My Dog Keeps Looking up At the Ceiling and Sniffing? 8 Possible Reasons!

If there’s one thing that every dog owner knows, it’s that these pets can be quite unpredictable. They can change their behavior on a whim and can also get sick suddenly. I mean, you can literally wake up one day and notice that your dog’s nose is dripping or the side of their face is swollen. And while these things may be harmless in some cases, they may signal a deeper issue. 

That’s why it’s important to be constantly aware of any changes in your dog and know how to handle them. So when people approach us worried because their dog keeps looking up at the ceiling and sniffing, we understand their concern. It’s justified, especially if they’ve never seen this behavior in any dog. So to help everyone out, we decided to write this post. 

In it, we are going to talk about the reasons behind this behavior, when you should be concerned about it, and how you can help your dog stop it. By the time you’re done reading this post, you’ll never worry about your dog looking up at the ceiling and sniffing again. So sit back, relax, and get ready to be thoroughly informed. 

Why Might My Dog Be Looking up At the Ceiling and Sniffing?

There are several reasons why your dog could be constantly looking up at the ceiling and sniffing. These include:

Strange noises

One of the most common reasons for a dog to keep looking up at the ceiling and sniffing is that they have heard a strange noise. This could be a loud noise like thunder or a small one that the human ear can’t pick up. Interestingly, your dog can pick up subtle noises such as those caused by a rat walking on the roof or even those produced by a neighbor playing music.

Sometimes, your dog could even be distracted by an air conditioner or ceiling fan that you’ve had for ages. You may even notice that they usually look up and sniff when you turn these appliances on. On the other hand, other dogs only look up at the ceiling and sniff when you get a new appliance.

They are literally trying to figure out what this new device is, what it’s doing, and where it came from. So if you see your dog looking up at the ceiling and sniffing when you turn on the air conditioner or ceiling fan, don’t panic. Instead, try to soothe them – with time, they will get used to the noises. 

New scents

Dogs don’t only have a sharp sense of hearing – they have a sharp sense of smell as well. So if you notice that your dog keeps looking at the ceiling and sniffing, it could be because they have encountered a new scent. This could particularly be the case if they also sniff in other directions. 

It could indicate that there is another pet nearby or there’s a pest that has invaded your apartment. So if you notice this kind of behavior, it is best to do some investigating. You can start by identifying which direction your dog sniffs the most and checking whether there’s a new pet that lives in the adjacent apartment.

If there aren’t any, check your house for pests. If you can’t find any, it could be that your dog is only reacting to a change in weather patterns. Sometimes such changes come with temperature increases that make odors from the outside stronger, to a level that your dog can smell them from inside the house. 

Toxin detection

When your dog keeps looking up and sniffing, it could be detecting a toxic substance. Maybe they can smell a chemical that alarms them or is even starting to feel effects like lethargy. This is especially common among dogs who have been trained to detect certain substances. 

These could include ammonia, cooking gas, or even cleaning chemicals. So when you notice your trained dog keeps looking up at the ceiling, sniffing, and even barking, your first step should be to evacuate and/or ventilate the house. Afterward, you can test it for the toxins or hire someone to do it for you. 

If you find out that your dog is reacting to a chemical that is present in your cleaners or other household solutions, switch to other options. You could even go for natural options like baking soda and vinegar. These will be better for both you and your furry friend.  

Fly snapping syndrome

If your dog keeps looking up at the ceiling while sniffing and biting at the air, they have fly snapping syndrome. As its name suggests, this syndrome is characterized by a dog who keeps trying to snap flies. While your dog could be trying to bite real flies, they could also be imaginary ones. 

The latter situation is particularly common among dogs who have stayed in one place for too long and now need to release pent-up energy. No matter whether the flies are real or imaginary, though, your dog can also employ the use of its paws and tail to snap them. Some dogs even go as far as growling and barking as well. 

Most times, this behavior isn’t anything to worry about. After all, you can just find a way to distract your dog, keep them occupied, and help them use up their pent-up energy. If the behavior persists and you get concerned, though, you can talk to your vet about it. 


Like humans, dogs sometimes get anxious, especially when there’s a change in their environment. So if your dog suddenly starts looking up at the ceiling and sniffing, it could be trying to cope with its anxiety. This behavior can even be accompanied by shyness or unusual aggression. 

