What Do Dogs Smell Before They Pee?

by Rob Hainer
His super-sniffer helps him pick just the right place to potty.

His super-sniffer helps him pick just the right place to potty.

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While you're enjoying the fresh air during your walk, your pup is following his nose -- straight to the fire hydrant to see who else has visited it lately. If it seems like your pooch simply can't decide where to do his business without sniffing 50 places first, don't worry. It's a totally normal way for dogs to communicate with each other.

Being the Big Dog

Regardless of how big your dog is, or how big he thinks he is, he has an instinctual need to show dominance over other dogs. If he has to pee anyway, why not multitask and use that opportunity to position himself as the dog in charge? When he sniffs where another dog has enjoyed potty time, your pooch is likely to pee in the same spot to mark it as his own. In his mind, this gives him the strategic advantage as the big dog -- at least the most recent one.

Canine Social Networking

Just because his paws don't fit on your computer keyboard doesn't mean your canine companion isn't keeping in touch with his network of furry friends. Before he finds just the right potty spot, your dog is sniffing around to see who else has done some business nearby. With noses that are between 1,000 and 10,000 times more sensitive than yours, dogs can get the scoop about their neighbors without saying a word. Smelling the markings of other dogs tells your pup which dogs have been there, the gender of the dogs and whether the dogs are young and healthy.

The Doggy Pick-Up Bar

Females in heat sometimes pee more often, possibly in an attempt to attract available males. How does this attraction work? They simply wait for their male counterparts to walk by and take a sniff of what they left behind. Your pooch can smell whether there's a female in heat nearby while he's sniffing around for a potty place, and he's likely to mark that spot immediately and start frantically sniffing to find out what direction she went. A female dog who smells the same spot will probably ignore it, unless she's also in heat -- then she might mark the spot herself to try to steal all the male attention.

The Super Sniffer

Even if your pooch didn't want to use his nose for news, he can't help it. His nose is specially designed to gather and hold scent particles so he can find smells that are important to his survival, such as finding the markings of well-fed dogs. According to the Canine Training Center, your pup has upwards of 220 million scent receptors. Compare this to your estimated 5 million. Dogs also have a Jacobson's organ that helps them use their sense of taste to amplify scents and help identify them.

Photo Credits

  • Thinkstock/Comstock/Getty Images

About the Author

Rob Hainer began writing and editing for newspapers in 1992. He began his career as a photojournalist in the Army, and studied journalism at the University of Missouri. He worked as a copy editor and reporter at "The Marietta Daily Journal," the "Spartanburg Herald-Journal" and the "New Haven Register."

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