Well, it’s really simple, once you root around a bit…
One – If you start by observing how two dogs (who have not been taught not to be dogs!) greet each other…they do so with their noses. They sniff each others rear ends.
Two – A dog’s noise is its most powerful sense – more so than their hearing, and sight. Dogs have +/- 300 hundred million olfactory senses in their nose whereas we humans have a paltry 3 million olfactory sensors.
Three – In addition to their heightened sense of smell, dogs have anal sacs which emit scent (under their tail).
So having read the above, you can start to understand why dogs ‘sniff a person’s butt and/or crotch’ right!
A dog uses its sense of smell to understand who you are! When a dog sniffs it receives a plethora of information…it is a feast for their senses, for their mind. It is a normal and natural thing for a dog. Scent to a dog is like another type of sight layered with additional information. Each dog, each person has their own unique scent – kind of like a finger print (the equivalent for a dog is a nose print).
As long as the sniff is not too intrusive – i.e. a gentle sniff – rather than prodding you with his nose there is nothing wrong with allowing a dog to greet you like this.
If the dog prods you – don’t be angry just turn a little to your side and lean or move a little into the dogs space in a grounded normal manner and the dog will normally back-off. Don’t withdraw as when you do so, you yield your space to the dog – translated into dog language, you are surrendering your space to the dog. If the dog does not yield then you can give the dog a quick tap – just as you would on a person’s shoulder to respectfully get their attention. The use your hand to indicate that the dog should move back – take a grounded breath while you do this. When done properly – without ire, frustration, irritation or fear there is nothing for the dog to adversely react to and the dog will normally comply.
I always try to put things in terms of human understanding so it is easier to grasp the impact of what we do to our dogs…
If you are fearful, nervous or angry you are confusing the situation for the dog – telling it that what should be normal and natural is not. This can really upset and even traumatize the dog, it can also make the dog reactive.
Look at it this way, what if you reached up to give a handshake to a person you just met and they recoiled in horror or anger – you would be shocked and confused too!