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It’s a beautiful day out and you and your pup decide to go for a walk. Suddenly, they stop and start sniffing the air while their eyes seem to be focused in the sky.
Some people say that dogs can notice things humans can’t, but why is your dog sniffing the air and looking up?
Your dog may sniff the air while looking up for many different reasons such as hearing someone or something coming, feeling nervous, anticipating the weather, or simply smelling something good. Unless the sniffing is caused by possible health issues such as cognitive dysfunction or gastrointestinal disease, this behavior is usually nothing to worry about.
While these are just a few reasons for this behavior, let’s take a closer look into these reasons and also other reasons why your dog keeps sniffing the air while looking up.
Reason 1: Your Dog Hears Something New
Our pups are often our children and they hold similarities to them as well. New things, such as new sounds, can make them freeze to give them time to process them.
If your dog seems to suddenly stop to sniff the air and look up while their ears are twitching, your pup may have noticed a new sound and is trying to process it and possibly where it comes from.
It’s just like when you walk into a place you’ve never been to before and you need a few seconds to look around and take it all in. Dogs also need a little bit of time to process new stimuli such as sounds.
The combination of sniffing the air and tilting their heads if often an indicator that your dog heard something unusual. However, if you notice your dog constantly tilting or shaking their head, there may be a need to visit the vet to see if anything is bothering their ears.
Reason 2: Your Dog Hears Someone or Something Coming
Similar to why your dog may just randomly look up at what appears to be nothing, your dog may look up and sniff simply because they hear someone or something coming.
Just as when you hear something coming, your dog might tend to freeze and focus on where the sound is coming from and what the sound is. Because of their strong sense of hearing as mentioned before, chances are, your dog can hear something getting closer before you notice it yourself.
You might notice the same signs also mentioned before, but your dog might stop to sniff the air and look up for a few seconds right before something or someone shows up.
If you notice your dog suddenly do this, you can give them a quick second to see what’s coming whether it’s the mailman walking closer or a squirrel climbing a tree.
If your dog seems to get distracted often during walks, patience and training can teach your dog to focus on you instead of other things outside.
Reason 3: Your Dog Is Under Stimulated
Does your dog seem to find interest in everything that’s outside? Your pup might even be resorting to looking up and sniffing the air!
If your dog seems to sniff everything including the air, your dog might be under stimulated at home and find everything outside amazing to sniff.
Sensory stimulation is something that uses one or more of our senses. All animals and people need stimulation. A lack of sensory stimulation leads to boredom and can make your dog destructive.
To help with stimulation, especially with your dog’s sense of smell, puzzle toys and snuffle mats are an amazing choice. They’re also our go-to recommendation for keeping a dog entertained even if they don’t like toys.
Check out this adorable pup using a snuffle mat:
Reason 4: Your Dog Is Nervous
Dogs are like humans in a couple of ways!
As a survival instinct for us all, they also feel nervousness and can be cautious when certain situations make them uncomfortable.
While sniffing around can be something your dog does for fun, it can also be something they do when in a stressful situation and is feeling a little nervous and uncomfortable
Other signs that follow the sniffing behavior that can indicate they are stressed is tucking the tail, flattening the ears, yawning repeatedly, and pacing back and forth. They might not just stick to sniffing the air, they might start smelling strange things like your bed.
A reason your dog could be nervously sniffing around could be that they heard something that scared them or seemed unusual to them.
Reason 5: Your Dog Could Have Separation Anxiety
It’s normal for your dog to be sniffing the air and looking up out of nervousness, but sometimes, it can mean more than just being nervous.
Separation anxiety is the feeling of helplessness that your dog may feel without you. Dogs with separation anxiety may feel like they are constantly stressed and can’t function without their owners.
How can you tell if your dog has separation anxiety or if they just feel nervous?
Different signs of stress along with the act of sniffing and pointing their snout up can mean your dog has separation anxiety. If they act like a whole different pup when you’re not close to them or are about to leave, it is most likely your dog has separation anxiety.
Giving things for your dog to stay occupied such as the puzzle toys and snuffle mat mentioned early can help combat separation anxiety and help them be more comfortable on their own.
Reason 6: Your Dog Can Tell It’s About To Rain
A dog’s sense of smell is a wonderful thing!
Although it isn’t magical enough to control the weather, dogs can use their noses to detect when it’s about to rain!
Dogs have a special trait that allows them to sense a change in air pressure. This is often followed by a storm or light rainfall.
Your dog might be looking up and sniffing at the sky because they are trying to determine if it’s going to rain or not.
