Why Does My Dog Keep Sniffing My Legs?

Dogs have been smelling our legs for years. Sniffing us tells them where we have been, who we are, and what we have been around. It is also their way of telling you they missed you. 

Dogs use their noses to identify strangers and experience the world around them. Their noses are even powerful enough to detect one single drop of liquid in twenty Olympic-sized swimming pools! No wonder they are used in a variety of career fields. Dogs are naturally drawn to your legs first because that is the first part of your body they come into contact with due to their height. Curious by nature, they just want to know all about what their favorite human did that day.

What can my dog smell on me?

A dog’s sense of smell is so great that they can detect who and what you were around all day as well as your gender, health, and mood by picking up on the tiniest scent.

Dogs have hundreds of millions of more scent receptors than humans do, so it is no surprise that they can pick up the scent of something you hastily brushed past on your way to work or the store. With such strong smell receptors, it is no surprise that your dog can smell the bus seat you took to get to work, the coffee you spilled on your pant leg, and the other dog you stopped to pet at the pet store (it was nothing, I swear!). Letting your dog sniff your legs is like telling them all about your day!

Why is my dog sniffing me more than normal?

Dogs rely on their sense of smell more than their sense of vision, so if they sense something foreign, it makes sense that they will take an extra sniff or two to learn about this new smell and become familiar with it for the next time they smell it.

Though you may have only been gone for an hour to a dog, it may have felt like forever. When a dog smells you, they are taking a genuine interest in where you have been and what you have been doing, whether it was:

  • Fraternizing with other dogs or cats
  • Rolling around in something they too would have enjoyed rolling around in
  • Something tasty that they can smell on you that they’ll think about for the rest of the night

No matter if you are gone for five minutes or five hours, your dog will miss you just the same, and it is normal for them to take an extra sniff or two when you return home. Think about the places your dog isn’t allowed to go. Sniffing your leg is like letting him live vicariously through you!

Can my dog smell when I’m sick?

Studies have shown that dogs can detect cancer, malaria, Parkinson’s disease, seizures, and sickness in general. Your dog has hundreds of millions of olfactory sensors that can sense the slightest change in your scent caused by disease and sickness.

Dogs are widely used as service dogs because of their ability to detect changes in our scents caused by changes in blood pressure from diabetes, the beginnings of a migraine, and even Covid-19. Scientists and researchers found that dogs are so sensitive to these changes, they can detect a migraine hours before it happens and seizures soon enough for their human to take necessary precautions. Some ways that dogs will show you they know something is wrong is by:

  • Cuddling up against or on top of you when you are lying in bed or on the couch
  • Following you from room to room in order to keep an eye on you
  • Continuing to smell you to monitor any sudden changes in your blood pressure or hormones that might indicate something is wrong

It is easy for your dog to tell when you are sick, and they will want to do what they can to make you feel better and safe. Your dog will continue to smell you to detect any new positive or negative changes in your body, so let them. To them, you are their world, and they just want to help you feel better.

Should I discourage my dog from sniffing my leg?

Although your pup is just curious, sometimes you don’t want them to continuously sniff you. You can use positive reinforcement and speaking gently to keep them from sniffing your leg.

Correcting a habit can take a few weeks to a few months, depending on your dog. It is encouraged to let them sniff you so they can feel better about meeting a new person or so they can learn about what their favorite person did while they were gone all day. Some things you can do to help keep your dog from excitedly sniff your legs includes:

  1. Using positive reinforcement by giving them a treat or toy when they stop sniffing you and taking away the toy when they start sniffing you again. This will help them learn that you don’t want them to sniff you excessively when you come home, but rather just get a few smells out of the way.
  2. Speaking gently and calmly to let them know you would like them to stop. To dogs, attention is attention which means yelling and speaking softly will get you the same result. If your pup gets excited and wants to sniff your legs, gently say no until they stop.

Dogs are curious by nature and use sniffing your legs as a way to learn more about the world around them. They will also use sniffing as a way to get attention, so simply ignoring them until they stop will also help them learn that sniffing legs is not wanted at that moment.

How long should I let a new dog sniff me?

Dogs use their sensitive sniffer to help detect whether a new person can be trusted. Give them enough time to learn about this new person coming into their home.

Dogs are curious creatures with sensitive sniffers. Take into consideration their curiosity when you meet a new dog by:

  • Standing still and giving them ample time to see what you are all about. They want to make sure you are safe and their home and their human are protected.
  • Letting them sniff your legs to learn what and who you have been around. If they do not recognize a smell on you, they will want to become familiar with that smell.
  • Giving them a minute to decide if you are safe or not for their human. If they sniff you for a little longer, do not be nervous. They are just being extra curious about their new friend.

Sniffing allows a dog to learn about the health, gender, and mood of their new friends. For the more anxious person who is unsure about being sniffed, sniffing is also a dog’s way of showing that person they are not a threat but rather a friend who is simply curious. If you would rather not get sniffed, your dog will learn how to acknowledge that person’s scent from a distance. Remember, your pup is simply curious!