Why Does My Dog Sniff the Same Places Every Day on Our Walks?

Peeing and sniffing is basically text messaging for dogs.

If you have a dog, that also means you have a routine: Morning walkies, afternoon walkies, and evening walkies. And, on those walkies, your dog also has a routine: Sniff the Juniper tree over on Henry Street. Sniff the hydrant over on 2nd Street. Sniff the fence over on Carroll Street. 

So why does your dog sniff the same places every day? Simply put: He’s getting status updates from all the other pups that live in the neighborhood. 

Dogs have over 200 million olfactory sensors (compare that to humans’ paltry five million), which means their noses are far and away their most powerful sense. In the same way people read cues and information visually, dogs read cues and information through their snouts. 

And the number one scent that dogs can read like a language? Pee, of course! 

Gross though it may be, urine contains tons of information about its pee-er. “A dog can determine the gender of the dogs who came before him and whether they’re spayed or neutered,” Dr. Marty Becky writes on VetStreet. “If there’s a female in heat, he’ll know that, too. He can also determine the health and stress level of the dogs who’ve been by, as well as a dog's social status.” 

With that in mind, think about your pup’s pee routine: He has his own personal pee spots, and so do all of the other puppers in the vicinity. So when your dog pees and sniffs in the same places over and over, he’s actually reading and writing information to and from his pals in the community. (Think of these spots as corkboards and the pee as flyers.) 

This animal-specific behavior is called “scent marking,” and it’s dogs’ number one form of communication. (That’s why some people call it “pee-mail.”) And it goes far beyond the basics of biology. According to Anneke Lisberg, Ph.D., co-author of the study “…Countermarking by Domestic Dogs,” your pup can also sniff out more personal information. “It’s possible dogs might be able to assess many personal aspects of health, stress, virility, diet,” and more. 

So next time you’re walking your dog and he stops to sniff that Juniper tree, you can rest assured he’s just checking in to see how his ol’ friend Fido is doing.

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