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Why Do Dogs Sniff People’s Crotches? 5 Reasons Behind This Disturbing Behavior

Does your dog greet you with a swift sniff of the crotch? Ever wonder why? This common canine behavior can be awkward for pet owners to handle. But. there is more to this behavior than meets the nose. Learn more about why your dog sniffs people's crotches and how to change this behavior.

Danielle DeGroot

Last Updated: May 27, 2022 | 8 min read

A German Shepard sniffing the crotch of a man

Ever wonder why dogs love sniffing people’s crotches? Every dog lover knows that being greeted by your special pup means lots of love and excitement. It also means a high possibility of getting your crotch sniffed, quite intrusively, by your beloved canine companion. This kind of unwanted attention can cause an adverse reaction from humans and make for a very awkward situation when your dog does this to someone else.

Dogs are well known for turning up at the most inappropriate moments and giving us an uninvited sniff of the crotch. They can pop up from under the table or try to get in when cuddling on the couch. This behavior can be alarming to some people and makes anyone feel uncomfortable at the least.

As dog owners, crotch sniffing behavior may be something that we put up with regularly because we love our pets, and we may not know how to stop it. However, it can be embarrassing and even offensive when this behavior happens to guests, significant others, and during notable events like holiday gatherings or work meetings. Learn why they do it and how to get them to stop.

Is It Normal For Dogs To Sniff People’s Crotches?

Let’s face it, having a dog stick their face into your crotch is an uncomfortable, embarrassing, and offensive experience. While most people would say this is not something they enjoy, it is a commonly seen behavior among canines and something we as humans have learned to tolerate.

In fact, in 1996, a judge from Connecticut was sued for sexual harassment by an employee over his dog’s habit of nuzzling women under their skirts. The pooch came with him to work and liked to greet people around the office. The case was dismissed on the reasoning that a rude canine did not constitute immoral or illegal behavior on the part of the owner.

If your pup has a thing for sniffing people’s crotches, or you find yourself constantly being sniffed in that area by canines, rest assured this is normal behavior. There is nothing wrong with your pup if he is a crotch sniffer. Nor is there anything out of the ordinary about you should you find yourself being sniffed.

Dogs have an enormously powerful sense of smell, and they use this strength to learn everything they can about the world around them. This curiosity includes sniffing other animals and people they encounter. Dogs are inquisitive creatures, and their noses are one of the main ways they gather information.

Sniffing at people’s rear ends or crotches is normal for dogs because they simply follow their noses. While it is normal behavior, it does not mean that it is appropriate or appreciated behavior.

Why Do Dogs Sniff Each Other?

Pack of big dogs sniffing each other
We have all seen the dance dogs do when they meet each other, circling about and eventually sniffing each other’s rear ends.

While we may question a dog’s sniffing butts behavior and certainly would not tolerate it from another person, our fur babies are built differently.

It is not a dog’s choice to want to sniff another’s tail end; it is simply nature. The urge to sniff comes down to glands, anal glands, to be exact. Inside a dog’s rectum are two small anal glands that release an incredibly strong smell. Pet owners often attribute this smell to a dog’s stool. However, that is not exactly the case. These tiny anal glands release an aroma unique to each dog when the muscles contract during a bowel movement. Humans are naïve to the difference; however, canines can easily discern the two scents. They sniff each other near the anus to determine if they know each other or have come in contact before.

There is also a determination of dominance that comes from sniffing each other. Usually, the more dominant pooch will be the first to sniff, and the other will wait. Some dogs do not want to be sniffed and may growl, nip, or simply sit down.

Dogs sniff each other as a way of communication and gathering information. Just as humans size up and collect information about those we meet, dogs do the same. Canines have a much stronger sense of smell than humans, more on that later, and utilize it to learn things about each other.

Why Do Dogs Sniff Our Crotches?

Closeup portrait of labrador retriever ready to sniff owner sitting down
Dogs sniff at each other and at people in part due to instinct.

There is much more that drives crotch sniffing behavior in dogs than the assumption that they just really like to smell people’s private parts. It helps pet owners to understand a little more about why their puppers are so interested in sniffing private parts.

Apocrine Glands And Pheromones

Apocrine glands are glands that secrete pheromones. These glands are sweat glands found in both humans and canines. Apocrine glands release pheromones that share things like mood, sex, age, and ability to mate. These glands are located where hair grows in humans, notably in the armpit and groin. The sweat these glands produce mixes with our skin bacteria. This mixture creates a unique body odor, which has nothing to do with cleanliness.

Dogs will notice these scents, even if we cannot smell them ourselves. Because people often wear cologne, deodorant, perfumes, etc., dogs are more likely to sniff out the crotch or rear end area. While this may seem silly, another part of the reason many dogs sniff our crotches is that that is the area they can reach best.

In dogs, the apocrine glands can be found all over their bodies. However, they have the highest number in their genitals and anus. This is another part of the puzzle of why dogs sniff each other’s and human’s private areas.

