Is Your Dog Smelling or Sniffing? Discover the Difference

By Max Turner 5 Min Read

Your dog is likely either smelling or sniffing on any given day, but do you know the difference? Read on to find out what distinguishes between them and how you can use this knowledge to better interpret your pup’s behavior.

What is Smelling?

Why is my Dog Sniffing the Air and Looking Up


Smelling is an active process your dog does when it wants to identify and interpret a certain smell. It includes breathing in a smell, interpreting what it is, and then deciding how to react to it. For example, if your pup smells another dog’s urine and finds it threatening, it may bark or growl in response.

What is Sniffing?

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Sniffing is a less active process for your pup. When your pup is sniffing, it is actively taking in the scent from its environment but not deciding how to react – yet. Sniffing is simply the act of gathering information while smelling is interpreting that information.

What Does This Knowledge Mean for Your Dog?

Understanding the difference between smelling and sniffing can help you better interpret your pup’s behavior. If your pup approaches another dog and begins to smell, you may want to be prepared for a reaction. However, if your pup is sniffing around without giving off any signals, you may be able to relax a bit as there is less of a chance of a dramatic reaction.

Tips for To Help Your Pup Sniff and Smell Properly

Keeping your pup’s sniffing and smelling abilities in top shape is key to a healthy and happy pup. Here are some tips for doing just that:

  • Maintain a clean living area: Regularly clean your home, as some smells can irritate your pup’s nose.
  • Take your pup for walks: Taking your pup for daily walks will allow them to interact with a variety of smells and keep their noses sharp and in tune.
  • Regularly groom your pup: Grooming your pup regularly and providing them with a weekly bath helps keep their sense of smell in top condition.
  • Provide stimulating activities: Activities such as tracking and scent games help stimulate your pup’s sniffing and smelling abilities.

Understanding the difference between smelling and sniffing can help you better interpret your pup’s behavior and help keep them healthy and happy through regular walks, grooming, and stimulating activities. So, next time you’re wondering why your pup is sniffing or smelling, you’ll have the answer.

What are signs that my dog is scent marking?

Some signs that your dog may be scent marking include: a raised rear end or “mounting” behaviour, a lifting of the leg while urinating, and small amounts of urine sprayed on vertical surfaces such as furniture, walls, or trees. You may also notice your dog sniffing the area and then releasing a small amount of urine.

What are some ways to stop my dog from scent marking?

  1. Spay or neuter your dog. Scent marking is usually more common in intact males and can be reduced through neutering.
  2. Clean any areas where your dog has previously marked. Even trace odors can trigger marking behavior, so it’s important to thoroughly remove all existing scents with a pet-safe odor neutralizer.
  3. Train your dog to come when called or leave the room when they start to mark.
  4. Provide plenty of playtime and exercise. Tired dogs are less likely to mark.
  5. Give your dog plenty of playtime with other dogs. Potential territorial disputes can be avoided when dogs get along and are less likely to scent mark around one another.
  6. Redirect your dog’s marking behavior by providing a designated area or object for scent marking.
  7. Place approved insect repellents, such as citronella, around the house.
  8. Speak with your veterinarian about any underlying medical conditions that could be triggering your dog’s scent marking behavior.
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Max Turner is a passionate American dog lover and writer, dedicated to sharing his knowledge and experiences through his blog, With a lifelong fascination for dogs and a strong bond with his own furry friends, Max offers valuable insights and practical tips to dog owners and enthusiasts worldwide. His blog covers a wide range of topics, including training techniques, health and wellness, breed profiles, responsible ownership, and fun activities. Max's engaging writing style, combined with his expertise and genuine love for dogs, make an invaluable resource for anyone looking to enhance their relationship with their canine companions. Max Turner's blog,, is a go-to destination for dog enthusiasts seeking expert advice and valuable insights. Max's deep-rooted passion for dogs, coupled with his extensive knowledge of dog behavior, training, health care, and breeds, enables him to provide practical tips and guidance. From training techniques and health tips to breed spotlights and responsible ownership, Max covers it all. With engaging content and a commitment to promoting a fulfilling and joyous life with dogs, is a trusted resource for dog owners looking to strengthen their bond with their furry friends.