How Dogs Can Smell When You’re Leaving—and How to Make It Easier on Them
If you’ve ever left the house early on what promises to be a hot summer day, you’ve noticed a certain scent. It’s warmth and lazy days and fun all wrapped together. Or perhaps you’ve smelled the scent of cold when you open the door for your winter evening dog walk.
To know a dog is to be interested in what it’s like to be a dog. And that all begins with the nose. – Alexandra Horowitz
Seasonal and temperature differences are about as deep as our inferior human noses will allow us to delve into time. Dogs, on the other hand, measure their days in scent. And, because their lives revolve around our presence, the longer dogs are alone, the more responsibility we have to assure that they’re comfortable and busy.
Smelling in stereo
Alexandra Horowitz, founder of the Dog Cognition Lab at Barnard College, describes it as “stereo-olfaction”—the ability to discern completely different scents with each nostril. A dog’s nose enhances smell the way a fancy high-definition television enhances your visual experience.
How? The canine nose has hundreds of millions more receptor cells than the human nose, including many of which the human nose simply doesn’t contain.
This spectacular ability to smell is a primary factor in your dog’s ability to understand the passage of time. The strength of your scent on the air of your home, for example, can indicate how long ago you left the house. The weaker your smell, the longer you’ve been away.
How dogs smell time
To dogs, time quite literally smells different throughout the day. Morning has a different scent from afternoon, which smells different from night-time. The canine nose is so sensitive that dogs can determine the difference between 5pm and 6pm, the time when your partner’s car rolls into the driveway every weekday.
Of course, most dog guardians know their dogs love to smell! We also know that the longer we’ve been away, the more excited our dogs are to see us when we return.
Swedish researchers have done us the favor of confirming this is true. A study conducted in 2010 found dogs left alone for longer than two hours greeted their guardians more intensely and remained more attentive after their return.
How we can help a lonesome dog
These types of studies on canine behavior are a good reminder about how our behavior affects our dogs. But since most of us don’t have the luxury of quitting our jobs or keeping our dogs with us at all times, it’s our responsibility to make our absences as painless as possible for our canine loved ones. Try these solutions the next time you anticipate a long (or even a short) day away:
The ThunderShirt, which acts as a tightly-wrapped swaddle, can help some dogs to relax while the family is away.
DAP (Dog Appeasing Pheromone) products mimic the calming scent of a nursing mother dog. DAP is available as a collar, plug-in diffuser, or room spray.
Classical piano music (check out Through a Dog’s Ear) can help a dog to relax while you are gone.
Puzzle toys go a long way towards engaging your dog’s brain while you are away. There are huge selections of puzzle toys out there. Check out our top picks here.
If your dog doesn’t suffer from isolation distress or separation anxiety, a number of new toys on the market allow you to periodically interact with your pup while you are away. For instance, by sending them a treat (the Furbo lets you see your dog as well as give them a treat; you can learn more at their site) or powering up a remote-controlled ball. If your dog does suffer from severe panic while you’re away, these products, unfortunately, are likely to make your problem worse.
Audio-visual experiences such as DogTV or a custom DVD show images of birds, squirrels, toys and other beloved doggy treats, and may entice some dogs into watching the boob tube while you’re away.
Creative enrichment involving scent and taste is enough to change your dog’s life from boring to amazing. Check out shelter enrichment for some awesome inspiration.
Stay for one more story, be sure to check out these Top Trending Stories below:
Story: Man’s About To Return Shelter Dog When He Reads Previous Owner’s Note
A man had finally settled into his new town, but something still felt missing from his life. He thought getting a companion in the form of a shelter dog might help. So he did just that. He went to the shelter where a black Lab named Reggie needed a home. But they didn’t hit it off right away.
The man gave it two weeks (the amount of time the shelter said it may take for the dog to adjust to his new home), but it just wasn’t working out. Maybe it was the fact he was also trying to adjust to a new situation. Maybe they were too much alike. But then the man started going through Reggie’s stuff, and that’s when he was reminded of a letter the previous owner had left with the dog. That’s what would end up changing their lives dramatically.