Powerful Noses

Canines have much more powerful noses than humans do. Humans have about 6 million scent sensors in their noses, and canines have about 300 million. This gives them a sense of smell that is at least 10,000 times stronger than humans. Canine anatomy is different than human anatomy. Dogs have a special organ that is dedicated to processing smells. The vomeronasal organ, or Jacobson’s organ, is set inside the nasal cavity, just above the roof of a dog’s mouth. This organ is connected to the scent interpreting part of the brain.

The Jacobson organ opens into the roof of a canine’s mouth just behind their upper incisor teeth. Its job includes being a secondary olfactory system that focuses on chemical communication. The Jacobson’s organ has nerves that go directly into the brain. These are different nerves than those found in the olfactory tissue of the nose.

These nerve cells do not work the same way nor respond to regular smells. They react to substances that are considered odorless or have no discernable scent. The Jacobson’s organ combined with a canine’s nose creates a mighty odor detection process. These two systems work together. This combination of these two powerful systems is one of the reasons why dogs have been trained to sniff out substances like drugs, explosives, and even diseases such as cancer.

About 5% of brain mass is used for olfactory or smelling behaviors in a human brain. About 30% of the canine brain mass is dedicated to detecting and identifying different smells and odors. This means your sweet pup has a sense of smell that reaches superhuman strength.

Pack Behavior

Dogs greet each other naturally by sniffing out each other’s crotch and anal areas, so the urge to do it with humans is partly instinctual. As part of pack behavior, our pups consider their humans part of the pack, so they greet us the same way they greet each other. Some trainers believe the sniffing activity is the equivalent of a human handshake or hug.

Information Seeking

One of the main reasons dogs sniff our crotches is because they are seeking out information. Pheromones, body odors, and the scents they notice on our clothing give clues to what we have been doing and where we have been. A dog can tell a lot by smelling humans, and they are attracted to body odor and pheromones right away. Sniffing a human’s crotch, in particular, gives away information that many humans would rather keep private.

Breed

All canines sniff. There is no question about it. Some breeds may be more driven by scent, in particular scent Hounds. Scent Hounds are Hounds that hunt by scent instead of relying on sight. Beagles, Basset Hounds, Bloodhounds, Coonhounds, Dachshunds, Foxhounds, and more fall into this group. Other breeds like German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, and Scottish Terriers are known for their smelling capabilities and may be more likely to sniff in places they are not welcome.

Smiling charming caucasian pregnant woman sitting at home office, touching belly and looking at her beloved dog
Dogs can tell if women are pregnant or menstruating due to their strong noses. 

What Can A Dog Learn From Sniffing Human Crotches?

  • Menstruation – Women who are menstruating may find themselves the subject of unwanted attention as dogs can smell that they are menstruating.
  • Ovulation – Research has shown that pheromones in women change when they ovulate, and dogs can notice that change in scent. This also happens when a woman is pregnant or nursing a baby. A dog can sniff out the chemical and hormonal changes from pregnancy and giving birth.
  • Recent Sexual Activity – Dogs can pick up on sexual scents, which may attract them to sniff more closely near people who have recently engaged in sexual activity.

Stopping Crotch Sniffing Behavior

While our canine companions sniffing crotches may be normal behavior, and we can explain why they do it, that still does not mean this is appreciated or welcome. It can become a very upsetting problem for obvious reasons. The good news is that there are ways to discourage pups from sniffing human crotches. Professional training can be considered for overly aggressive pups or those who refuse to change pushy sniffing behavior.

Tips To Prevent Your Dog From Sniffing Crotches

  • Train your pup to sit or stay whenever you or other people enter your home. Training can also be done on walks, at the park, etc. A leash, as well as a lot of patience, may be required to make this stick. Remember, canines are naturally inclined to seek out scents and have incredible smelling capabilities. Trying to change this behavior may take some time.
  • Offer your dog your hand in a fist to sniff before they can sniff your crotch. Advise your company and family members to do the same. Provide verbal praise after he sniffs your hand. The offer of your fist will distract him, and you can take measures to prevent him from sniffing your crotch. Offering a reward from your other hand will encourage him to look for your fist rather than your crotch.
  • Once you have mastered redirecting your pup to sniff your fist, it is possible to train him further to touch his nose to your fist. Teaching him a word to correspond with this behavior will create a greeting ritual free of unwanted and intrusive sniffing. Hello, bump, fist, hand, and touch are examples.
  • Treats, toys, and brain games are other options that work well to distract a dog from sniffing your crotch. This redirection prevents them from getting pushy in your personal space and gives them something to investigate. Try not to let him have too many treats as it can add to unnecessary weight gain. Engaging in some brain games before guests arrive can help them be better behaved in every way, thanks to increased mental fatigue.

Final Thoughts

Humans love their pups, and pups love their humans, but that does not mean we love all their habits. The sniffing of crotches is something we all know dogs do and have learned to accept. While it is normal behavior, it can be bothersome. The good news is that there is something you can do about it. Talk to your veterinarian or professional trainer if you have concerns about your dog’s health or need help with behavior training.

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