Ultimately, the only way to get to its root cause is to consult a vet or animal behaviorist. However, keep in mind that most times, dogs look up at the ceiling and sniff simply out of boredom. That’s why this behavior is usually nothing to worry about. 

It is just part of a phase that will pass. So just be patient with your dog, keep them busy, and soothe them when necessary. 

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder – Ocd

Interestingly, dogs can develop OCD too. They are particularly more vulnerable to the condition when they reach maturity – at 18 to 24 months old. Studies have even shown that a dog can inherit this condition from their parents. 

However, OCD presents itself in different ways from breed to breed. While some dogs may keep looking up at the ceiling because of it, others may keep on chasing their tails. Other manifestations of this disorder are limb biting, excessive licking, and lip-smacking.

There’s one thing you need to keep in mind, though – OCD actually gets worse with time. Ultimately, the sooner you can diagnose and start treating this condition, the better. So if you notice your dog is exhibiting several OCD symptoms, consult a vet immediately. 


If your dog keeps looking up at the ceiling and sniffing while also exhibiting symptoms like swelling, it could be sick. For instance, swelling under the eyes could indicate that your dog’s tear ducts are infected. On the other hand, round lumps located in your dog’s neck or stomach could indicate tumors or bacterial infections. Swelling aside, you should also look out for abnormal discharges, drooling, and signs of pain.

While drooling is associated with dental problems, eye/nose discharge could indicate an allergy or upper respiratory infection. Interestingly, both of these can further contribute to your dog’s need to look up and snuff. Painful movements can also contribute to this behavior. For instance, dogs who feel pain when they move their ears may tilt their head up in an attempt to relieve pressure and ease their pain.

It’s important to note that this kind of pain should be taken seriously, though. It could be an indication of a bacterial or yeast ear infection. So if you notice that your dog winces in pain or is exhibiting any other symptoms that they are in pain or discomfort, take them to the vet immediately. The sooner your dog gets diagnosed and treated, the better. 

When Should I Be Concerned About This Behavior?

Generally, your dog frequently looking up at the ceiling and sniffing isn’t something you should be concerned about. The only time you should be worried is if this behavior is accompanied by other physical or behavioral symptoms. These include shyness, unusual aggression, swelling, ear flapping, pain, and neck extension. These usually indicate that your dog is struggling with an underlying issue that goes beyond boredom and natural dog behavior. 

They could point to a serious physical illness or mental health condition. Interestingly, if your dog’s behavior is triggered by external stimuli, it will dissipate when the stimuli are removed. So if you remove all the things that could be making your dog constantly look up and sniff, but they continue to do so, it could be an indicator of deeper issues. 

Ultimately, it’s up to you to monitor your dog’s behavior and unusual symptoms and how they change over time. This will help you know when it’s time to get worried and seek medical intervention. Also, the information you collect will help your vet come up with an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan. This is because it will be easy for you to provide them with the data they need to reach informed conclusions. 

 how Can I Help My Dog Stop Doing This?

One of the best ways to keep your dog from constantly looking up at the ceiling and sniffing is to keep it busy and fit by getting it to exercise regularly. This prevents boredom and helps them release any pent-up energy they have in a healthy way. Also, it keeps your dog from staying in one place for too long. As such, it is great for dogs who are prone to fly snapping. 

Another thing you can do to stop this behavior is to get your dog a variety of toys. These can keep your dog entertained and busy, allowing them to release any pent-up energy. Also, you can give your dog a timeout whenever they start fly snapping or being aggressive. This will help them calm down and refocus. 

Just don’t yell or chase them as punishment for their behavior – this can confuse them. You’re actually better off trying to distract them and offering a treat whenever they focus on you or something else. Using praises and petting can also be effective when training your dog out of this behavior. Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide which training approach is best for your dog. 


All things considered, you don’t need to panic if your dog keeps looking up at the ceiling and sniffing – this is probably just a sign that your dog is bored or hears/smells something. As such, it usually can easily be solved by a few lifestyle changes and a bit of training. Ultimately, the concern is only justified if you notice other problematic symptoms as well. And in such cases, only your vet can help you out – so ensure you have a great one!


  • Brad

    Hi I'm Brad, the founder of Having been a vet of 6 years I work alongside our team to provide valuable insight into your dog's health. I have a frenchie myself named Senzu who is my pride and joy!