As a dog parent, you’ve likely experienced that awkward moment when your pup’s snout is suddenly glued to your private parts like you’ve hidden a piece of steak down there. You try to casually maneuver away, placing your hand in front of yourself as a guard, waving off any intruders. This might be enough to give some dogs the hint, but with others it escalates. Soon, it’s like a bull match with a target on your nether regions and your bobbing and weaving to avoid the wet-nosed assault.
If your dog seems really attached to your genital area—or worse, your guest’s crotch—you’re probably asking yourself the question, “Why do dogs smell your crotch?” We’ll break down the reasons and give you some tips on how to correct this behavior if it becomes embarrassing.
Why Do Dogs Sniff Humans' and Other Dogs' Crotches?
A dog’s sense of smell is extremely powerful. Human noses have 5 million to 10 million olfactory receptors; the canine nose has as many as 220 million. Canine and human brains also both possess a neocortex that facilitates complex thought, but the part of a dog’s brain devoted to smells is about 40 times greater than ours.
This allows dogs to not only capture scents, but to also make sense of them in a way that humans can’t. As such, dogs navigate the world and gather a lot of information via their nose.
There’s a specialized organ, called the vomeronasal organ, or Jacobson’s organ, in your dog’s nose that opens through the roof of the mouth. (This organ is also found in cats and snakes and lizards.) Nerves from this organ go directly to the brain and help pick up chemical scents from apocrine glands (or sweat glands) like pheromones and body odor. Your crotch and armpits have the highest concentration of apocrine glands.
What Can Dogs Sense from This Kind of Sniffing?
"When they do this to other dogs in particular, they get information about that dog’s sex, hormones, stress levels, even how hostile this dog might be," says canine behaviorist and trainer Dianna M. Young. She adds that they can learn similar information about people, too.
While your dog might be more likely to sniff new people, they may become increasingly interested in their owners at certain times when you’re excreting a higher level of pheromones or different hormones.
This is one of the reasons dogs are more likely to sniff the crotches of someone who is menstruating or recently had sexual intercourse. Dogs can also sense changes in hormones during ovulation.
Is Sniffing Crotches Normal Dog Behavior?
The scent of a human body is interesting to a dog, and he just wants to figure out what’s going on.
Even so, some dogs can be more interested in doing this than others, continuing past the point of what you consider acceptable dog behavior, especially when guests come to your home.
When Crotch Sniffing Has Gone Too Far
If your dog seems glued to your or your guest’s crotch all the time, it may have gone past the point of just gathering information. Your dog may have figured out that sticking his snout in your guests’ groin area is a quick way to get your attention. It doesn’t matter if the resulting feedback is a scolding, as long as he gets your attention.
In this case, it’s likely time to enlist the help of a dog trainer or someone else who can help you correct the behavior.
Can I Stop My Dog From Sniffing Crotches?
Here are some tips to help alleviate the issue and keep your dog out of human crotches:
- Keep your dog on a leash when people arrive at your house, and ask them to hold a “sit” or “down” until you release them. Eventually, you can wean them off the leash, perhaps even commanding them to go to a special location when people arrive until you give them the OK to move, says Young.
- Instruct your guests to give your dog their hand when they enter your home. This can give your dog something to smell, and hopefully keep them away from guests’ crotch.
- Take regular “sniff walks” where you let your dog smell everything instead of pulling them along. You can also play some indoor scent games—this may help channel the sniffing, while also keeping your pooch mentally stimulated.
- Hide some dog treats around the house and let your dog sniff around to find them, or you can purchase a treat puzzle, like the Ethical Pet Seek-A-Treat Flip N Slide Puzzle Dog Toy.
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