One of the primary reasons your dog is smells your eyes is because the eyes smell different than any other area of your body. The eyes are an external organ that contains a lot of salt from the tear ducts. The salt produces a scent that may get the attention of curious dogs.
As you know, your dog has an incredible sense of smell. Their olfactory senses are 10,000 to 100,000 times more powerful than yours. While it may seem odd that your pup is sniffing at your eyes, this is completely normal behavior with several explanations.
To understand why your dog enjoys sniffing your eyes, it’s important to first understand how powerful a dog’s sense of smell truly is.
Understanding Your Dog’s Overpowering Sense of Smell
Dogs are well known for their sense of smell. They can track a criminal or missing person by simply smelling an article of clothing. Hunters use dogs to track wounded animals or to retrieve ducks from the middle of a pond.
Here’s an incredible analogy to help you understand how powerful your dog’s sense of smell is. If smell were translated into vision, their smell would be the equivalent of seeing three thousand miles away if we were to see only one-third of a mile.
Dogs can do this because they possess 300 million olfactory receptors in their noses. Humans only have six million. Their noses also split the air they inhale into molecules for respiration and molecules for olfaction. The receptors dedicated to smell capture these molecules and send signals to your dog’s brain.
These signals impact the way your dog understands the world. The scent of urine implies ownership for them. They recognize their friends and other animals by sniffing them, sometimes in awkward ways.
Scent is also how they can tell when another dog is in heat, ready to mate. For them, the world is not a cerulean blue marble, but an atmosphere that contains all the smells they need to navigate.
In other words, your dog understands the world through scent. Keep this in mind when we go over why your dog smells your eyes.
Your Dog Loves Your Scent
Dogs are pack animals. In the wild, their sense of smell helped them find comfort in the caves that their pack slept in. This is why dogs respond so well to proper crate training. They find safety in familiar scents in their surroundings and in other living beings.
As their owner, you have become a member of their pack…but not just any member, you’re the alpha. Your pup’s brain recognizes your scent as a reward, as well as a source of comfort. Even when you are not present, your dog remains conscious of your existence, keeping a mental image of you by imagining your scent. Your smell brings peace of mind, especially when your dog feels anxious.
Further, some studies show that your dog feels pleasure from sniffing you out. Your scent elicits a response in their caudate nucleus, a portion of your dog’s brain that regulates pleasure. Your scent is the only odor that can trigger a reaction in your dog’s caudate nucleus.
Your pup’s familiarity with your scent allows them to determine much about you. They can tell where you have been and who you have been with. They can smell hormonal changes, such as those that occur during pregnancy. Changes in your scent can even let your dog know if you have grown ill.
Dogs demonstrate varying degrees of distancing when sniffing out your scent. Some dogs simply need to walk by for a few molecules to enter their snouts so they can tell everything about you. Others need to come in a little closer and sniff at your clothes. Others show no boundaries and snuggle their noses right in your crotch, armpits, or other sensitive body parts.
Regardless of how close they get to you, their association with your scent becomes invaluable to their sense of calm or pleasure.
But Why the Eyes?
The Eyes Hold Their Own Scent
The eyes seem to be a particularly sensitive area for your dog to sniff. Your eyes are a sensitive area susceptible to infections.
While they are simply masses of water, salt, and nerve endings, they are also organs exposed to the world outside your body (external organs). The glands in your eyes hold their own scent, so your pup smells them differently than other regions of your body.
When your dog sniffs your eyes, it could simply be a way to grab your attention while engaging the pleasure centers in their brains.
Some dogs sniff your eyes early in the morning to let you know they are ready for you to rise and begin your day. They understand that your eyes are a sensitive area, so sniffing the eyes will force you to pay attention to them.
This may seem intrusive, but your dog has few ways to communicate with you. Barking garners negative attention, so sniffing at your eyes may be a way to elicit a more positive response from you.
Another significant reason for your dog to sniff your eyes could be that they smell something unusual. They may have detected a stye or other irritant that is causing your scent to slightly change. If your dog sleeps in bed with you, this could result from fur entering under your eyelid or some other residue turning into an irritant.
Your dog may also smell a larger infection occurring. Fungal eye infections such as keratitis may change the scent of your eyeball, leading your dog to investigate the change.
If you develop eye pain, redness, excessive tearing, or eye discharge, your dog may have picked up on a fungal eye infection.
Conjunctivitis is another type of infection that may cause your dog to sniff at your eyeball. Commonly called pink eye, conjunctivitis results from a bacterial or viral infection, allergies, contact lens products, or other substances that cause irritation. Your dog may smell the early onset of conjunctivitis and try to warn you by sniffing your eye.
Comfort and Pleasure
Of course, they may not be sniffing at a looming medical issue at all. Your pup cares for you and looks to you for comfort and pleasure. Sniffing your eye is one of the many ways in which they connect and interact with you.
Consider why your pup may be sniffing away at your eyes. It could be the beginning of an infection or a gentle nudge for attention. No matter what, respond to your pup with love.
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Bryan Harkins is an avid dog lover and the proud owner of dogdorable.com, a website dedicated to all things canine. With years of experience working with dogs, Bryan is passionate about providing valuable information, tips, and resources to help pet owners provide the best possible care for their furry companions.