If your dog has been sniffing your face a lot, you might be wondering why and what you can do about it. This post will show you a number of reasons why your dog does it and how to get your dog to stop sniffing your face, mouth, lips, or nose.
So, why does my dog sniff my face? Possible reasons why your dog has been sniffing your face are that it is trying to gather information about you such as your health status, it wants to know where you have been, you have an unusual smell on you or that the behavior gets rewarded.
Since there are a number of possible reasons, it would help to consider what would make each of them more likely. Once you have a good idea of the cause, it should become easier to get your dog to stop doing it.
Why your dog sniffs your face
Below are a number of possible reasons why your dog has been sniffing your face and what you can do to get your dog to stop doing it.
To gather information
Dogs’ noses have a lot of scent receptors allowing does to have an amazing sense of smell. While we have around 6 million olfactory receptors (used for analyzing smells), dogs have around 300 million. Also, the Jacobson’s organ (also called the vomeronasal organ) is a receptor in the dog’s nose that allows it to specifically pick up on chemicals. Therefore, it is an instinctive behavior in dogs to smell things around them and to pick up on things such as pheromones. The most likely reason why your dog sniffs things a lot is that it has a strong sense of smell and sniffing things allows it to gather information about the thing it’s sniffing.
For example, the urine of other dogs will tell it where it has been, its health status and what it has been eating, this is the case for humans too. They can even pick up on the ovulation of humans which is why they will sniff females more during certain parts of the month (source).
There is even anecdotal evidence that dogs can pickup on things such as breast cancer or lung cancer by smelling the breath of patients (source). This is also why it is common for dogs to smell people’s crotches and private parts, human breath, other dog’s anal glands, apocrine glands (sweat glands in dogs) and rear ends. In fact, there are actually seizure-alert dogs that can pickup on when their owners are likely to have epileptic seizures due to a change in the smell of the owners up to 45 minutes before the event.
To find out where you have been
By sniffing you, it can find out things such as what other animals you have been around. The reason why it does it might also be because it wants to know where you have been. This would be more likely if it does it when you arrive home. It would also be more likely if your dog has started doing it a lot more since you have been hanging out with a new person or new people who might have different scents on them.
You have an unusual scent on you
The cause might also be that you have an unusual scent on you. This would be more likely if it tends to sniff you more at specific times such as when you come back from a location that has weird smells or a lot of people such as a bar or restaurant.
It might also be the case that your breath has started to smell different which would be more likely if your dog specifically has been smelling your breath. When people are pregnant dogs will often pickup on the change in their owner’s breath and dogs can actually give an early detection of pregnancy. It may be the case that your dog is picking up on your own hormone changes!
It likes the way you smell
The cause could also be that your scent causes it to feel more secure. This would be more likely if it tends to sniff you more in situations such as when it is sitting or lying down with you.
It gets rewarded
The reason why it does it might be that it has learned that the behavior gets rewarded. If you tend to give it things such as extra attention, treats or toys, when it sniffs your face, it will likely be encouraged to do it more in order to get more rewards.
Instead, it would help to reward your dog when it behaves the way you want it to, to redirect its focus when it is about to sniff your face and to ignore it until it has been being well behaved for a while.
The cause could be that it is showing its excitement. This would be more likely if it tends to sniff your face when it is showing other signs of excitement and in situations such as when you arrive home.
One reason why excitement could be a cause is that it might want to greet you at the face. It could also be because puppies mothers would feed them from the face and they would jump up to get the food.
However, if it could be the case that there are other causes at play. For example, if it does it most when you arrive home, it would be more likely that it wants to gather information about where you have been.
While dogs do pickup on things such as facial expressions and body language, since dogs have such a keen sense of smell, it is in their nature to smell things to gather extra information. As mentioned above, a dog’s nose will give it a lot of information about what is going on around it.
If your dog has not been smelling your face specifically in excess, it would be more likely to be due to natural behavior. However, if your dog has specifically been smelling your face a lot, it would be more likely to be due to smells on your face or possibly because your breath smells different or unusual.
Things to consider
Below are some things to consider when figuring out the main reason why your dog has been doing it.
What else happened when your dog first started sniffing your face
If your dog did not always sniff your face, it would help to consider what else happened when it first started doing it.
For example, if it started doing it when you first started working a new job, that involves interacting with lots of different people, it could be the case that your dog has been picking up on their scents on you. If it started doing it suddenly, it might also be the case that it learned that the behavior gets rewarded.
What is different when it tends to do it
It would also help to consider if there is anything different in the timing that it tends to do it. For example, if it normally does it most when you arrive home, it would be more likely that it wants to know where you have been.
What to do about your dog sniffing your face
Below are some things you can do in order to encourage your dog to stop sniffing your face.
Avoid encouraging the behavior
It might be the case that you have encouraged it to sniff your face by giving it things it wants when it does it. If you tend to give your dog things such as toys, treats or extra attention, when it sniffs you, it will likely do it more in order to get more rewards.
Instead, it would help to redirect its focus onto something else, to avoid rewarding it with extra attention and to give it attention when it does not sniff you.
Positive reinforcement training
Positive reinforcement training is where you encourage your dog to behave in a certain way by rewarding it when it shows signs of behaving that way. To use it to get your dog to stop sniffing your face as much you could reward it whenever it is not sniffing you, stop rewarding it when it starts sniffing and reward it again after it stops sniffing.
Since it is a natural instinct for dogs to smell things a lot, it would likely be best to just leave your dog alone provided that the behavior is not excessive. Otherwise, you may want to get help from a dog behaviorist in your area.
Why does my dog sniff my mouth?
If your dog sniffs your mouth specifically, it would be likely to be because you have strong scents on your mouth. This would be particularly likely if your dog tends to do it a lot more in situations where you are likely to have an unusual smell on your mouth such as after eating.
However, it might also be the case that your dog is trying to be affectionate which would be more likely if your dog actually tries to lick your mouth.
Also, it is not uncommon for dogs to learn that the behavior is rewarded. This would be more likely if you tend to give your dog a lot more attention when it happens. Instead, it would help to stand up and wait for your dog to calm down then to repeat the process until it learns that smelling your mouth is not rewarded.
Why does my dog smell my breath?
As mentioned above, dogs will smell people’s breath in order to gain information about the person. Dogs can pick up on changes to people’s health status by smelling the person’s breath and there has been research showing that dogs can sniff cancer in people’s breath. It can also be due to their owner becoming pregnant which results in a change in their breath’s odor as a result of hormone changes.
However, it could also simply be the case that your dog is trying to gain information about you due to natural instincts and not because anything is wrong with you.
It might also be the case that your dog does it when your dog smells weird due to things such as eating something or inhaling something smelly.
Why does my dog sniff my nose?
It is likely that your dog sniffs your nose because your dog naturally wants to sniff your breath for the same reasons mentioned above. It may also be due to learning that the behavior is rewarded or due to having unusual smells on your nose.
Why does my dog sniff my lips?
It is likely that your dog is not actually smelling your lips. Rather, your dog is likely smelling your breath for the reasons mentioned above. However, it is likely that your dog is doing it to gain information about you through your scent and odor.
Why does my dog sniff my face in the morning?
If your dog sniffs your face in the morning, it is likely to be due to a natural instinct that encourages your dog to smell you to see where you have been and what your health status is. This would be particularly likely if your dog does not sleep in the same room as you. It may also be the case that your dog is doing it in order to show affection to you.