Our dogs are funny creatures. Sometimes, it feels like we know them as well as we know ourselves. Yet, we still marvel at the curious things they do and ask questions about their mannerisms and behaviors. Why does my dog lay on my dirty laundry? Why does he nibble? Now, adding to the list of questions is, “why does my dog smell my breath?”
When a dog smells your breath, it means he’s just curious about the smell and perhaps wants to know more about you since you are his special human. Maybe the food you ate has a distinctive smell that caught the attention of your dog.
Most of the time, the answers are pretty straightforward. In this article, we’re going to talk about something a little more extraordinary. We already know our pooches have an exceptional sense of smell. Canines have 300 million olfactory receptors. When compared to humans’ three million, it’s easy to see why our dogs are perpetually sniffing out the world around them.
One common behavior among dogs is the desire to sniff their owner’s breath, particularly in the morning. You might have experienced this before and wondered why on earth your dog would get so close before you’ve brushed your teeth. Well, the answer may surprise you.
Why Does My Dog Smell My Breath?
03. You Smell Interesting
The first reason is simple. Your dog has a superb sense of smell. Even if you thoroughly brushed and flossed this morning, he can probably still smell last night’s dinner. Sometimes, it’s as simple as he smells something interesting on your breath. It may be the food you’ve eaten, the early stages of a cavity or even a change in your hormones.
Your dog loves you, so he naturally wants to know everything about you. Most often, his attempts to sniff your breath are just friendly greetings. It’s the canine equivalent of asking ‘how are you’ or ‘how is your day going.’ Dogs do this to other dogs too.
02. You’re Part Of His Pack
Many canine behaviors can be explained by the fact dogs are socially inclined pack mammals. You care for your dog. You live in his home. You’re part of his pack. In fact, you’re not just a pack member, you’re the leader.
In the wild, it’s common for dogs to sniff their pack leader’s breath as a way to share information about food. Don’t forget, they can’t just ask each other questions like we can. According to some animal behavior experts, it’s also another way to show respect and deference to the leader. These experts say, by sniffing at your breath, your dog is acknowledging you as his protector, provider and chief.
01. He Can Smell A Physical Change
Now, we come to the most extraordinary explanation. According to countless tests and studies, dogs have an uncanny knack for sniffing out complex health problems. We must stress, a dog sniffing at your breath doesn’t necessarily mean you are sick. It is more likely that you just interest them.
Yet, it’s still worth keeping this fact in mind particularly if your dog’s sniffing fixation has developed suddenly. Studies conducted by a cancer institute in Georgia say canines can detect certain organic compounds caused by cancers. For breast cancer, models suggest dogs can do this with an accuracy rate of 75%.
According to a British study, a black Labrador called Marine managed to detect colorectal cancers on the breath with an accuracy rate of 97%. It sounds too amazing to be true, but studies all around the world have seen similar results. Again, we’re not saying your dog is sniffing your breath because you’re sick. It is sometimes linked to the detection of a disease but it’s also a natural, social habit.
The time to be concerned is if your dog develops a brand new breath sniffing fixation (and you’re confident it is nothing to do with a change to your diet or toothpaste). Watch his behavior carefully if you’re worried. Researchers who have studied this phenomenon say atypical behavior usually occurs when a dog is trying to alert their owner. This includes distress signals such as mewling, obsessively pawing at one area and, in some cases, targeted nipping at a particular spot. Basically, anything that gets your attention.
If your dog isn’t exhibiting any unusual behaviors, there’s nothing to worry about. If the sniffing and peculiar actions all begin at the same time, watch to see if he’s especially interested in a certain part of your body. If you see a fixation – such as your dog pawing at one particular breast – arrange to see a doctor. It’s probably nothing but, if it is, your furry friend might just save your life.
Is It Healthy For My Dog To Do This? Should I Stop Him?
After what you’ve just learned, you probably know the answer to this one. It’s not a dysfunctional habit. It won’t lead to any unwanted behaviors or cause your canine any problems or harm. It’s harmless for you too. There is no health or behavioral reason to eliminate this habit. It’s just your dog showing an interest in your smell. That’s it.
Not everybody feels comfortable with a dog getting this close. The good news is your pet probably won’t try this trick on guests. You’re his pack leader; only you get the super special sniff treatment. But what happens if the behavior makes you feel uncomfortable? Can you discourage the habit? Should you discourage it?
It’s a tricky one because you definitely do want to avoid punishing them. It’s important your dog doesn’t feel punished for exhibiting normal, natural behaviors. At the same time, if you dislike it intensely, it may damage your relationship if he continues. Before attempting to eliminate the behavior, consider whether it’s something you can tolerate or manage.
For instance, if your pooch runs in to sniff your morning breath, keep your bedroom door closed. There aren’t many other circumstances throughout a day in which you can’t easily avoid the behavior by keeping your head away from his mouth. Also, don’t forget, dogs are very tactile creatures. They do like to be close to our faces but, often, it’s just their way of saying hello and has nothing to do with your breath.
How To Stop A Dog Sniffing Your Breath:
If you’re really keen to eliminate this behavior, apply the same training methods and cues used to manage dogs who jump up at people. The most effective way to do this is through attention withdrawal. For the most part, dogs don’t really understand negative enforcement. They only know you were smiley and friendly before. Then, you suddenly started to yell and became very frightening to them.
It is much more effective to simply withdraw your attention. Your dog loves you more than anything else in the world. When you get up and walk away, he feels it as a loss. You don’t need to shout at him or make him scared. All you need to do is create a clear association between the unwanted behavior (sniffing your breath) and your withdrawal.
In other words, when he behaves in a way you dislike, get up and walk away. No drama or yelling. Just leave the room. Ignore him. Withdraw your attention for at least 15-20 minutes by which time you’ll have both moved on to other tasks. The next time he pootles over to say hello, greet him with your usual love and warmth…until the unwanted behavior appears again. Repeat enough times and your dog should eventually get the message.
Although your dog getting up close smelling your breath can be a bit irritating, he most likely cares about you. If you don’t mind, let him do his exploring to find out what you ate for dinner last night. If you do mind, there’s always ways to fix the behavior. Regardless, just know your pup loves you, as you are his special hooman.