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, owner or guest, with no hesitation. 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. According to an analogy by Michael T. Nappier, DVM, DABVP, of the Virginia Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine, dogs can “detect the equivalent of a 1/2 a teaspoon of sugar in an Olympic-sized swimming pool.”
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, bed bugs, and more.
So Why Do Dogs Sniff Human Crotches?
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, 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, hence why they sniff each other’s butts.
Intact male dogs are known for being especially avid sniffers when searching for a mate since they want to know if a female is ovulating or pregnant. Most mammals have apocrine glands, including humans. 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. Scent hounds, such as Bloodhounds, Basset Hounds, and Beagles are more likely to sniff at crotches due to a highly-tuned 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:
- Those who have recently had sexual intercourse
- Those who are menstruating
- Those who have recently given birth
All of these will pique a dog’s interest. This is because those people are excreting 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 and the dog wants 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 Can You Get Your Dog to Stop Sniffing the Crotches of Your Guests?
While a dog’s scent-drive curiosity is about gathering information and saying hello, you and your guest may want to avoid the awkward situation.
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.
So think of that dog’s nose in your crotch as a form of small talk. Yes, it’s awkward and you want to get past it, but it’s a way to gather preliminary information on someone. A dog’s nose tells them everything, no matter how embarrassing.
Channel Your Dog’s Sense of Scent
There are many ways to channel your dog’s nose into fun activities for both you and your dog.
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. Scent Work takes this amazing working relationship and turns it into a fun game that any dog can play. 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 Scent Work clubs, and many dog training facilities offer training in Scent Work. Use the Club Search or Training Resources for more information on finding Scent Work classes near you.
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Looking for a way to engage your dog? This nose work mat is the perfect item for you! This large, interactive nose work mat provides hours of mental stimulation and fun for your pup.
AKC Scent Work is an Excellent Addition to Other Nose Work Activities
Why Not Give AKC Scent Work a Try?