Urgh! Don’t do that!

It’s disgusting and embarrassing, isn’t it? Our dogs sniff each other’s rear end. Why do they do it?

The first point to note is that it is not disgusting for your dog, it is, simply, normal canine behaviour.

We have to understand that dogs olfactory capabilities are immeasurably superior to ours. It is not clear just how much more sensitive their sense of smell is but here are a few facts:

  • they can detect some odours in parts per trillion
    (humans detect in parts to a million / billion – this equates to a sensitivity somewhere between 10 thousand and a 100 thousand times lower than our dogs)
  • dogs olfactory epithelium contains between 220 million and 2 billion nerves
    (this equates to around 100 times more than humans)
  • dogs have a greater diversity of olfactory receptors genes (so far 800 olfactory receptors genes have been identified in the canine genome). This means dogs can pick up much more detailed information from odours than, their rather feeble (in smell terms) humans

It is not surprising, then, that smell is a very important sense for a dog. Probably more so than vision.

Dog owners will know that the main target for sniffing for their dogs is other dogs rear ends. In fact, the specific focus is that of the anal sacs, located on both sides of the anus. The pungent mixture of odours contained in these sacs (produced, predominantly by micro-organisms) differs, considerably, from dog to dog. Therefore, this smell is a good candidate for a ‘signature’ odour. In other words, this is used to identify individual dogs. Why, then, do our dogs insist on going through the ritual of sniffing the same dogs rear end on, practically, every meeting?

As, mentioned above, the odours coming from the anal sacs are produced, mainly, from micro-organisms. This means that the odour can change over a period of, undefined, time. This means that your dog needs to reacquaint himself with dogs he has already met, perhaps on many occasions.

Interestingly, while our dogs, clearly, want to sniff other dogs rear ends. They are not so keen to have their rear ends sniffed. Seems hardly reasonable, but there it is.

So, we should not be embarrassed by our dogs sniffing behaviour. We should accept it for what it is – normal canine behaviour. There is no need to feel embarrassed or, indeed, try to prevent our dogs from performing normal behaviour.