The Butt Sniff

I made many mistakes with my Shiba when I first got him, but one thing that I did from the start was try to socialize him to other puppies and dogs.

Shiba Sephy seems to really like interacting with other dogs but greetings do not always go well.

After carefully observing how Sephy meets dogs, I realized that he does not like new dogs sniffing his butt.

Butt sniffing can actually be taken as a dominance move – the one getting his butt sniffed is submitting to the dog doing the sniffing.

This actually makes a lot of sense. The sniffing dog has all his teeth near to a vulnerable part of the other dog, while the other dog has his teeth farthest away from his hind area.

The dog being sniffed is putting himself in a vulnerable position, thus dogs only allow butt sniffs with dogs they trust and are comfortable with; or as a sign of submission.

For example, my Shiba has no problems with my Siberian Husky doing all sorts of things to him. He is also very tolerant with his regular playmates … but strange dogs poking their noses up his butt is a big no-no.

I really do not blame him.

Nowadays, I make sure that during dog greetings, my Shiba’s buttockal region is well protected. By using body blocks, I keep the other dog away from my Shiba’s hind area.

When greeting other dogs, I try to stay calm and interrupt the greeting as soon as I notice any signs of stress or discomfort on either dog. I walk away to create space and call Sephy to me. Creating space is important so that neither of the dogs feel crowded or trapped.

When Shiba comes, he gets treated, and then he can go back for another short greeting if he wants.

The butt sniff is not for every dog.

Protect your dog from other dogs if necessary. Make dog greetings a fun and low stress affair by staying calm, creating space, using positive interrupts, and body blocking unwanted butt sniffs.

By consistently making dog greetings into positive events, we help our dog build self confidence and associate other dogs with fun and rewards. This will make our dog into a social butterfly, improve his quality of life, and allow us to take him to more places without worrying about dog-to-dog aggression.

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Comments

  1. mas says

    my dog (3 years shiba female) puts a little twist to the actual butt sniffing…
    she’s a bit dominant you know…

    In the woods for a walk we sometimes meet some dogs. they can be big or small, male or female, so I don’t exactly know which dogs she’s looking for, but she sniffs a butt then takes a little bite. Nothing deep, but enough so the other dogs starts a fight.

    Have you ever heard of that situation?

    Cheers.

    • shibashake says

      I haven’t seen Sephy do anything like that before, but I usually manage him very closely during greetings. I set up clear dog-to-dog interaction rules for Sephy, so he knows what are acceptable social behaviors and what are not. In this way, I control the greeting, set Sephy up for success, and make sure he does not practice undesirable behaviors.

    • AJ says

      Yesterday my Max, 9 year old Shiba, dropped his tail (lost the curl) and it has not come up now for over 24 hours. I can’t figure out any injury, I have done all of his favorite things and he continues to enjoy them (played with chase toys, favorite treats, taken him to his favorite places). He eats, drinks, acts well in all situations. My husband Iwho he bonds with the most) has been gone for 4 days. Could this be a sign of sadness that he is gone, despite his pleasure with all the other things that I do with him?

    • shibashake says

      My Shiba gets stressed when things do not go according to his routine. For example, he fusses when my partner comes home from work later than usual. He will go to sit by the door leading to the garage and wait for the sound of the car.

      However, the only time I have noticed his tail losing its curl is when he comes home from the vet, after being sedated. I think he feels more vulnerable, not very comfortable, and not himself.

      When in doubt, I always give my vet a call and see what they say.

  2. shibashake says

    Hi Ally,

    It is difficult to say why without seeing it in person. From what you describe, it sounds like your puppy is just playing.

    My Siberian does the butt move with my other dog a lot when they are playing. It is just like a body block, and she uses it to get my other dog to move in a certain direction or to move away from something.

    A fearful dog usually will have their tail tucked, head down, with a low body position.

    My Siberian is a 3 legged dog and sometimes she gets a bit overwhelmed by the other dogs she is playing with. I will always step in and stop play as soon as it looks like she is getting stressed or uncomfortable.

  3. Ally says

    I was just wondering why my puppy shoves his butt in other dogs faces. It’s like he wants them to constantly sniff it. He seems to like to be submissive to other dogs. Is this a sign of some kind of fear or what is it?

  4. shibashake says

    Hi Christopher,

    I am too worried about him getting into a fight at the dog park so I stopped taking him to meet new dogs.

    Yeah I know what you mean. I have stopped taking my Shiba to dog parks as well. It is difficult to find a really good enclosed dog park. Most of them have really iffy dogs, and no real owner supervision.

    http://www.shibashake.com/dog/enclosed-dog-parks-good-or-bad

    Any ideas about him meeting new dogs safely? He always wants to play with other dogs but I do not think he likes dominant dogs like himself.

