Sniff – The First Line of Defense

May 26, 2012 | By | Reply More

“Mind if I sniff?”

We see it.  Sometimes we pretend not to see it.  Sometimes we’re embarrassed by it, or we might even reprimand our dogs for doing it.  There are a lot of important reasons for dogs to sniff.  It is a dog’s best way to get information, to settle himself in a stressful environment, or to signal deference to another dog, to name a few.  A dog doesn’t necessarily know another dog just by looking at it. That can sometimes happen visually, but for them to be sure, they must use their noses.

Smelling is primal.   According to Keven Behan, author and expert  on canine behavior, smelling is the purest path of grounding because it bypasses the higher processes of the nervous system (… instincts, habits and built up associations) and appeals directly to the gut.  Because of this, dogs trust their noses more than any other scent.  (see

We know that our dogs have two anal glands in their rectums, which emit a strong scent (phew…do we ever!).  Dogs sniff each other’s butts in order to get a whiff of this. The aroma they smell gives them detailed information about the other dog.  Most likely the sex, health status and temperament.  On a first meeting, two unacquainted dogs know if they want to befriend each other or not.  If one doesn’t like the other, there is probably  a good reason.  The other dog doesn’t pass the sniff test.

This is why it’s so important to let dogs greet appropriately.  Allow them enough leash to circle each other and investigate the situation.  A dog will usually know if he’s welcome to initiate play, etc.   Their odors can speak volumes to each other at these initial greetings.  So let nature take its course.  Allow your dog choose his own friends because in the long run he nose best.

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