6 min read


Can Dogs Smell Other Dogs on Clothes?



6 min read


Can Dogs Smell Other Dogs on Clothes?


You love your dog. You are loyal to your dog. But if you are a dog lover, it is just hard to resist having a chance to pet, play and admire another dog. There are lots of reasons to spend time with other people's dogs. Maybe you are visiting with a friend. Perhaps you do volunteer work in a shelter or work in an environment with dogs. It could be that you encountered a dog while on your own personal outing in a park. 

However it is that you come to adore another dog, you might be wondering if your dog will detect that you were with another and, if so, just how will your beloved pooch react?


Signs Your Dog Smells Other Mutts on Your Clothes

Dogs have super sniffers. They can sense smells at 10,000 to 100,000 times the human snout. With such powerful noses, they are absorbing information about us that is completely undetectable to humans. Your dog will show you that he is interested in you and what you are wearing not because of your style, but because you are an aromatic feast to the olfactory organ. 

Dogs are notorious for joyously greeting their owners when they come home. There are a variety of cheerful behaviors that will accompany that moment of reunion, whether you have been petting another pupper or not. Your dog may run to you, with tail wagging and some anticipatory saliva if you are inclined to give a treat when you come home. You may find him circling you, sniffing up your legs and other body parts now in reach. Depending on your training, he may sit and wait or he may jump on you. At any rate, dogs are usually really happy to see you!

Dogs use their sense of smell to detect what is going on in their world. Your dog will be checking you out with his nose. You may notice his nose becoming wet and wiggling. You may see him move his head up and down, checking your shoes and then sniffing from side to side as he circles the scents he is detecting. His tail may be down as the concentration is focused on checking you out.

Your dog's attraction to you when you come home will be unmistakable. You will be greeted by your pup running over, tail wagging, and an open mouth that looks like a smile. Actually, that smile may be your dog's way of taking in more of the glorious potpourri of scents that tracked in with you. You may find him nuzzling up to any parts of your clothes or body that seem particularly olfactory-flavorful just to get a better sniff on that new, interesting aroma.

Body Language

Here are some signs you may notice if your pooch smells another hound on your clothes:

  • Sniffing
  • Nose Licking
  • Tail Tucking
  • Nose Wrinkled

Other Signs

These are some more cues that your fur-baby smells other pups on your duds:

  • Approaching You As Soon As You Enter
  • Spending Extra Time At Shoes, Hands, And Pants
  • Pausing For More Smells
  • "Smiling" Wide

The History of Dogs Smelling Other Dogs


The human-dog relationship is described by experts as a long-lasting and stable symbiosis. Dogs and humans impacted one another's evolution as they relied on one another for basic needs and survival. It is believed that dogs developed their keen sense of smell as they became more domesticated and relied more on humans. 

The dog constructs his understanding of the world through his absorption of smells. Dogs recognize other dogs through the sense of smell. Observe when a dog encounters another dog at a park or while on a walk. They will check out one another's hindquarters with their sense of smell to get acquainted. It is the dog's version of a handshake. 

The same thing happens when dogs meet humans. Dogs recognize their humans through their sense of smell. As you live with your dog, you are providing many forms of positive reinforcement through praise and rewards. Those pleasant experiences are being associated with your aroma, making the smell of you very gratifying. 

While we do not know if the dog is recognizing who you might have been petting when away by the scent on your clothes, it is likely that your dog is sniffing you up and taking in perceptions of the array of things you have been up to - from what you had to eat, to how much you sweated, to your hormonal changes, to the cleanliness of your undies, and, yes, most likely, what other creatures rubbed up on you. But because you are so wonderfully appealing, it won't really matter to your affectionate companion. After all, he is your best friend.

The Science of Your Dog Smelling Your Clothes


Scientists have conducted experiments with dogs to learn more about their discerning sense of smell when it comes to recognizing themselves, other dogs, and their owners. These amazing studies have demonstrated that the dog's nose knows how to tell the difference as to who's who in his environment. 

