Why Does My Dog Sniff My Clothes?

By John Martin - August 30, 2021

Dog smelling shoes

When you walk through the door, you will often find your dog waiting for you eagerly and then sniffing your clothes incessantly until you can get them to calm down or they lose interest (whichever happens first).

Sniffing their owner’s clothes is one of the most common behavioral traits that almost all dogs exhibit. You will see a dog that does not sniff people’s clothes or sniff strangers on the street!

Dogs are incredibly intelligent animals and the act of sniffing is how they can tell the familiar apart from the unfamiliar in the world. This is their incredible way of communicating and getting information about the world. So if your dog keeps sniffing your clothes, the following are the reasons:

To Know Where You Have Been

It is no secret that dogs and other canines have an incredible sense of smell. While they have a sense of vision and touch, but neither as powerful as their sense of smell.

Sniffing is a dog’s way of navigating the world and learning more about its surroundings. Dogs are inherently extremely curious animals by nature, so you cannot expect that they will not show interest in smells around them, old or new.

When you come back home after a long day, your dog may perhaps have not been with you. But by sniffing your clothes, they are looking for information about where you have been when they were not with you.

You will be amazed to learn that your dog can put together a whole image of how your day has panned out based on the smells they pick up from your clothing. They will know if you were in the outdoors or whether you were in an enclosed, air-conditioned space.

Whether you went to a restaurant to eat, if you met someone who was wearing a distinct perfume, and so on. Your clothes will absorb all these smells which may be imperceptible to you, but your pooch can pick up on them without any trouble.

Of course, there is not much they can do with this information, but they seek it out regardless, as this is how they communicate and this is their natural instinct.

They Were Missing You

Your dog may like to sniff your clothes because the smell is something they are familiar with, and so they find comfort in that. Since their sense of smell is so astute, they also learn to differentiate between the scent of something that is comfortable and the scent of something that poses danger.

Since they live with you and love you, they can recognize your scent anywhere. Sniffing you when you get back home may be a sign of them trying to comfort themselves by sniffing something familiar and safe.

If your dog had been left alone for a prolonged period, then perhaps they are smelling you so enthusiastically because they missed you and your scent is comforting to them.

Dogs are domesticated animals and they love to be in the company of humans. If you have been away from home for a few hours, your familiar scent is just the burst of serotonin they need!

It is the scent they find comforting and it makes them feel safe, so if you come back home to your pooch wanting to sniff you incessantly, just give in to it and let them feel comforted by your scent!

If you find that your dog frequently gets into your closet to sniff your clothes and follows you around trying to get a whiff of your clothes even if you have been at home all day, it may be a sign that your pooch is suffering from separation anxiety.

This is not an uncommon behavioral trait in dogs, but it is certainly something that one must address and try to treat if possible. Exposure therapy or playdates with other dogs may be a useful way to start.

Also Read: Why Does My Dog Sleep On Me?

They Smell Other Dogs

Since the act of smelling is how dogs communicate and navigate the world, they may be sniffing your clothes because they can pick up the scent of another animal or another dog.

You may have noticed when you take your dog for a walk, they stop to sniff where another dog may have urinated. This is their way of getting information about other dogs in the area, how old they are, what their sex is, whether their pheromones are compatible with them or not.

Urinating is also a way for dogs to mark their territory, so other dogs pick up on the scent of the urine and challenge this claiming of the territory or move on to find someplace else.

As you can tell from these descriptions, dogs have an elaborate language that is based around the act of smelling. So if they smell another dog or animal on you, it is expected that they will react to that.

Instantly, that will pique their interest and they will want to know more about who this other animal is, whether they are a perceived threat or not, etc. If you bend down to pet another dog on the street, then expect that your pooch will be able to detect it! Set aside an extra few minutes so they can sniff your clothes to their heart’s content.

Should You Stop Them?

Your dog sniffing your clothes is entirely normal behavior that you do not need to be alarmed by. Unless you think that they are doing it excessively, in a way that might be getting in the way, it is not something you need to take extra measures to stop.

In fact, if you try to curb it, that may even end up being detrimental to their growth. Sniffing their surroundings is how dogs communicate and get to know more about the world they inhabit.

So if you stop them from doing that, you are telling them to go against their natural instinct. For instance, if you are out on a walk and your pooch stops to smell another dog’s droppings, no matter how revolting you find that, let them do it. When you tug at their leash, you end up giving them mixed signals about how they should interpret the world.

Allowing them to sniff what they like until their curiosity is satiated is also a way to keep your pooch mentally agile. When they sniff and interpret all these scents, several faculties are at work and your dog is at their most alert. So this is certainly a behavior you should encourage unless you sense it is stemming from some kind of anxiety.

Also Read: Why Does My Dog Howl With Me?

How Can You Train Them to Be More Polite While Sniffing?

You do not need to stop your dog from sniffing your clothes or even sniffing guests when they come into the house. What you can do, however, is train them to be more restrained about it so they do not alarm guests when they walk into the door.

A good time to start this training is when they are much younger so they can be socialized properly and this is behavior they imbibe at an early age when they are yet to develop their personalities fully.

Teach them the sit/stay commands when you walk through the door. They should know that they are meant to sit at a designated spot by the door when you enter, instead of lunging with excitement.

Once they respond to this command, you can teach them to approach you gently so you can pet them and greet them. This is also when they can sniff you to their heart’s content without destabilizing you.

It will take some time to teach them these commands, but be consistent and reward them each time they do well. Positive reinforcements will ensure that your dog learns to repeat the behaviors that get them praise. You can even save special treats for the times they behave exceptionally well.

Similarly, teach them to sit patiently when a guest enters by asking a friend to enter through the door. The same steps must be followed here. They need to respond to the sit/stay command as the guest enters and settles into your house.

Your pet can then approach them for a sniff and pet. It may not always work out and the first few times can certainly be frustrating but keep at it and your pet will learn. You cannot expect your pet to show patience when you walk through the door if you cannot be patient about their training yourself!

Also Read: Why Do Dogs Like Sticks?

Final Thoughts

Dogs are beautiful and intelligent animals that have their own unique way of navigating the world. If they are sniffing your clothes, it is likely because they want to know where you have been. Besides, they love you and must find out if you have been up to adventures without them or if you have befriended other dogs. If you are wondering about your dog sniffing your clothes, simply let them do it until they are satisfied!