Dear Tabby,

I have a rather embarrassing question. Why does my dog sniff the butts of other dogs? He does it every time we encounter another dog and he’s, um...a very aggressive butt sniffer. It’s so embarrassing! Is there anything I can do to make him stop?

Butt Sniffer in Timbergrove

Dear Butt Sniffer,

When your dog sniffs another dog’s butt, what he’s doing is 100% completely natural and normal. Sure, it’s embarrassing to humans, but rest assured that your dog isn’t embarrassed by it, nor is the dog whose butt he’s sniffing. But first, let’s back that thang up and parse out why your dog is sniffing butts.

The butt holds a treasure trove of information

Dogs have a sense of smell that is somewhere between 10,000 and 100,000 times more sensitive than a human's sense of smell. Located in the rectum of a dog are his anal glands. The anal glands secrete a substance that tells the world everything it needs to know about the dog. Each dog has unique smelling anal gland secretions that help other animals to quickly identify who the dog is, if they’ve met before, if they’re healthy or sick, etc. Think of your dog’s anal secretions as his Facebook profile, if you will.

It’s their main source of communication

When you run into another human, in order to determine 1. If you’ve met them before and 2. Who they are, you use language and deductive reasoning. For dogs, their noses guide them through this process. By sniffing another dog’s butt, a dog can tell everything he needs to know about the other dog. Typically, a more dominant dog will initiate the sniffing, while the more submissive dog will wait its turn. Many dogs even tuck their tails to cover their rectums, denying access to their butts and seemingly saying, “That’s enough with the sniffing, man!”

Should you allow it?

Exploring the world through scent is what dogs do. For many dogs, sniffing butts is (strangely) calming, as it is a ritual that provides them with the information that they need to navigate relationships with other dogs and the world around them. Think of your dog sniffing butts as his way of catching up with his friends. Sure, it’s not what humans do, but that doesn’t make it any less normal for a dog. Trust me when I say, yeah, it’s awkward, but your dog is doing just what he’s meant to do and he’s probably at his happiest when he’s sniffing butts all over the neighborhood!

Do you have a question for Tabby? Email her at deartabby questions@gmail.com.

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