If your dog has been sniffing the ground 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 about them.
So, why does my dog sniff the ground? Possible reasons why your dog sniffs the ground are to gather information, it smells people or other animals, it smells food, anxiety or nervousness, or it is actually being submissive.
There are actually a number of possible causes and your dog might be doing it due to a combination of them. However, there are a number of things to consider when figuring out the main cause and there are a number of things you can do about it.
Why does my dog sniff the ground?
Below are a number of possible reasons why your dog has been sniffing the ground and what would make each of them more likely to be the main cause.
To gather information
The most likely reason why it sniffs the ground 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).
It smells people or other animals
Another possible reason why it might do it is to find out what other animals have been around. Knowing this would have helped their ancestors out a lot since it would have helped them figure out if prey or predators were nearby. Sniffing the ground will help it figure out what other animals have been around since they will likely have left a scent. This would be more likely to be the cause if your dog sniffs the ground when it is outside.
It smells food
The reason why your dog sniffs the ground a lot could also be that it smells food. This would be especially likely if it tends to do it more in places such as the kitchen or areas where food was recently dropped.
Anxiety or nervousness
Sometimes dogs will lower or try put their heads towards the ground when they are anxious or nervous. This would be more likely to be the reason if your dog tends to sniff the ground when it might be anxious such as when there are loud noises, someone shouting or when other animals are around.
Dogs will also lower their heads to the ground when they are being submissive and it could be the reason why your dog has been sniffing the ground. This would be more likely if it does it more when other dogs are around it and if it shows other submissive signs such as rolling on to its back or making itself appear smaller.
Things to consider about your dog sniffing the ground
Below are some things to consider when figuring out the main reason why your dog has been sniffing the ground.
What else happened when your dog first started sniffing the ground a lot
If your dog did not always sniff the ground, it would help to consider what else happened when your dog first started doing it. If it started doing it suddenly, it might be the case that there was an event that caused it to start doing it. For example, if your dog started sniffing the ground a lot after you got a new carpet, you washed the carpet or after you spilled food on the carpet, the cause would likely be due to that.
What is different when your dog sniffs the ground a lot
If your dog does not always sniff the ground, it would also help to consider what is different when your dog does it since the timing might have something to do with it. For example, if it only seems to do it when other animals are around, it could be because it is being submissive. Whereas, if it does it more when it is in the kitchen, it would be more likely that it is smelling the smell of food on the ground.
What to do about your dog sniffing the ground
Below are a number of options you have when dealing with the behavior.
Avoid encouraging it
It might be the case that it has learned that it gets rewarded when it sniffs the ground. Instead, it would help to try to redirect its focus when it seems like it is about to do it, to stop rewarding int when it sniffs the ground and to reward it when it behaves the way you want it to.
Redirect its focus
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 the ground, as often, you could reward it whenever it is not sniffing the ground, stop rewarding it when it starts sniffing the ground and reward it again after it stops sniffing the ground.
Allow your dog to do it
It is not uncommon for dogs to sniff the ground and most other things. If your dog has not been doing it excessively, it is likely to be normal behavior and just picking up on the scent from other people and animals on the ground.