Dogs love to use their noses. Sniffing is one of the most rewarding behaviors for a dog, and all dogs rely on scent to gather information. How much sniffing is too much? What should you do if your dog sniffs more than usual?
If your dog sniffs more than usual, it could indicate a few different things. Your dog might be anxious or stressed out, or they could be avoiding someone or something they don’t like. Sniffing could also be a response to a change in the environment, or it might indicate that your dog is sick.
Most of the time, if your dog is sniffing a lot, it’s not a great cause for concern. You should observe your dog and see if the sniffing is combined with any other behaviors to determine why they are sniffing and what to do about it.
#1. Changes in the Environment
Dogs are sensitive. A small change in your home or routine that doesn’t seem like a big deal to you might be a big deal to your dog. Sniffing is the primary way dogs gather information, so if there has been a change in their environment, they might sniff more to figure out what’s happening.
Have you recently brought any new furniture into your home? Have you welcomed a new house guest or even a new pet? Maybe you changed jobs, and now you smell different when you come home at the end of the day. These could be things that make your dog want to sniff more.
You don’t need to worry too much about your dog’s sniffing in response to an environmental change. Eventually, your dog will become familiar with the new smell and will stop sniffing all the time.
Use this game to teach your dog to stop sniffing!
#2. Anxiety and Stress
Dogs don’t just sniff to gather information about the world. They also sniff as a way to diffuse tension and relieve anxiety.
If your dog is sniffing a lot while pacing, or you notice other symptoms of stress like a tucked tail, flattened ears, shivering, or showing the whites of their eyes, it could indicate that your dog is stressed about something.
When you notice your dog sniffing, pacing, or displaying other symptoms of fear or stress, the best thing to do is remove them from the situation. Take them away from the cause of stress and move them to a quiet area so they can calm down.
If your dog frequently shows signs of anxiety, you may need to take them to the vet. A vet can prescribe medication to assist with ongoing anxiety issues.
Most dogs like to avoid conflict, so they try to demonstrate to other dogs that they mean no harm by using avoidance techniques. A nervous dog will often sniff the ground as another dog approaches as a way to show they are not a threat and don’t want any trouble.
If your dog always sniffs the ground when another dog or person approaches, it probably means they are shy or nervous. Give your dog plenty of space and let other people know not to approach them.
If your dog consistently avoids a particular person, try to get it more comfortable with that person by slowly increasing the time they spend together. Don’t let the person pet or get too close to the dog until your dog is comfortable.
You can have the person toss treats on the ground for your dog or do a neutral activity together like going for a walk. The more time your dog has to adjust to the person and understand they are not a threat, the more comfortable your dog will feel around them.
#4. Health Problems
If your dog is not just sniffing but also sneezing, snorting, or coughing, it could indicate that they are sick. It could also suggest that it has something stuck in its nose. These are both cases where you should take your dog to a vet.
A common cause of sneezing or coughing in dogs is allergies. Like humans, dogs can be allergic to pollen, dust, dander, or certain foods. If your dog is sneezing and sniffing a lot and also scratching, biting at themselves, or having discharge from their nose or eyes, they may be allergic to something in the environment.
If your dog has something stuck in its nose, it can be very uncomfortable or painful. Your dog might sniff or sneeze to try and dislodge the item. If the dog can’t dislodge the object on its own, you should take it to a vet immediately.
You might sometimes hear your dog doing the “reverse sneeze,” a common behavior in which the dog rapidly inhales or snorts through its nose. It can sound like choking or gagging, but it is usually harmless. The reverse sneeze is your dog’s response to irritation or a minor blockage in the nasal passage.
Tracheal Collapse is a rare but serious condition in which the rings of the dog’s trachea progressively collapse. It causes breathing problems and can be fatal. The cause of tracheal collapse in dogs is unknown.
Tracheal collapse will cause your dog to have a harsh, dry cough that might sound like a honk. Other symptoms include vomiting, resistance to exercise, a bluish tint to the gums, and difficulty breathing.
If you suspect your dog might be suffering from tracheal collapse, take them to a vet immediately. Your vet can prescribe lifestyle changes and medication to treat the condition. Managing your dog’s weight, walking them on a harness instead of a flat collar, and avoiding airborne irritants can all help to alleviate symptoms.
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You usually don’t need to worry about your dog’s sniffing unless combined with other behaviors or symptoms. If your dog sniffs a lot but doesn’t seem distressed and isn’t showing any signs of sickness or allergies, let them go ahead and sniff!
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