Many dog owners in the UK ask vets and behaviourists this one question- why does my dog sniff my eyes? If you ever had this query, keep reading. Jacob Kay, who is a vet advisor at Wewantdogs will provide you with useful insights and explain different reasons explaining this sniffing behaviour.
According to Jacob, one of the main reasons why a dog tries to sniff their owner’s eyes is because they want to gather information regarding them. Also, dogs have a tendency to smell or sniff everything so, you shouldn’t be surprised if they are sniffing eyes.
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Why Does My Dog Sniff My Eyes?
A dog sniffing your eyes doesn’t always indicate that they are gathering information about you. There are many other behavioural aspects involved i.e. affection, attention, or instinct. They also sniff the eyes for knowing your health status and register how your eyes smell. Let’s explore different aspects explaining this sniffing behaviour.
- Expressing affection
Dogs have the ability to feel and express affection. It’s just that their way of expressing this emotion differs. So, to show their affection, they will often sniff around the eyes after staring at them. Staring will facilitate the release of the love hormone (oxytocin) in dogs. This hormone is responsible for developing love, build, and trust.
Dogs easily get excited and to express their joy they engage in different activities. So, if they are sniffing your eyes, it’s possible they are excited. When they are sniffing your eyes because of the excitement, they are either trying to greet you or smell you after you come home.
Further, if you provide them with some package containing food treats or toys, they may respond by sniffing your eyes. They are excited to open the package and sniffing is their way of showing they loved it. Remember dogs often have zoomies and it’s crucial you keep an eye on their behaviour while they feel excited. Look for signs such as – open mouth, hanging tongue, tail wagging, etc.
- Looking for attention
When your dog is sniffing your eyes continuously, they are trying to get your attention. They try using different tricks to grab your attention but, when they fail in them they sniff your eyes in the hope of getting your attention. They succeed as well, don’t they? Because you don’t expect this behaviour and get too close to you.
You shouldn’t be worried in this case. The reason is simple, they are trying to get your attention without being aggressive or destroying any material around the house. Also, it’s obvious for your to think that your personal space is being compromised. But, remember your pooch couldn’t find any better way to get your attention.
- Gathering information
Dogs will sniff and smell stuff to know the scent of lots of things. They also have a knack for sniffing humans and registering their scent to get a feel regarding the individual. They can collect information regarding their health, and even anticipate what we might have eaten.
In addition, dogs will also sniff your eyes to analyse your mood. They are sensitive creatures and sniffing or licking helps them know about our emotions. So, your furry friend will sniff and lick your eyes to determine if you are sad, angry or happy.
- Primal instinct
Our furry friends have an extreme sense of smell. Their smelling senses are roughly 10,000 to 100,000 better than ours. So, you can understand that smelling is their primal instinct. It’s habitual for them to smell their surrounding environment and get a sense of it.
This smelling capability also reflects in their other behaviour and hence, you’ll see them sniff different stuff as well. Thus, you can consider the act of sniffing eyes as one of their primal instinct.
- Checking your health
Dogs sniff your eyes differently than the other regions of your body. They are sensitive because of the salty tears. Now, if there is a slight variance in the scent of your eyes, they will sniff your eyes continuously. This behaviour will remain persistent for a few days if you are sick.
Many dog owners have also shared their experiences where they felt normal healthwise but, because of this sniffing behaviour, they got themselves tested. Many shared an underlying condition or some infection. Because of such instances, many dog owners thank their dogs for this sniffing behaviour.
- Response to your command
You may have indirectly encouraged this behaviour. For instance, when they reach out towards your eyes after staring, and start sniffing you may have petted them. Even if your intent is to stop them, your dog will comprehend your response in a positive way.
The dog will think they’re getting more attention and hence, they consider this gesture as an encouragement and you’ll see them sniff your eyes more often.
- Something smells good
Your scent or a specific odour on you can lure your dog towards you. For instance, you put some eye drops in or let’s say wearing a contact lens. They are not aware of the presence and will investigate you by sniffing your body parts and try locating the source of the scent. In the process of finding, they may end up sniffing your eyes.
Controlling Eye-sniffing Behaviour
Regardless of different reasons, it’s normal to feel the frustration of a dog constantly sniffing around your eyes. There is also a possible danger of an accidental injury or infection because of the dog getting close. So it’s crucial to control this behaviour and indicate to your furry friend that it’s not always okay.
Now, before I suggest you some tips on controlling this behaviour, it’s important to figure out the precise reason why they are sniffing your eyes.
Factors to consider for dog sniffing eyes
Knowing the main reason for a dog sniffing your eyes is significant. because if your dog has suddenly begun sniffing your eyes then it shouldn’t be ignored. Here are some factors you need to consider when you see your dog sniffing your eyes:
- First-time sniff – it’s crucial to remember when your dog started behaving in such a way. If they have been regularly sniffing your eyes there is nothing to be worried about. But, if you see it happening for the first time, then you must see try and see if there is something wrong with them or even you.
