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Is My Dog’s Crotch Sniffing Normal?

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Ugh, we’ve all been there.  How awkward is it when your dog zeroes in on someone’s lower region and just won’t let up as you’re both trying hard to ignore it? Worse, when it’s someone else’s dog doing it to you, and its impossible to gently put a stop to it without turning it into a big (embarrassing) deal.

So, what causes dogs to become such ardent crotch-sniffers, and why does it seem impossible to train this type of up-close-and-personal behavior out of them?

Well, it’s not about him getting attention. And he’s not interested in trying to repel the individual so that he can have you all to himself (though that’s often the outcome). It’s simply down to how dogs greet one another, and the fact that they don’t consider humans to be any different.

If you’ve been to a leash-free, you’ll have noticed that when dogs first meet up, they go round in circles, each sniffing the other’s bum. Why? Because they’re trying to pick up a little intel on this new dog that they’ve just encountered. Specifically, are they available to mate?

You see, our pooches have apocrine glands all over their bodies (including their hair follicles), with a rather high concentration of them down around their anal glands. The pheromones released by these glands provide a wealth of info on that particular dog, including whether they’re young or old, male or female, stressed or relaxed, and also whether they’re ready (ovulating) to mate. But to pick up this data, dogs must first do the sniff test.

Once, done, there is so much more that goes on behind the scenes. Dogs have heightened receptive cells called the Jacobson’s or the vomeronasal organ. It’s located just above the roof of his mouth and is open to both his mouth and nose to allow scent molecules to enter. Cats have them too, and if you’ve ever seen a cat sniff something and then sit back with his mouth slightly open, it’s so he can process the smell more fully by letting it pass across his vomeronasal organ.

Now, when it comes to humans, dogs are essentially checking out the same thing because we also have apocrine glands. Dogs are intrigued by the different pheromones being emitted for any number of different reasons including ovulation and even recent childbirth. As a result, they feel compelled to check further and you’ll find that males (unneutered) and scent hounds are particularly persistent when it comes to diving in for a whiff.

While you will never convince your dog that this isn’t the most efficient manner of collecting info on someone new, you can curb some of this behavior so that it stops becoming invasive to guests and annoying for you. And it involves a little training on both sides.

When a guest arrives, train your dog to sit and stay at a designated location – a mat, his bed, or by his favorite chair. This allows the individual to enter and be seated rather than standing awkwardly as your dog makes his approach. And ask your guest to extend their hand to allow the dog to sniff. Sometimes, this can give your pooch sufficient intel to satisfy his curiosity and consider the crotch-sniff test unnecessary. And when all else fails, consider having a pocket full of small treats that you can offer to him as a distraction for when meeting new people requires him to be on his very best behavior.


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