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I’m Ruby! I’m the star of this month’s Companionship story, Ruby, My Dear, along with my two humans, Lucian Truscott IV and Tracy Harris.
From My Dog House to Yours
Dog Bones

How Dogs Sniff Out Their World

Dogs communicate personal data via sniffs, barks and body language

Butt sniff party | Craig Howell | Flickr

What is your dog thinking when it sniffs seemingly random objects — or another dog's butt? Does your dog mask meaning when sniffing your feet or licking your face? Is he really thinking? Experts have been pondering these questions for many years, through multiple studies and observations.

"Dogs communicate primarily through body language," Dr. Catherine Reeve, a lecturer on animal welfare and behavior at Queen's University Belfast's School of Psychology, wrote to Salon. "A lot of this communication is subtle and goes unnoticed by most owners."

Licking is related to smelling

Humans have about six million olfactory receptors; dogs have 300 million."When sniffing one another, dogs are getting all the information they need about other dogs' sexual status, health status, age, etc.," Reeve noted. Sniffing another dog's butt is a doggy equivalent of making small talk.

Dogs' licking is also related to smell. Sniffs pick up airborne odors, but a second smell system between the roof of their mouth and the septum gives dogs even more molecular details of scent. So next time you take your dog for a walk, let her stop and sniff and take a moment to appreciate her remarkable communication talents.

B.L. Ochman
@b-l-ochman

B.L. Ochman is the human companion of Lucy the Rescue Puppy. She is a professional writer, podcast producer and trusted advisor to brands in verticals from cars to cookies. She's a native New Yorker and lover of Central Park—where dogs can be off-leash until 9 am. She also is a really pretty good swing dancer.

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