afraid, just by the smell the previous dog left behind.

They Can’t Shake Hands

Dogs sniff butts to greet each other, much as humans do by shaking hands. Dogs have anal glands just inside their rectums, which produce a strong odor. Dogs can find out all sorts of information just by getting a whiff back there. They can find out the sex of the other dog, whether the dog is in heat, what the dog ate lately and whether the encounter is likely to be a friendly one. Because the smell is unique to each dog, butt sniffing is the best way dogs have to identify each other.

It Calms and Grounds Them

When a dog already knows about the other dog from a prior sniffing, he still smells the other dog every time they meet. Two dogs who live together typically smell each other’s butts when they come in from outside. So butt sniffing has another purpose: it’s also a dog calming mechanism, according to Kevin Behan, a Vermont dog trainer and author. Anytime something new happens—especially something stressful—dogs tend to sniff each other’s behinds. It satisfies the urge to do something, and it grounds them.

Dogs Might Get into Trouble

Some dogs, when meeting another dog for the first time, are enthusiastic sniffers. But the dog being sniffed might not take too kindly to all that focused attention. Whenever your dog is meeting another dog, be attentive. If the butt smelling is an unwelcome gesture, it’s time to separate the dogs.

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