Have you ever wondered why your dog has such weird reactions to such a mundane thing as you sneezing? From whimpering and whining to jumping on you to licking you to even growling at you, your sneezing can instigate an array of reactions in your dog.
But why? Read on for the answer!
Understanding a Dog’s Temperament
It’s no secret that dogs love their humans, often unconditionally. They’re also extremely empathetic, which means that they will mirror your mood, even if there’s absolutely no reason for them to feel the way that you’re feeling.
Sometimes, though, your dog may just not get certain things that you, case in point being sneezing! Additionally, though it’s “just sneezing” to us, your sneeze may mean something else entirely to your little furball.
Here’s an in-depth look at the various reasons behind your dog’s fear of you sneezing.
What About My Sneezing Scares My Dog?
There are a plethora of reasons behind your dog’s weird reactions to your sneezing.
The first possibility is noise anxiety.
In general, dogs, especially working dogs, hate loud noises and get anxious when they hear these—you may have observed this in your doggo during a thunderstorm or if there are loud cracker noises.
Such noises can cause reactions such as fearfulness, agitation, panic, and aggression in dogs. Your sneeze may be one of the sounds that trigger noise anxiety in your pet pooch.
Even worse, given the fact that they’re social pack animals that are extremely interconnected to one another, the anxiety can transfer between dogs, which can be an issue if you have more than one dog at home.
Noise anxiety can also stem from a traumatic past. For example, if a dog was injured by crackers, he or she will associate the noise with pain, which will cause anxiety every time they hear the same noise.
How do you know if your dog has noise anxiety?
Symptoms such as drooling, hiding, whining, whimpering, trembling, shaking, barking, panting, and even peeing or pooping around the house are signs of noise anxiety.
A Perceived Cry for Help
Sometimes, your dog may jump on you when you sneeze and even follow it up with some barking. This means that your dog has perceived your sneeze as a cry for help and jumping on you and barking are ways to ask you if you’re okay after that sneeze!
Being Startled by Your Sneeze
Though you know that a sneeze is on its way, your dog has no way of knowing, and therefore, your sneeze can be a startling sound to your dog. Being startled by your sneeze could cause your dog to react in fear.
If you’re a loud sneezer, your sneeze will surely startle your pooch, but even if you sneeze softly, remember that dogs have extremely sensitive hearing (four times the sensitivity of human hearing), so even your soft sneeze may seem like really loud noise to your pooch.
Also Read: Why Does My Dog Stretch On Me?
An Unrecognizable Odor
In addition to having super-sensitive hearing, dogs also have a super-sensitive sense of smell. When you sneeze, you’re expelling droplets from your mouth and nose, and these droplets carry a distinct odor.
Since your dog is used to your regular odor, the odor from sneezing may confuse your dog, as he doesn’t associate it with you. You may notice your dog running away from you, or being the goofball that he is, he may try to get to the root cause of the odor by licking your nose’s insides!
An Undesired Playtime Invitation
If you weren’t aware of it, dogs also sneeze as a form of communication!
Sneezing is a sound that dogs use to initiate play time and ask other dogs to join in. However, if your dog doesn’t have a positive attitude to play time (common in senior dogs or sick dogs), he or she may perceive your sneeze negatively.
If your dog is avoiding play time because of illness, you should investigate further. Your dog could have pain in the joints or conditions such as arthritis.
Other symptoms which will help you identify the presence of such conditions are a reduction in the amount of walking your dog does, avoiding the stairs, and diminished excitement at the prospect of going out.
Therefore, if your dog wants to avoid play time for any reason, he or she will run away from you in fear.
Also Read: How Do Dogs Show Affection?
A Perceived Threat
Another form of sneezing that dogs use to communicate is the infamous “tooth snap”, a threatening signal in the canine world.
If your sneeze sounds similar to a tooth-snap to your dog, he or she may get agitated, violent, and defensive.
Is It Possible to Change These Reactions in My Dog?
While you can’t completely get rid of your dog’s reflexes to your sneezing in some cases (unless you want them to stop worrying about you), you can counter-condition them to be a little calmer when you sneeze.
Some ways of achieving this are:
- Throw a toy or ball far away from you when you feel a sneeze coming. This way, your dog’s attention will be focused on the toy and he or she will be too distracted to react to your sneeze.
- You could try to muffle your sneeze by sneezing into your elbows, hands, or a thick towel. This is especially helpful for those who sneeze constantly, such as those with allergies or colds.
- Every time you sneeze, give your dog a treat! This way, your dog’s negative perception of a sneeze will change into a positive one, as your dog will start to associate every sneeze of yours with a treat.
However, if your dog exhibits some type of undesirable behavior when you sneeze (such as jumping or pawing you), make sure you calm them down and command them to do a desirable action (such as sitting or sleeping) so that they don’t think they’re being rewarded for their undesirable behavior.
- Familiarity breeds contempt; if your dog gets used to your sneezing, he or she may stop fearing it.
While it’s difficult to sneeze constantly enough to normalize it for your dog, you could fake it or record the sound and play it back or increase your dog’s exposure to sneezes and other loud sounds till they no longer startle him.
If you’re using a recording, do so only when your dog is distracted by a treat or a toy. Increase the volume gradually so that your dog doesn’t get startled.
Do this only for 1-2 minutes each time and a maximum of 15 minutes, working your way up to the volume of a real sneeze, so that when you do really sneeze, there’s no adverse reaction from your dog.
- After a sneeze, don’t act weird or different around your doggo. Behave as you usually would. Doing this lets him know you’re okay or that you’re not inviting him to play with you, in case he perceives your sneeze as an invitation to play.
- You could also let your dog know that you’re okay by sitting with him after you sneeze and cuddling or playing with him. In case your dog is right next to you when you sneeze, you could let him know you’re okay by fake sneezing a few times to show him that nothing’s wrong.
Also Read: Why Does My Dog Scratch The Floor?
The Bottom Line
Dogs are extremely sweet animals who love their owners a lot. Even at the slightest sign of discomfort, pain, or a threat to you, they’ll be willing to protect you in whatever way they can.
Since they perceive things differently than us, dogs may not understand that human sneezes are not signs of pain, threats, or discomfort, hence triggering the reactions discussed above.
However, with a little patience, some effort, and remaining calm and controlled yourself, you can reduce your dog’s agitation at a sneeze and eventually even get them to remain calm when you sneeze.