If your dog sniffs your legs a lot, you might be wondering why and what you can do about it. This post will show you a number of possible causes and what you can do to get your dog to stop doing it.
So, why does my dog sniff my legs? Possible reasons why your dog has been sniffing your legs are to find out where you have been, how healthy you are, you have an unusual scent on you, it likes the way you smell or that it has learned that the behavior is rewarded.
Since there are a number of possible causes, it would help to consider what would make each of them more likely. Once you have a good idea of the main cause, it should become easier to get your dog to stop doing it.
Why your dog sniffs your legs
Below are a number of reasons why your dog might sniff your legs a lot and what would make them more likely.
To gather information
The most likely reason why it sniffs your legs and other 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).
To find out where you have been
By sniffing your legs, 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.
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 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 your legs more in situations such as when it is sitting or lying down near your legs.
It gets rewarded
The cause could also be that it has learned that it gets rewarded for sniffing your legs. If you tend to give it things such as treats, toys or extra attention, when it sniffs your legs, it will likely do it more in order to get more rewards.
Instead, it would help to reward it when it behaves the way you want and to try to redirect its focus when it is about to sniff your legs.
Things to consider
Below are a number of 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 legs
If your dog did not always sniff your legs so much, it would help to consider what else happened when it first started doing it since it might be the case that there was an event that caused it to start.
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 what else is different when your dog sniffs your legs. If it tends to sniff you more at a certain time, it would be likely that the timing has something to do with it. For example, if it sniffs you after cooking food, it would be likely that it smells the smell of the food on you.
What to do about your dog sniffing your legs
Below are some options you have when getting your dog to stop doing it.
Avoid encouraging the behavior
As mentioned above, it might be the case that you have encouraged it to sniff your legs 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 your legs.
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 legs 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.