Why does your dog need to know the weather?
Dogs have better hearing than people and while some people find the sound of rain soothing, these sounds are amplified to dogs. The sound of thunder, wind, and heavy rainfall can be frightening to your pup so they might want to find ways to avoid the storm. They might also just not like the feeling of getting wet!
Check out these three funny pups doubting their human in the rain:
Reason 7: Your Dog Is Following A Scent Trail
Dogs can do so many things with their sense of smell!
Some dogs are meant to use their noses for hunting, tracking down narcotics or weapons, or finding people on rescue missions.
If your dog is a sniffer, they may be sniffing the air and looking up because they want to follow a scent trail.
This is most likely the reason for the behavior especially if your dog’s breed has a history in tracking down certain prey.
Tracking dogs will usual pick one scent and try to find the source of it. They usually stick to sniffing the ground but will occasionally sniff the air to find the general direction of their target.
Your dog may be following a scent trail because they sniffed out either something strange or something that they are very familiar with and have a positive association with such as their doggy best friend!
Reason 8: Your Dog Is Exploring
There are so many things out there for your pup to sniff out!
The simple act of finding new scents and sniffing them out is like watching TV for your dog! It’s their own form of entertainment and brain stimulation.
Your dog may be sniffing the air and looking up because they’re curious and want to explore the world!
The sniffing allows them to discover new scents and looking around can help them discover where those scents come from.
Your dog might have found a scent they’ve never smelled before and it could make them really happy.
It’s important to give your dog new opportunities to explore. Taking different walking routes or bringing them to new destinations or parks can give them new things to sniff and explore.
They might even meet some cool new friends to sniff around with!
Reason 9: Your Dog Smells Something Good
Just like in cartoons, dogs tend to be attracted to things that smell good to them. It’s just like when we smell freshly baked bread or when we walk past our favorite restaurants.
Sometimes your dog may look upward and sniff because the air is carrying the scent of something they know they like such as treats, dog food, or even human food.
If they look like they’re looking at you and sniffing intensely, it is most likely that your dog is trying to smell your breath! They can probably tell you just ate something that they would love to try.
While some scents smell good to us humans like food, there are also some strange things that our dogs love to smell like garbage. Be careful about where the scents are coming from because your clever pup might just find a way to get to it when they’re not supposed to!
Reason 10: Your Dog Has Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome
Unfortunately, there our pups get older just like us.
If your dog is on the older side and seemed to only recently gain the habit of looking like their sniffing the air and staring, there’s a chance that they might be showing signs of canine cognitive dysfunction (CCD).
Canine cognitive dysfunction can also be called “dog dementia.” It is a condition related to aging and the dog’s brain’s decline in awareness, learning, memory, and ability to react to some things.
Some symptoms include lack of wanting to play, inconsistent potty times despite being potty trained before, lack sense of direction with familiar routes, irritability, confusion, and other behaviors that are strange for your dog.
One example is how insomnia can be a sign for bulldogs experiencing canine cognitive dysfunction.
Sniffing the air randomly and staring at walls can also be signs if your dog doesn’t normally do that or if there doesn’t seem to be any reason to the behavior.
Reason 11: Your Dog Has Gastrointestinal Disease
Gastrointestinal disease is the inflammation of the stomach and the intestines. This disease can be caused by various causes such as bacteria, new foods, medications, and viruses.
How does sniffing the air and looking up relate to gastrointestinal disease?
When a dog with this disease can feel a sharp abdominal pain that causes them to freeze and stretch out their head. This results in the dog looking like their sniffing the air or pointing at something.
It’s important to look for other symptoms to confirm that gastrointestinal disease is the cause of the behavior such as vomiting and diarrhea.
If you see these signs, bring your dog to the vet as soon as possible to make sure your pup can get help right away.
Should I Be Worried About The Behavior?
When it comes to your dog sniffing the air while looking up, there’s usually nothing to worry about. However, like all other behaviors, there is always the chance of something bothering our fur babies.
If you suspect your dog appears to be sniffing the air because of canine cognitive dysfunction or gastrointestinal disease, seek help from a veterinarian right away. The sooner the vet finds the cause of the behavior, the sooner your pup can be treated and more comfortable and safe.
Observing our dogs’ behavior can do so much more than just help us understand what they want. It can also help us communicate better with our furry friends.
Dogs can’t speak so they often depend on body language to let you know if something’s wrong or if they just want to show their love for you!
By learning our dogs’ body language, we can strengthen our relationships to our pets and live the best lives we can together!