What an amazingly beautiful story. It’s all going to work out for Tank and his new owner. 🙂
You’ve read this far… you need to watch this short BEAUTIFUL video clip.. It will touch your HEART! Enjoy!
Does this sound familiar? Your dog suddenly starts making loud snorting sounds—over and over again, in quick succession. Do you start wondering, did they swallow something they shouldn’t have? Can they breathe?! Chances are, you’re experiencing the infamous “reverse sneeze.” Veterinarians often see dogs whose owners rushed them in for an emergency appointment after finding them standing with their elbows apart, head pulled back, and eyes bulging as they snort or gasp repeatedly. Yet for the vast majority of these dogs, a vet visit was unnecessary.
Reverse sneezing looks and sounds scary the first time you encounter it. However, it’s a fairly common and harmless respiratory event for dogs.
Read on to learn how to identify reverse sneezing, what causes it, and how to tell the difference between a harmless reverse sneeze and something else.
What is reverse sneezing?
A reverse sneeze is pretty much what it sounds like: a sneeze that happens in reverse! The above video is a good example of what it looks and sounds like.
In a regular sneeze, air is rapidly pushed out through the nose. In a reverse sneeze, air is rapidly, and noisily, pulled in through the nose. It occurs in spasms lasting anywhere from a few seconds up to a minute and sounds like snorting, snuffling, and even gagging. See the above video for an example.
Because of the sounds their dogs make while reverse sneezing, many people mistakenly think their dog is choking. However, a reverse sneeze is almost as normal and harmless as a regular sneeze.
There’s no single cause for a reverse sneeze. Like regular sneezing, it’s often triggered by an irritation or inflammation in the nose, throat, or sinuses. It often occurs when dogs wake up from a nap, or after eating, when their breathing pattern may have rapidly changed. It’s also caused by irritants in the airway—anything from dust to an inhaled hair!
Some dogs experience more frequent reverse sneezing in springtime when the air is full of pollen and other allergens. Others reverse sneeze more in the winter, when sudden temperature changes between outdoors and indoors cause the nasal passages to contract.
Another common cause of reverse sneezing is pressure on the throat and neck. A too-tight collar, or straining against the leash, can irritate the throat and lead to a reverse sneeze. That’s just one more reason to consider a harness for your dog.
Finally, some dogs reverse sneeze after exercise, or when they’re overexcited. This is particularly common among brachycephalic, or short-nosed, breeds like pugs and bulldogs. When they get worked up, they may inhale their elongated soft palates into the throat, triggering an episode of reverse sneezing.
Reverse sneezing is super-common, and it won’t hurt your dog. However, some dogs become anxious during a reverse sneezing episode, and a lengthy episode may be uncomfortable.
You can help your dog recover from a reverse sneezing episode by remaining calm yourself. If you get anxious, your dog’s anxiety will increase, too. So, stay calm, and show your dog there’s nothing to panic about.
If your dog is experiencing a particularly long episode of reverse sneezing, you may be able to ease or end the episode by:
Gently massaging your dog’s throat
Briefly covering their nostrils, which will cause them to swallow and potentially stop sneezing
Depressing their tongue with your hand to help open airways
Some vets suggest gently blowing in your dog’s face
In the vast majority of cases, there’s no need to intervene. Reverse sneezing doesn’t last long, and your dog will be perfectly normal after it stops.
When you should go to the vet:
As mentioned, reverse sneezing rarely requires veterinary treatment. As soon as the sneezing episode stops, the situation is resolved. However, if episodes increase in frequency or duration, you should call the vet just in case. You should also seek treatment if your dog’s reverse sneezing is accompanied by other respiratory symptoms or if they have any unusual discharge from their nose.Occasionally, chronic reverse sneezing can be a symptom of more serious issues. These include nasal mites, foreign objects in the airway, respiratory infections, and tracheal collapse. If you’re concerned about the intensity of your dog’s reverse sneezing, take a video to show the vet. They’ll be able to determine potential causes.Most dogs experience episodes of reverse sneezing at some point in their lives. For the vast majority of dogs, it’s a common, temporary, harmless reaction with no lasting aftereffects. Of course, it still sounds unsettling to our human ears! But now that you know what reverse sneezing is, you’ll be less likely to make an unnecessary vet visit.