- Is it for attention only – if your dog did not have the habit of sniffing your eyes and now they are showing such behaviour, it’s possible they are only doing this for getting your attention. Monitor their behaviour for the next few days and see whether this is the underlying factor.
- You are sick – the sudden sniffing may also suggest your health condition is not good. Or there is a change in your body scent, especially the eyes. Dogs can smell the variance and to verify this change they may sniff your eyes as well.
Further, you also need to consider other factors that are already mentioned. They can also trigger the sniffing behaviour and knowing the root cause will make it easy for you to control this behaviour.
Tips to control dog sniffing eyes
Controlling the sniffing behaviour is challenging because it’s a natural instinct for your furry friend. The closest thing you can do is use different tricks to contain such behaviour and ensure they don’t develop it as a habit.
#1 Avoid encouraging the behaviour
Try not to encourage sniffing behaviour. Make sure you don’t give away any sign which may make them feel encouraged to sniff your eyes next time. So, you can try ignoring the behaviour but, that may have a negative impact, instead, you can gently put them down and wait for them to calm down.
See their reaction and if they are not exhibiting any dull emotion or sad behaviour, you can try doing the same thing for the next time. If they stop sniffing your eyes, you can provide them with a reward and also verbally acknowledge their behaviour. This will motivate them not to sniff your eyes as they know you will reward them for not doing the activity.
#2 Train them to behave properly using positive reinforcement
You can train your dog to behave properly using different food items, toys and encouraging gestures. It’s important you use these positive reinforcements while they make an attempt to sniff your eyes. Timing is crucial otherwise, it won’t have any impact.
For instance, you provide them with a treat or reward after they sniff your eyes. This will make them sniff even more. Hence, give them the treat or the reward after they have completely stopped sniffing. Repeat this a few times and you’ll observe that your dog has stopped sniffing your eyes.
#3 Divert their attention
You can divert your dog’s attention and make them forget about sniffing your eyes. You can hide some toys or food treats in the house when you decide to play with them. If they try sniffing your eyes you can point them in a different area and they will begin to explore the scent in that direction.
Further, you can also try using the following trick:
- Rub your hand or face in a cloth and keep this cloth near you
- When the dog tries to sniff near your way, use this cloth as a distraction
Your scent in the cloth will redirect the dog’s attention and they will start sniffing the cloth. You can also throw this cloth away and make them fetch it. In addition, you can also try switching the objects and make this an exercise, this can help with the mental stimulation as well.
#4 Use commands
You can try using commands like “no”, “stop”, and “don’t” to prevent them from sniffing your eyes. If your dog is following any of these commands you can capitalise on that. For instance, if they are not sniffing your eyes after using the “stop” command, you can train them for a specific cue or phrase like “not there”.
These are some tips and tricks you can consider. You can try mixing them up and come up with your own unique method to stop your dog from sniffing your eyes for long periods. Still, if your dog is not responding well, you can take the assistance of a professional trainer and also get some insights from a behaviourist.
Our tears have a salty taste and dogs can smell these and often sniff the eyes. Some dogs will even lick immediately after sniffing. In addition, there are different emotions involved and the sniffing behaviour may indicate any one of them. For instance, excitement, curiosity and so on.
If your dog is sniffing your eyes early in the morning, then it’s possible they are probably excited to see you awake and they respond by sniffing your face and eyes. Sniffing your face and eyes helps them to know your health status and mood. Once you start responding with a cuddle or similar affectionate gesture then you will see them repeat this every day.
Yes, they can. They have a high sense of smell and can identify the slightest of variance in the human body’s scent. In fact, some studies have shown they can sniff and recognise illnesses such as cancer. Apparently, there is a particular scent of the infection and other diseases which makes dogs sniff continuously around different regions of your body, especially the eyes.
Yes, it’s normal. It is awkward but, dogs are lured towards the sweaty parts of the body. Along with the smell, they are also curious about your mood, age and sex so, you will see them sniff your crotch. The only concern is that they might actually start reflecting such behaviour in strangers and that needs to be taken care of by the owner.
Why Does My Dog Sniff My Eyes – Final Words
I hope you got the answer to your query. You can observe your furry friend’s behaviour and identify the reason why your furry friend is sniffing your eyes. If your dog has developed a habit, you can use different tricks such as luring them with a food treat, diverting their attention or using a training command.
However, even if you manage to train your dog properly, chances are they will still try and sniff your eyes. Many dog owners think that it’s okay to allow the dog to have one sniff but, it’s not a good practice. In my professional opinion, dog owners who have encouraged this behaviour after training, have seen their dogs revert back to the original habit of sniffing their eyes and other body parts even more. So, it’s best to avoid encouraging sniffing behaviour post-training.