Have you ever come home after playing with a dog only to have your own dog freak out? Maybe they sniffed you all over. Maybe they even acted a little jealous. As dog parents, we just assume our pups can smell other dogs on us. But is that really true? After some research, we found the answer. Here’s a short guide to dogs’ ability to smell other dogs on their owners.

Can Your Dog Really Smell Other Dogs on You?

Turns out our instincts as pets parents are correct: Yes, our dogs can smell other dogs on us. Dogs can detect not only new and unfamiliar smells, but also the pheromones of other canines (which are present in skin, fur, fecal matter and urine). So, the next time you come home after playing with a dog, know that your dog’s onto you. Not only can your dog tell if you’ve been cheating on them, their noses can also discover a lot of information about the dog you were playing with—including their sex, if the dog has given birth, what the dog had recently eaten, where they had recently been, and even what kind of mood they were in when you saw them.

Signs Your Dog Smells Another Dog on You

Just because a dog can smell another dog on you, doesn’t mean they have. Here are some telltale signs your pup has picked up on the scent:

  • Excited jumping and other hyper or anxious behavior
  • Intense sniffing that lasts longer than usual
  • Twitching whiskers
  • Wide-eyes
  • Drooling


How Do They Do it?

A dog’s sense of smell is said to be anywhere from 10,000 to 100,000 more powerful than our own (it’s believed that dogs have between 125-300 million scent glands). In a way, though, comparing a dog’s sense of smell with our own doesn’t make a lot of sense. The canine sense of smell gathers so much more information than ours that it's essentially an entirely different kind of sense—it’s more like our vision and our sense of smell combined. Sometimes it takes your dog several attempts to sniff out all the information they’re looking for, which explains why they seem to smell you for a lot longer after you’ve been around other canines.

Your Dog Can Also Smell You on Other Dogs and People

Experiments into the canine sense of smell have revealed other interesting things. For instance, in one study researchers tested a dog’s ability to distinguish her owners scent from that of other humans. The scientists found that not only could the dog recognize her owners smell from the rest, but they found that her brain’s pleasure center was activated only when she detected her owners smell, not when she detected other humans’ scents. This means two things: First, your dog really really loves you, and second, your unique smell likely reminds your pup of all the good times you've shared.

The study also showed that the brains of therapy and service dogs act differently than most other canines. Compared to other dogs, these service dogs’ pleasure centers were activated by contact with nearly all humans, not just their owners. Which, of course, makes sense since they're trained for empathy and affection. Another study confirmed something else us pet parents regularly assume: Dogs, it seems, actually do get jealous!

Corinna Henderson
Tagged: Pets