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Dogs aren’t well-versed in the world of human boundaries, especially when it comes to using their nose. They often greet a new dog with a quick sniff of a rear end, so that often extends to how they greet a new human. Dogs will shove their noses into a human’s crotch with no hesitation. But why do dogs sniff your crotch?

The Power of a Dog’s Nose

While the invasive sniffing can be embarrassing, especially if your dog does it to a visitor, it’s their way of saying hello and learning about someone. A dog’s nose is a powerful tool. Dogs have up to 300 million scent sensors in their noses, compared to humans, who only have 6 million. This means that their sense of smell is 10,000 times greater than ours.

Dogs even have a special organ specifically dedicated to processing smells called Jacobson’s organ, or the vomeronasal organ. The organ, located above the roof of the mouth, plays an important role in how a dog interprets smell. It is connected to the scent-dedicated part of the dog’s brain, which is about 40 times larger than that of a human. This is why dogs are used to sniff out drugs, bombs, cancer, insulin levels, COVID-19, bed bugs, and more.

Why Do Dogs Sniff Your Crotch?

But what does that have to do with a dog’s need to sniff a human’s crotch? It all comes down to sweat glands, or apocrine glands, to be precise. These glands release pheromones that convey all different types of information such as age, sex, mood, and if a mammal is able to mate. Dogs have apocrine glands all over their bodies, but the highest concentration is found in the genitals and anus (which is why dogs sniff other dogs’ butts).

Siberian Husky sniffing a Pug in a sweater outdoors in the snow.
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Intact male dogs are known for being especially avid sniffers when searching for a mate since they want to know if a female dog is ovulating or pregnant. Most mammals, including humans, have apocrine glands. For humans, these glands are concentrated in the armpits and genitals. Since a dog can often only reach a human’s genitals, that’s where they head to gather information. Scenthounds, such as Bloodhounds, Basset Hounds, and Beagles, are more likely to sniff at crotches due to a sensitive sense of smell.

What Can a Dog Sense From Smelling Your Crotch?

Some human crotches are more likely to attract a dog’s curious nose. Dogs may be sniff at crotches if you recently have had sexual intercourse or gave birth, or if you’re menstruating. These people are giving off a higher level of pheromones.

So even when a dog is familiar with their owner, if that owner is menstruating or just had a baby, they are letting off a different smell. The dog will want to know why. This may also be why dogs often steal underwear since the undergarment carries an owner’s scent.

A dog’s ability to smell pheromones means they may be able to tell when a woman is ovulating. In his book “How Dogs Think,Stanley Coren, PhD., DSc., FRSC writes about how Australian Shepherds were trained to sniff out cows that had just ovulated. This method, which is reportedly easier than other ways to predict ovulation in livestock, has helped ranchers breed cows during their short breeding window. While it is not definitively proven that dogs can detect ovulation in humans, they can at least sense changes in their owners. A dog’s ability to detect ovulation may also extend to their ability to sniff out ovarian cancer.

How to Stop Your Dog From Sniffing Crotches

While a dog’s scent-drive curiosity is about gathering information and saying hello, you and any guests may want to avoid the awkward situation.

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If your dog is an avid crotch sniffer, consider making sure that when a guest enters the house, they present your dog with their hand or fist to sniff first. This gives the dog something else to focus on besides a crotch. With a fist, the dog can still gather information on the new human without getting up close and very personal. You can also train your dog to sit when someone new enters the house.

Channel Your Dog’s Sense of Scent

You can also channel your dog’s nose into fun activities for both you and your pet. AKC Scent Work is a sport that mimics the task of working detection dogs to locate a scent and communicate to the handler that the scent has been found. Any dog — mixed breed or purebred — is welcome to participate.

Because the searches mimic real-life scenarios, training can be done at home or in the community. You can also check out local clubs, and many dog training facilities may offer classes or training.

Looking for a way to engage your dog? Give your dog a snuffle mat or sniff mat. Finding treats hidden in these toys provides lots of mental stimulation and fun.

Related article: How to Train For and Take the Virtual Scent Work Test
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