Butt sniffing is a very natural, instinctive, and basic form of dog-to-dog communication. The dog butt sniff is similar to a human handshake and a way for dogs to say “hi” to each other. But the same interaction to us humans can seem rude and aggressive, especially when it manifests in an interested dog excitedly sniffing your personal areas. This aspect of dog behavior makes many owners annoyed, grossed out, and uncomfortable.
Take my client Bill, for example. He says that he and his wife won’t visit his brother who has dogs because every time they go to the brother’s house the pets sniff him and his wife relentlessly. Bill and his wife find it rude and annoying but his brother finds it funny. Their solution? They don’t go anymore.
If you have a dog that is a persistent and even fervent crouch sniffer, please note that this can be very annoying to guests. While it’s natural for other dogs and to other dogs, the same rules do not apply to humans.
Dogs instinctively sniff to seek information about other dogs and environments. Scent-based communication is the primary way that dogs understand one another. The dog-to-dog butt sniff can tell a dog information about the age and sex of the other dog, if the dog is in heat, what their overall health is like, what the dog is eating, and even provide some clues about a dog’s emotional state. This sniff can help a dog determine if this will be a friendly encounter… or not.
Dogs use their sense of smell to help them understand and assess their environment so much so that it makes sense for them to seek the same information from humans with the same butt or crotch sniff… even if we hate it.
How Do You Stop a Dog From Doing the Crotch Sniff?
If you have the sniffing dog, basic obedience training can be a huge help. By using humane but firm commands, your dog can learn that this kind of interaction is not ok in the dog-human relationship. Dogs can generally detect most human smells from 3 to 4 feet away but, dogs being dogs, many want the up-close and personal “news.”
What else can you do? Stay consistent and clear with your communication. Let your dog know the correct behavior when meeting someone by rewarding the behavior you want to see. In the case of an aggressive crouch sniffer, the best option may be training the dog to sit and stay when visitors arrive. You can also separate your dog by keeping them in a crate or a different room of the house when guests are over.
What Can You Do if a Dog is Sniffing Inappropriately?
If a dog is actively sniffing you, try the following options:
- Understand that is dog behavior and let it go. Let them have their sniff, which generally only last a few seconds (but can seem like minutes), and wait for them to move on.
- Gently push the dog’s head away or gently grab the collar and move the dog’s head away from you.
- Ask the owner to hold onto their dog.
If you are in a situation like Bill’s, one solution is to talk to the person with the crotch-sniffing dog and explain that you’d prefer a different behavior (that the dog doesn’t sniff you when you come over). If the dog owner doesn’t oblige and try to correct their dog’s behavior, you can meet them in neutral territory such as a restaurant which is dog-free.
Remember, it’s up to the owner to encourage proper behavior. If an owner allows or even encourages bad behavior, you as a guest aren’t going to be able to fix it on a quick visit.