When you’ve taken your dog on a walk, you know he will stop and smell almost everything he can. The pole, the tree, the grass, your shoes, a car tire, and any human or canine your run across. When you and Fluffy come across a new human, you’ll watch him sniff the stranger’s shoes, his pant leg, maybe even jump up. But when he meets another dog, he’ll probably go straight for the butt. You’ve figured like most dogs your dog is enjoying the smells the great outdoors brings.
Indoors can be a different experience. One day, you’re sitting on the couch, and Fluffy climbs up next to you and starts sniffing your hair. You use your peripheral vision at first to see what is going on, and then you turn your head and you get a wet nose in your face. As you move your head, your dog is eager to follow the scent of your hair. He’s smelled you before, so why all of a sudden is your hair his new obsession?
The Root of the Behavior
A dog’s nose one of the main senses he uses to distinguish people, places, and other animals. His nose is one of the strongest senses and in the animal kingdom, dogs can learn a lot of information from not only other animal’s scents but yours as well. A canine’s nose comes equipped with over 300 million olfactory receptors and they have a whole separate system for breathing. To put it in perspective, humans have 6 million. When dogs smell something like pee on a tree, they are learning gender, breed, age, illness, and size of a dog. They can also smell critters in walls, a drop of blood in a gallon of water, and they can sniff out danger (okay, maybe not danger per say, but they are used to help police).
To your dog, you are a smorgasbord of smells. From your stinky toes to your sweaty pits to your long flowing hair, you smell. Your dog can identify the difference between people just by their scents and you’ve no doubt left your scent on your clothes, blankets, and that spot on the couch. Even after you shower, when your dog sniffs you, you still smell like you. The human head is full of sweat glands and some humans sweat more than others. Your dog might pick up on this and want just to check you out and gather as much info as possible from the top of your head. If you just shampooed your hair, it might seem like you’re trying to mask your scent, but your dog is not fooled. He knows it's you, but he is going to sniff you to make sure and see if you’re communicating anything new. He might also like the scent of your shampoo and wants to smell it as much as he can.
Encouraging the Behavior
How your dog interacts with you is really up to you. Untrained dogs will sniff everything about a person, including crotches, so comparatively, hair smelling does not seem as offensive a sniff to humans. Your dog is learning about you, remembering your scent, and he possibly likes your new lavender shampoo. This could be bothersome if your dog constantly sniffs your head or a guest’s head. The in-your-face approach of your dog might seem cute for a brief moment, but if it continues, it can get old very fast. You might have a guest who is afraid of dogs, and while you know your dog is harmless, your guest could be terrified with a dog that close. As a responsible owner, you want to consider how your dog interacts with others.
Some dogs who sniff hair might take to chewing on it. This could be your dog trying to groom you, which usually is a sign of affection. He could also be reenacting a nursing experience. Dogs who suck on objects like toys or blankets were often weaned from their mothers too early and have developed these uncommon habits. Whether or not you just shampooed your hair, having dog slobber on it is not usually desired.
Other Solutions and Considerations
It’s important to set boundaries with your dog. If you don’t want your dog sniffing your hair or your guests’ hair, then you need to train him not to. It’s important that your dog knows how to listen to the command “no,” especially when he’s with other people. There are plenty of other things your dog can smell on you, so sniffing your hair is not necessary. Also, if you notice your dog chewing on your hair, take him to a trainer. The dog slobber on your locks isn’t good for styling, but it also indicates that he might need some special attention or training. A trainer will help you stop your dog from sniffing your Rapunzel hair and teach him to sniff more appropriate things.
Sniffing is fun for your dog. If you decide you do not want him to sniff your hair, make sure you give him enough time to sniff things when he is outside on walks. He will still get to use that strong sense of smell and learn new things, but he won’t be using your hair to do so.