Jethro is a dog known for his ability to discriminate the scent of his own urine from that of other dogs. His owner tested his abilities on winter walks with yellow snow. As they would take walks, the owner would observe the location of the yellow snow and collect samples of it that he would deposit at other places on the trail. He would also observe and distribute samples of Jethro's urine-spotted-snow along the way. He then recorded if Jethro stopped to check the scent, for how long and other signs of sensitivity to the scents. 

The conclusion was that Jethro could tell the difference between his own urine and that of other dogs. Jethro paid the most attention to the scent of unfamiliar dogs. It seemed that he would pay less attention to the scents that were more familiar to him, as if he were thinking, "Hey, I know who's been here". Dogs are territorial and this ability helps a dog to discern if anyone has been invading his turf. There is really no harm to your dog detecting you were near another dog. His love for your smell will be more important to his sensibilities in those moments of interaction.

Other experiments have assessed how your dog responds to your smell. In one study by Dr. Gretory Burns of Emory University tested the dog's ability to recognize their owner from other people. They collected the sweat from five people: A familiar person in the household (such as a spouse), an unfamiliar person, a canine housemate, an unfamiliar canine, and the individual dogs' own odor. The researchers monitored the brain activity of the dogs in the caudate nucleus, or pleasure center, while the dogs were exposed to the scents. 

The study showed that the pleasure center was activated only when the dog was smelling a familiar human. They also found that the service and therapy dogs had the most arousal when exposed to the human scent. The experimenters believe that the pleasure response was because of the positive experiences the dogs had with the familiar humans. The dog is associating positive experiences with the scent of their human. The higher arousal of the therapy and service dogs may have demonstrated the high rate of positive training they have received, making their interactions with humans a most pleasurable experience even at the biological level of their brains.

Training Your Dog to Sniff Politely


A human or animal entering your home is cause for excitement! It is important to teach your dog good manners when greeting you, family members, or visitors at the door. You will want to begin while your dog is young. It is also a good idea to have a mat by the door. 

First, train your pup to go to the mat and sit when you are walking in the door. Once your dog has learned to sit at his mat to wait for you, you can then begin to practice approaching, petting, and talking to your dog. Gently stroke and pet your dog while talking in a calming voice. This will teach him to stay and remain calm while you come in the house. 

Just as you want your dog to have good behavior when you come home, you will want him to learn how to enter the house when he has been outside to play. Use the same idea of a mat near the door and teach him to sit and wait. Apply the sit/stay commands that you have taught him and reward him for following this behavior. 

To teach your dog to greet others, have a friend come to the door. While you are on the inside, you can position your dog to sit and stay while the friend enters the door. It will likely not go well the first time, but stay calm and consistent. Repeat the practice of sitting and staying while your friend enters. Once your dog has learned to sit and wait while others enter, you can then train him as to when he can move to visit with you in another part of the house. Praise, rewards, and patience are key to teaching your dog good obedience and manners.

Have questions or concerns about your pet?

Chat with a veterinary professional in the Wag! app 24/7.

Get Vet Chat

Safety Tips for Dogs Smelling People

  1. Allow your dog to take in scents when he is on walks.
  2. Teach others how to be still if your dog is taking a sniff.
  3. Teach children to tuck their hands and turn if they do not want to be sniffed over by the dog.
  4. Do not become annoyed with your dog when he sniffs your clothes, it just means he loves you.
  5. Do not leave your clothes lying around the house if there is a risk your dog might be a clothing eater.

By a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel lover Pat Drake

Published: 02/21/2018, edited: 04/06/2020

Wag! Specialist
Need to upgrade your pet's leash?

Learn more in the Wag! app

Five starsFive starsFive starsFive starsFive stars

43k+ reviews


© 2023 Wag Labs, Inc. All rights reserved.