Ever wonder why your dog loves to sniff you so much? Ever get a little freaked out by just how much a little weird he loves to sniff you? We’re going to dive into this common (yet still) dog behavior and find out just what’s behind all that sniffing!
If you have a dog, your “welcome home” routine probably looks something like this – you walk in the door and shortly thereafter, your dog is invading your personal space by sniffing to see what’s new. While it’s irritating, it’s really quite amazing what all that simple sniffing tells your dog.
Dogs’ noses are truly incredible. We all know that a dog’s sense of smell is significantly better than a human’s (and that of many other animals), but why? According to an article published Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities, a dog’s sense of smell is a thousand times more powerful than that of a human; they have more than 220 million olfactory sensors whereas humans have a paltry 5 million. In addition, dogs have a vomeronasal organ that humans don’t have, and this is what allows them to detect pheromones.
Why does your dog love to sniff you?
Now that we know a little more about why a dog’s sense of smell is so phenomenal, let’s talk about the specific reasons they love to sniff you.
- People all smell different. For dogs, our smells differentiate us. Basically, it’s how they know that you’re mom and not some creepy impostor. According to an article written by a veterinarian for Purina, dogs can even sniff out the difference between identical twins! That’s the vomeronasal organ at work.
- They smell other animals and people on you. We all know that when we’ve been petting another dog, our own dogs will sniff us quite a bit more when we get home, but they can even smell other people you touched or hugged. Unless you change clothes before you enter the house (and that might not even remove the entire smell), be prepared for a sniff assault.
- Pheromones are concentrated in socially–unacceptable sniffing locations. A dog’s natural instinct is to sniff where the pheromone scent is the strongest, and that is where the apocrine glands are found – for humans, that is the groin and underarms. Your dog, of course, does not realize the inappropriate nature of sniffing these locations to receive their olfactory input. Females who are going through hormonal changes associated with a menstrual cycle or menopause may find that their dogs have an increased interest in sniffing them.
- Sniffing out illness. Because a dog’s sense of smell is so incredible, there are documented stories of a dog sniffing out a hypoglycemic episode in a diabetic person, among other amazing situations. Some people believe it’s possible for dogs to identify cancer in humans, as well. I’m a believer that it’s better to be safe than sorry, so if your dog suddenly won’t leave you alone, it couldn’t hurt to make a visit to the doctor.
To your dog, your scent is your calling card. They obtain most of their information about you through their sense of smell, and their amazing noses are just one of the many reasons dogs are such incredible creatures. Even if we find it strange to go around sniffing people like crazy, to dogs, it’s just a normal part of their everyday lives.