Thursday, July 18, 2013

Ask Toto #43

Dear Toto,

Why do dogs sniff their butts?  Am I supposed to sniff the butt of any new person I meet?

-- Curious six year old in Iowa.

Hi Curious!

Oh, my gosh NO!  Do NOT sniff the butt of ANYBODY, new person or old person.  HUMANS DO NOT DO THAT!

This is a particularly interesting instinct that dogs do with dogs.

Look at it this way – Dogs can’t shake hands, right?  I mean, yes, they can shake hands with you if they’re sitting and you give them the command to “Shake hands.”  But dogs can’t shake hands with each other.  Because we’ve got four paws, which paws would we shake with, and the other dogs is wondering the same thing because with four paws per dog, you end up with a mathmathetical paw mess in no time.

So when dogs sniff butts, it’s the dog way of shaking hands.  Yes, I know it seems gross to humans. 

But a dog’s brain has a bigger capacity for smells.  We’ve already talked about our amazing super sensitive sniffer noses.  But a large percent of our brains (possibly the same percent that humans use to remember all the TV shows and movies they’ve seen) are devoted to recognizing and understanding smells (also why we bury bones, because we’re the ones that can find them buried under dirt thanks to our super sense of smell.)  So just how you can remember the first time you saw Wizard Of Oz with ME, we can remember the dogs we’ve met by smelling their butts.  The dog’s butt is our first impression – by smelling it, we can get a sense of who they are, if they’re a nice dog or an aloof one, if they’re not feeling great that day, and a whole bunch of other things.

So yes, of course it’s weird.  No, humans shouldn’t do it.  But that’s just one of the things that makes dogs dogs.

thanks for the question!

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