Expert Q&A

Do dogs sometimes sniff everything around them when they are feeling anxious?

Do dogs sometimes sniff everything around them when they are feeling anxious?

BY: The Dog Daily Expert

Sniffing can indeed be a sign of canine anxiety, but the difference between that and regular exploratory sniffing is subtle.

Your dog experiences much of its world via scent. What’s the first thing your dog does when it sees one of its buddies? It probably sniffs that individual’s face and bottom, perhaps going around in circles to get a better full-nose whiff. Animals (including humans) release all sorts of important information in compounds with slight, and sometimes even pungent, odors. This info reveals certain aspects of health status, sex, age, mood and other things. Dogs are particularly good at teasing apart all of that data.

When your dog is scared, or if it wants to be left alone, it may sniff other things, according to Evelyn Pang and Hilary Louie, authors of the book Good Dog!: Kids Teach Kids About Dog Behavior and Training. As they share, your dog might sniff the grass, a bush or even the ground -- basically anything but the other dog, person or whatever it is that triggered the anxiety. Pang and Louie aren’t exactly sure why dogs do that, but this type of sniffing seems to tell other dogs to keep their distance. My guess is that when a dog senses danger, it will do this type of sniffing so that other dogs heed the visual warning.

Sniffing isn’t too worrisome, though. If your dog were really terrified, it would growl, bark and make a bigger ruckus. But do pay attention to whom and what your dog sniffs. Sniffing in dogs can actually be a compliment, since the sniff-ee is of sufficient interest and isn’t perceived as a threat by your pet.

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Tags: dog behavior

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