Why you should celebrate your dog’s butt sniffing

By Jeff Stallings, CPDT-KA

While wearing Otis out at Douglass Dog Park this morning, I witnessed something I have seen too many times:  A red-faced dog owner apologizing for her dog sniffing another dog’s behind. I made a joke about it in an attempt to disarm her embarrassment, then told her not to be ashamed and in fact to encourage her dog to sniff and be sniffed.

Mutual rear-sniffing is the most natural thing in the world when you’re a dog.  You have to remember that the dogs’ sense of smell is roughly equivalent to our sense of sight.  With over 300 million olfactory receptor sites (compared to our 5 million), smell is a dog’s primary way of sensing and knowing about the world—including other dogs.

Why dogs sniff each other's butts

Many people believe butt sniffing is a dog’s way of saying “hello”, which is  partially true in that it is part of complex dog-dog meeting rituals. But the main reason dogs sniff each other’s butts is for a much deeper reason: to get of whiff of the other dog’s anal glands and thus collect a great deal of information, including the gender, health status, temperament and other information we can hardly even imagine.

A successful, peaceful mutual butt-sniffing will usually disarm any potential aggression between two well-adjusted dogs. However, dogs that have not been properly socialized to other dogs (and people) as young pups will use their eyes instead of their noses to evaluate a new dog, including a direct stare, which sometimes lead to a more  combatative meeting.

So rejoice in the age-old ritual when your dog sniffs another dog’s behind, knowing that the informative back-and-forth is a canine olfactory delight.

A note about the accompanying image: This small original painting was a gift from a friend who brought it back from Rio de Janeiro in 2005. I have proudly had it hanging in my bathroom ever since.

3 Responses

  1. A week ago we rescued an 18 month lab Shepard mix. She is fine with other dogs as long as they don’t sniff her butt. When they attempt to them she snaps at them Any thoughts or ideas on how we can resolve this?

  2. What about dogs that live together for years already. One of them annoys the other all day long by sniffing his butt and his ears, too. Since they’ve been together so long, this is not a social “hello” or “getting to know you” sniff. He stops when we say “NO!” but he’s back at it again 3 minutes later. The sniffee growls and doesn’t like it one bit!

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Jeff Stallings, CPDT-KA

My Blog/Articles page includes other posts I have written in the past decade or so. These posts highlight my philosophy, beliefs and methodology regarding dog behavior and training.  Thanks for reading!

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