We all know that dogs have no respect for personal space and, on the whole, we have come to accept it. But, there is one invasion of our privacy that is far more embarrassing than just about anything else that our canine companions do – the crotch sniff! Why do dogs smell your crotch? Are they trying to embarrass us or is this behavior rooted in instinct and canine communication?
When you delve a little deeper into the science, there is more to this behavior than you may have realized.
Dogs Love Smelling Things!
Before we go any further, it’s important to realize that dogs have a very different attitude to smelling things compared to humans. Once we understand this, it is much easier to get why they are sticking their nose in our crotch!
Smelling is a very important sense for dogs. Sure, they can see and hear but they rely heavily on their nose to build up a complete picture of their environment and everyone in it. So, your dog is just as interested in what you smell like as what you look or sound like. You’ve probably noticed that when your dog meets another dog they sniff each other’s butts for this very reason.
This seemingly bizarre behavior stems from the power of a dog’s nose! Whilst we have only 6 million scent receptors, they have 300 million which gives them smelling power that is 10,000 times better than ours. They also have some extra sniffing equipment. It’s called the Jacobson’s Organ and it is located between the nose and the mouth. It can detect chemical messages, called pheromones, that give out a lot of information about other dogs, humans, and other animals.
4 Reasons Why Dogs Smell Crotches
So, now we understand how important the sense of smell is to your dog. But, why do dogs smell your crotch in particular? There are several different reasons.
#1 Gathering Information
Without realizing it, we are constantly gathering information about our loved ones. Do they look ill? Do they sound sad or stressed? Dogs are no different but they get their information from odors. The chemicals that our bodies give off can impart a lot of information to a dog.
They can tell if they have met us before, our age, our gender, and even our mood. This is important information for a dog as it may affect how we behave towards them. Recent research has shown that a dog can recognize their owner by their scent alone.
#2 Crotches Are Where Most Information Is Found
Dogs like to investigate all sorts of smells but the chemical signals that interest them the most are those given off by the apocrine glands. These are a type of sweat gland. They are found in regions of the human body that have the most hair and they secrete a type of sweat that has an odor because it contains many proteins. Sniffing these glands in a person’s crotch gives the dog information about the human like their moods, personality, age, and sex.
Our armpits and groins are where the highest concentration of apocrine scent is found but most dogs cannot reach our armpits because we are too tall. Also, because so many people use deodorants on their armpits, they disguise the smell.
#3 Saying Hello
Have you seen two dogs meeting on the street and sniffing each other’s butts as a type of greeting? When your dog sniffs your crotch, they are essentially doing the same thing. They are saying ‘Hi, how are you?’ in a way that is natural for them.
It may not be your preferred way to greet a person but for your dog, it is perfectly acceptable.
#4 Detecting Pheromones
Apocrine glands in our crotch produce pheromones. These are chemical messengers that are designed to change the behavior of another animal. We may not like to think of ourselves as animals but we produce pheromones just like many other species on this planet. Dogs can tell a lot about us from our pheromones!
What Can a Dog Find Out by Smelling Your Crotch?
Thanks to pheromones and scents, dogs can tell a lot about you! This is a rapidly advancing field of research but this is what we know so far.
- They can tell it’s you. Dogs can recognize their owners from their scents.
- They can tell if you’ve had sex. Canines will detect that you have a different smell after you have had sexual intercourse.
- Dogs can detect menstruation. Dogs can detect hormonal changes when a woman is menstruating.
- They know if you are pregnant. Dogs have been known to be obsessed with women’s bellies long before their pregnancy is showing. Some dogs become very protective of their owners when they detect that they are pregnant.
- They know labor is imminent. Some women are convinced that their dogs could tell that they were going into labor. This would make sense because a woman’s hormone profile would change drastically at this time.
- Dogs know that you have given birth. Again, thanks to major changes in hormones, it is not surprising that dogs can detect this.
Some experts suspect that a dog can tell when a woman is ovulating but this has not been proven yet. There is some evidence that dogs can detect ovulation in cows and so it is likely that they can do the same in humans.
It is even suspected that dogs can sniff out certain types of cancer and that would include ovarian cancer. Perhaps in the future, dogs will be able to take part in screening for this disease.
How to Prevent Dogs From Smelling Crotches
After reading all this, we’re sure you are very impressed by what your clever pooch can tell from sniffing crotches. That does not mean that you want them to carry on doing it when you have visitors! So, let’s give you some tips and hacks on how you can put a stop to this embarrassing behavior when you need to.
Training a dog to not do something is very hard. So, most experts recommend that you train them to do something else instead. They should be so busy doing their new task that they forget to smell crotches!
The best approach is to teach your dog to target fists instead of crotches. Dogs love to target things and this should be fairly easy for most dogs to grasp. There are a few easy steps.
- Make a fist shape with your hand and put it near your dog.
- They will instinctively move their nose towards it. When they brush your fist with their nose, mark that they have completed a good behavior by saying a mark word, like ‘yes’ or with a clicker.
- Give them a high-value tasty dog treat with the other hand.
- Once your dog has got the hang of this, start presenting your fist and saying a command such as ‘touch’ or ‘bump’.
- Now that your dog is confident with the ‘touch’ command, you can start to use it next time they start heading towards your crotch. Hopefully, they will divert their attention away from your groin and towards your fist instead. The advantage of this is that you can put your fist in lots of positions to head your dog off.
- Once you and everyone in your household have mastered this command, you can use it with visitors. Ask your guests to greet your dog with a fist bump. Hopefully, that will resolve the embarrassing situation.
Does your dog constantly make a nuisance of itself when you have visitors? It could be a combination of whining, barking, jumping up and crotch sniffing. One way around this is to teach your dog to go to their bed or crate when they hear the doorbell go.
To teach your dog this command:
- Put your dog on a leash
- Get a friend or family member to ring the doorbell
- When your dog hears the doorbell, lead them to their bed/crate and give them a treat
- Gradually, your dog will learn that if they go to their bed/crate when the doorbell rings, they get a treat
- Eventually, you can get rid of the leash
Scent Work Activities
It’s not fair to expect dogs not to sniff. It is a strong instinctual drive for them. So, why not enroll your dog in some activities where sniffing is encouraged?
The American Kennel Club run Scent Work activities where your dog can work like a detection dog to track down a scent. It strengthens the bond between you and your dog and is a lot of fun. All breeds can take part.
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FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
Is it normal for my dog to smell my crotch?
Yes it is! When your dog smells your crotch they are simply gathering information. They are doing it in a way that is perfectly normal for them. The norms of human society mean that we find it mortifying but the dog is blissfully unaware of that. The part of their brain that processes odors is 40 times bigger than ours. So, it’s clear that smells are very important to a dog.
Why are dogs obsessed with underpants?
Underpants smell like crotches! Dogs are attracted to this area of the body because there are so many apocrine glands that secrete scents. Some of the scents end up on our underpants and this is why our dogs like hunting them out!
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