Why do dogs sniff each other? What’s the theory about sniffing butts?
Dr. Lawrence Myers, an associate professor of animal behavior and sensory physiology and medicine at the Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine, gives us an answer.
“Nobody really knows the reason,” Myers said. “It seems to be a social recognition. Introductions must be made.”
Myers is both a veterinarian and animal behaviorist. He also has a Ph.D. in neurophysiology.
“It’s a social interaction,” Myers said. “‘Yes, you’re a dog. Yes, I’m a dog. It’s OK.’ They are so determined to do it.”
It seems that, like in humans, dogs have their own social etiquette and behave accordingly. For example, when we walk down the street and pass by another person that we are familiar with, we often greet them with a hello, wave, or nod. But if you’re walking with your dog and meet somebody walking their dog, you might have an interaction with that person.
For instance, we may ask the other person the name or breed of their dog or how old the dog is—things like that. Do you think that other person would find your questions intrusive?
“In terms of having definitive answers, I don’t,” Myers said. “The truth is, there are a lot of people who would not think anything about asking what breed your dog is or could I touch your dog. There’s a substantial minority that runs the other way.”
Myers continued, “But for the people who like dogs, it’s almost like a social lubricant between people. I think it’s how we interact.”
Myers admitted that he bases his opinion only on dog owners in the condominium he lives in and not so much on people who don’t have dogs.
“There was a panhandler in town who was pretty down on his luck, but he had a dog,” Myers said. “I can almost guarantee you he got more donations to the cause than the panhandler without the dog.”
Dogs give us a connection with each other and we get curious about other people’s dogs, too.
As time passes by, we treat our dogs more like humans and to the extent they allow it.
When Myers began teaching at Auburn more than 30 years ago, he was one of a few veterinary behaviorists in the country.
“We could name each other off the tops of our heads,” Myers said. “There are a number more now, but it’s still a small group.”
Aside from veterinary behaviorists, there are more veterinary specialists in many fields: oncology, critical care services, cardiology, orthopedics, rehabilitation services, ophthalmology, and more.
“We’ve developed knowledge and trained people in these specialties so those services are better,” Myers said. “That goes along with recognizing animals as part of the family.”
So it’s agreeable that we want to know as much as possible about our pets. Even dog DNA tests are so incredibly popular today. There’s seldom not a surprise when the Wisdom Panel results come in.
“We’ve done a number of stories on the dog DNA tests, and we’ll do more ahead” Another Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine professor, Dr. Bruce Smith, VMD, Ph.D., and a geneticist, has said those tests are accurate.