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You might be a proud dog owner, but we all have to admit that this role isn’t without its own embarrassing moments.
On the one hand, you might have a dog that is humping you enthusiastically and on the other, your little pooch might be sniffing their own behind no matter where they are.
Thankfully humping can be curbed through training, but how do you deal with bum sniffing?
And most importantly why do dogs sniff their own bum in the first place?
Some dogs sniff their bum to cope with stress or they might inspect their behind when they’re gassy. Allergies and parasites can cause itchiness, while blocked anal sacs can be quite painful so your dog might smell and lick his bum to relieve the discomfort.
If you want to explore the reasons why your little pooch keeps sniffing his butt and what to do if this behavior becomes excessive then keep on reading!
Why Do Dogs Sniff Their Own Bum?
No matter how silly your dog might seem as they take on that awkward pose to smell their butt there’s always an explanation behind it.
So, let’s take a look at all the bum sniffing possibilities!
Reason 1: It’s A Habit
Sometimes your dog doesn’t have a real reason and they might be sniffing their bum just because they feel like it.
For some dogs, this could be a habit and part of their routine that doesn’t have a clear explanation behind it.
They might simply find their own scent pleasant and comforting, and as long as it’s not excessive and your dog seems healthy and happy then there’s nothing to worry about.
Then again if you’re uncomfortable with this bum sniffing habit then you could gently redirect your dog, especially if you’re in public.
Reason 2: Part of Their Grooming Process
“In the dog world, a moderate degree of licking is part of normal grooming behavior,” says Ryan Llera, DVM. This also explains why some dogs enjoy grooming their human companions just as much as they enjoy grooming themselves.
So, you may usually see your dog licking their genital area after peeing, but in some cases, they’ll also sniff and lick their bum if they had watery stools.
Of course, if you notice your dog persistently licking their behind and genital area then it could be more than just grooming.
Itchiness, allergies, and urinary infections to name a few could be responsible instead, in which case a vet visit is necessary!
Reason 3: They’re Inspecting It
If you see your dog sniff his behind, it’s also possible that they’re checking that area.
Dogs are known to be enthusiastic sniffers that love to smell around and explore new odors.
That’s why dogs smell each other’s butts to get the information they need, like the gender, the health status, emotional state, and of course the reproductive status.
While you can imagine that your pooch knows everything about himself it’s also possible that the area has a different smell depending on the food they had eaten, or even their own health.
Reason 4: Your Dog Is Gassy
Dogs are amazing to live with, but they can be a source of embarrassment and of bad smells like farts.
And while we think their farts are stinky our dogs can happily sniff their bum after farting.
I’ve seen my dog fart and then turn around towards his bum in surprise, and to be honest, sometimes I wonder if he’s more impressed with his ability to produce such sounds.
Reason 5: Your Dog Is Stressed
Dogs are incredibly smart and insightful creatures, and they can develop multiple calming techniques that they can use whenever they feel anxious.
Some dogs might use their bed as a humping stress relief while others will sniff their behind just to avoid uncomfortable situations.
It’s like when we bite our nails or play with our phone when we’re at the doctor’s office or some similar scenario.
You might also notice your dog pacing or shaking, they might start whining or barking.
Long yawning, drooling and excessive licking could also be a sign your dog is stressed and Malcolm Weir, DVM, states that “like people, nervous dogs can feel a sudden urge to go to the bathroom.”
So, you may notice your dog lick their behind right after a nervous poo.
If that’s the case, then the best thing you can do is remove the stressor and take your pooch to a quieter area where they can feel safe.
But with long-term stress, especially with adopted dogs that could have been abused, it’s best to take them to the vet or a dog behaviorist that can help you deal with their fears and anxieties.
Reason 6: Your Dog Has Anal Gland Problems
Another more serious reason your dog could be sniffing their bum is if their anal sacs are blocked.
The anal sacs are two small pouches located in the anus and they produce an unpleasant smelling fluid. This fluid contains chemicals that the dogs use to mark their territory and they are usually released when your dog poops.
According to Tammy Hunter, DVM, “anal sac disease is very common in dogs. The sacs frequently become impacted (plugged) usually due to inflammation of the ducts. The secretion within the impacted sacs will thicken and the sacs will become swollen and distended.”
As you can imagine this is not a pleasant feeling, and aside from seeing your dog sniffing and licking that area you may see them scooting their rear along the carpet or grass.
Your dog might also have difficulty going to the toilet and when they do there might be blood or pus in the stool or in the bum area.
Different factors can cause your dog to experience this issue and Dr. Jerry Klein lists the most common like:
- Chronic skin dermatitis
- Insufficient dietary fiber
- Chronic soft stool
- Food and/or environmental allergies
To avoid anal gland infections, impaction or abscessation you need to take your pooch to the veterinarian who can help your dog express their anal glands in the safest way possible.
Reason 7: Your Dog Is Sick
Aside from anal gland problems your dog could be smelling and licking their rear because it’s itchy.
This could be caused by fleas and worms. Tapeworms might also be the culprit and according to Amy Flowers, DVM, “some dogs will scoot, dragging their bottoms across the floor, or lick their behinds a lot.”
Your dog might also be occupied with his behind because of a skin infection and irritation that’s caused by bacteria or a yeast infection.
Environmental and food allergies could also have the same effect on your pooch that can cause itching in the genital area.
