Your dog’s enthusiasm for sniffing crotches can be both irritating and embarrassing, especially when the object of his attention is a guest. It helps to know that, like barking and wagging his tail, sniffing is one of the most common natural behaviors for dogs. It is both a greeting and a means of gathering information.
Dogs have a keenly developed sense of smell—with approximately 220 million sensors in their noses as compared to only 5 million in humans—and are capable of detecting scents unnoticeable to humans. The sense of smell is a vital way of obtaining information for canines.
The main reason dogs sniff the rear area of other dogs is because dog’s anal glands emit scents that provide clues about them—including health, gender, and mood. Also, greeting another animal face-to-face could be dangerous if the other animal is hostile.
The genital area in humans also possesses a large number of scent glands. So while it may seem that your dog is sniffing around in a private area for a little too much information, this is simply his natural way of getting to know someone unfamiliar.
Fortunately there is a way of keeping your dog from poking his nose where it doesn’t belong while still allowing him access to information he needs to feel comfortable. The method is simple:
Sniffing does not mean that your dog is a bad dog, so don’t punish him if he insists on getting a whiff. He will learn better if you reward the behavior you want—obeying your sit/stay command—than if you punish his instinctive behavior. If it is necessary at times to put your dog in a crate or a closed-off area while guests are present, do so in a way that does not give the dog the idea that he is being punished, or being sent to a bad place. Use a normal, soothing tone of voice.
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