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Why Do Dogs Smell Your Crotch? 3 Vet-Reviewed Reasons

Rachel Giordano

By Rachel Giordano

jack russell dog leaning on its owner's lap

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Dr. Alice Athow-Frost Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Alice Athow-Frost

Veterinarian, BVM BVS MRCVS

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Imagine this scenario; you arrive at a friend’s house for a visit and your friend has a dog that greets you at the door. Suddenly, the dog goes straight to your crotch for a whiff. Your face turns red, and you’re suddenly flushed with embarrassment. Most of us have been there, but have you ever wondered why dogs smell your crotch in the first place?

Hold on to the seat of your pants because we’re going to get to the bottom of this funny and sometimes embarrassing act once and for all. We’ll list the three possible reasons for the behavior and ways to save you from embarrassment.

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The 3 Reasons a Dog May Smell Your Crotch

1. They’re Seeking Information

A dog’s nose is an extremely powerful tool in helping them navigate the world. Did you know they have over 100 million scent (olfactory) receptors in their nose? In contrast, humans only have 6 million—that puts their sense of smell into perspective for sure. Dog’s also have an additional olfactory organ within their nasal cavity, called the Jacobsen’s organ.  The nerves from the Jacobsen’s gland lead directly to the brain, which allows the dog to respond to substances that have very little, or no odor at all.

A dog’s sense of smell can help them learn all sorts of information about the person or animal they are sniffing. In humans, apocrine glands are concentrated in the crotch area and the armpits.  As a dog can’t usually reach your armpits, it will get the information it requires from your crotch. By smelling this area, dogs are thought to be able to pick up your mood, sex, age, and much more. Dogs have apocrine glands all over their bodies, but their anal glands (situated inside a dog’s rectum) release a pungent smelling liquid whenever a dog defecates, but they can also release this fluid when excited or stressed. This fluid gives another dog a lot of information about it, which is why dogs spend a lot of time at the beginning of a meeting, sniffing each other’s bottoms.  Intact male dogs are especially notorious for this because it’s how they can tell if a female dog is ovulating or pregnant.

close up dog nose
Image Credit: LUM3N, Pixabay

2. They’re Saying Hello

A dog uses its sniffer for all kinds of reasons, and one of those reasons is to say hi. Dogs have no etiquette when it comes to checking things out, and they use their extraordinary sense of smell to greet humans with a whiff of the crotch or the rear end comes up to your private area and sniffs, they’re likely saying, “Hello! Who are you? Can we be friends?”

3. It’s a Natural Instinct

While it certainly doesn’t seem natural to us, sniffing a crotch is as normal as the sun shining to dogs. In fact, it’s second nature for them. This instinct circles back to the way they gather information. When a dog sees someone (or another dog, for that matter), their first instinct is to greet and sniff the most scented area of the body (the crotch (in humans) in an effort to gather information.

dog smelling human hand
Image Credit: Marco Malz, Shutterstock

How to Stop Your Dog From Sniffing Crotches

Even though this act is 100% normal dog behavior, it’s not generally acceptable to allow your dog to wander up to your guests and sniff their crotch. There will be times when you really don’t want a dog to sniff your crotch to avoid an awkward situation.

When you see a dog going in for a whiff, put your hands or fists in front of you. This will take the focus off your private area and point them to your hands or fists instead. The dog can still gather the information they’re seeking by sniffing your hands or fists rather than your crotch, and you’ll save yourself from embarrassment.

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Now that you know the reasons why dogs smell your crotch, we hope it puts your mind at ease as to why dogs indulge in the act. Dogs use their keen sense of smell to find out all sorts of information, and by smelling your crotch, they can tell a great deal about you. If you want to save yourself from embarrassment, remember to place your hands or fists in front of you to avert the dog’s attention away from your private area.

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Featured Image Credit: Javier Brosch, Shutterstock

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