Toilet problems like constipation or soft stools can make your dog lick the area after their effort to go to the toilet especially if it feels sore.
As we also discussed, a trauma in the anal sacs area could also be the reason why your doggy is sniffing his behind, as well as tumors or other growths in the area.
According to MSD Veterinary Manual, “when the sacs are infected or abscessed, severe pain and discoloration of the area are often present.”
Pain can cause your dog to react aggressively if touched or petted in that area, you may also notice weight loss, diarrhea, vomiting, and a lethargic state of being.
These changes should not go unchecked, that’s why you should take your dog to the vet the moment you notice them obsess over their rear area.
Why Does My Dog Keep Sniffing His Behind And Chewing On His Tail?
Dogs can adopt various strange habits, like in this case sniffing their butts occasionally, but if you notice your dog chewing on his tail, or the genital area then they might be experiencing discomfort and itchiness in that area.
This could be caused by parasites or fleas, but it could simply mean that your dog feels that that area is unclean.
For example, if your dog had soft stools and you didn’t notice that the area had some poo residue, then your dog might feel uncomfortable and they’ll try to groom themselves until they feel clean.
This behavior could also be connected to a more serious and painful condition like anal sac disease.
Tammy Hunter, DVM, explains that in this case “there may be excessive licking or biting, often at the base of the tail rather than the anal area.”
She also adds that your dog no matter how sweet-natured might snap or growl at you if you touch their tail and if the anal sac raptures you may notice blood or pus draining from the rectum.
Should I Be Worried If My Dog Smells His Own Bum?
Bum sniffing among dogs is normal even when they do it to themselves, but any behavior that turns into obsession shouldn’t go unnoticed or unchecked.
Excessive sniffing and licking of the back area could be stress-related or it could be a symptom of a disease.
In order to avoid any serious infections, whether it’s caused by a tapeworm or blocked anal sacs it’s important to take your pooch to the vet.
What Should I Do If My Dog Keeps Sniffing His Behind?
If you notice your dog excessively sniffing his behind, then you should try and figure out the possible reason or take a moment to remember when this behavior started.
But even if you’re not sure when or why your dog developed this habit then there are a few things you can do to curb it.
Take the dog to the vet
The first thing you should do is take your dog to the vet so they can figure out if this behavior is psychological or physiological.
If it’s stress related or a compulsive behavior then your vet can help you deal with it through training and positive reinforcement, or they can redirect you to a professional dog behaviorist.
Then again if your dog is sick and your dog is sniffing his behind because their anal sacs are blocked then the veterinarian can squeeze out the affected anal sacs by hand.
“If the material in the sacs is too hard or dry, the veterinarian may inject a softening agent,” MSD Veterinary Manual states.
If the area is infected, then you may need to give your dog antibiotics, and you may need to apply hot compresses to the area.
I do want to point out that you should not express your dog’s anal sacs yourself. This is a sensitive area and you can easily cause more damage than good.
For novice dog owners it may be difficult to spot that your dog has anal gland issues, but you may notice your dog sniffing, and licking the area or they might snap at you if your touch their tail.
These small signs are enough to take your doggy to the vet, because if not managed right away, the anal sacs can burst, and the infection will spread.
Even if your dog is simply more gassy than usual then that’s still something worth looking into because it could be a symptom of something more serious.
Change Their Diet
If stool consistency is the reason your dog has anal sac disease, then a higher fiber diet can help prevent it, explains Tammy Hunter, DVM.
You might also need to change your dog’s diet for a hypo-allergenic brand if the bum sniffing and the itchy genital area are caused by food allergies.
Ryan Llera, DVM, explains that “food allergies are triggered when the dog is sensitized to proteins (typically chicken, beef, or pork) or other molecules in the food.” But along with a new diet, your dog might also require medication.
Your dog might also be overgrooming their behind because they are constipated, or they have runny stools instead and this can also be managed through a low or high fiber diet.
According to Natalie Stilwell, DVM, dogs with sensitive stomachs usually benefit from foods that contain low amounts of fat that can be difficult to digest.
Foods that contain probiotics can also promote beneficial bacteria in the gut, and fiber ingredients such as psyllium or beet pulp can help firm up loose stools.
In any case, you should let your veterinarian or a dog nutritionist advice you on what is best for your dog’s condition because sudden changes in their diet could further upset your dog’s stomach.
Keep Your Dog At A Healthy Weight
Just as your dog may need a different diet to help prevent blocked anal sacs, toilet problems, and stomach sensitivities, they may also need a different diet to maintain a healthier weight.
Tammy Hunter states that “overweight dogs tend to have chronic anal sac problems because their anal sacs do not empty well.”
You can use the Body Condition Score to estimate how much excess fat your dog has, but I think it’s always best to let your vet weigh your dog at the clinic and there they can tell you what diet you should follow and how much exercise your little pooch will need in order to be fit and strong.
I must admit that I love every little thing my dog does, but there are a few behaviors that I could live without and that’s bum-sniffing.
Of course, the occasional bum sniff makes me giggle and most people react in a similar way, but I understand how frustrating it can get if that becomes excessive.
Thankfully, there are professional vets and dog behaviorists that can help us solve the most unusual dog mysteries, and deal with them accordingly.
Now it’s your turn to tell us, does your dog have a butt-sniffing habit, and are they a public sniffer or do they prefer to do it in secret at home?