    Shiba Sephy is the same way. What works best for Sephy are –
    1. Choosing his playmates carefully (only less dominant, playful dogs)
    2. Very small playgroups. I usually just organize one-on-one play sessions for him with friendly neighborhood dogs or with friendly dogs at my local SPCA.

    When Shiba Sephy greets other dogs, I now make sure that they don’t come over and sniff his butt. I also keep each greeting period really short – they meet, smell briefly, and I interrupt and get Sephy to come back to me. Then I reward him for coming back and let him go back again to meet if he wants.

    What has worked well for Sephy is to always try and keep things positive and set him up for success. I try to only expose him to situations that he can handle and not push him too much over his tolerance threshold. I also try to interrupt as soon as I notice any stress on either dog so that nobody escalates their behavior.

    In cases where I don’t catch things fast enough and Sephy escalates into aggression, I try to stay calm, non-mark him, and end the greeting. If Shiba decides to redirect on me I will also end the walk.

    I have also done some dog-to-dog desensitization exercises with Sephy. The most difficult part is finding balanced and calm dogs that I can do this type of training with. Previously I have had good success with some of the dogs from a nearby dog daycare center, as well as from the SPCA.

    Here is more on dog-to-dog meetings.

  5. shibashake says

    Thanks for dropping by Julie! I have had lots of fun reading your blog. Your blog header is too awesome and too funny! :D

  6. Christopher says

    Wow. I have had this problem for a while now. I have a shiba and he basically hates dogs in his face and sniffing his butt. I get embarassed to have him get all aggressive when the other dogs that are there to play. However, he kind of has that mentality of being top dog. He likes to initiate it with other dogs but sometimes he minds it and some times he doesn’t. I am too worried about him getting into a fight at the dog park so I stopped taking him to meet new dogs. I am not sure how else I can start to condition him with this though. Any ideas about him meeting new dogs safely? He always wants to play with other dogs but I do not think he likes dominant dogs like himself.

  7. shibashake says

    What would be the ideal dog to dog greeting to you?

    As long as both dogs are comfortable and having a good time then that is a good greeting to me :)

    When either dog is tense, I usually interrupt after a very short amount of time, get my dog to come back to me, reward, and then he can go back for another short greeting if he wants to.

  8. Nicco says

    “But by the same token, he should not go poke his nose up the other dog’s butt either. :)”

    That is a good point and I hadn’t thought of it this way before. Maybe I’ll block him from sniffing another dog’s butt to see if that improves the situation.

    Trying to imagine my dog giving calming signals to another dog sounds like a joke, LOL. It will be a while before he’s able to rehabilitate other dogs.

    What would be the ideal dog to dog greeting to you? I think the sideways, curved approach with both sniffing each other’s genitals is about as polite as it can get.

  9. shibashake says

    To me, that’s not just a funny personality quirk, it’s something that should be worked on because it only causes problems for him.

    Hi Nicco,

    What you say is very true. The more dog-to-dog social skills a dog knows, the better his quality of life will be. In particular, a dog that is good at displaying calming signals usually does very well in a group dog situation. But it is not clear to me that the butt-sniff is a good social-skill to encourage – especially at the beginning of a dog greeting.

    When the butt sniff is performed by new dogs, it is a dominance move – similar to humping. I do not let my dogs hump other dogs, and similarly I do not let other dogs hump them.

    To me, not liking the butt-sniff is not just a quirk – but rather the dog saying he doesn’t want to be dominated by dogs that he has just met. That seems reasonable to me. But by the same token, he should not go poke his nose up the other dog’s butt either. :)

    Once they get to know each other a little bit and are more comfortable with each other – then they can butt sniff all they want :) I just feel it may not be the best thing to do in the initial stages of a greeting.

  10. Nicco says

    “There also seems to be a strange and unrealistic expectation that a dog should like all other dogs, and if he doesn’t there is something wrong with him. Probably comes from Lassie and other television shows.”

    Yes, exactly. Blame the dog when it doesn’t act like Lassie – such a common mistake.

    I don’t think dogs should be forced to “like” other dogs. Obviously, everybody and every dog has their own personality, but I think it’s important that they develop social skills with their own kind. In my case, I want my dog to accept it and not run away when another dog sniffs his butt. After all, he wants to sniff their butt, so it’s only fair. To me, that’s not just a funny personality quirk, it’s something that should be worked on because it only causes problems for him.

  11. shibashake says

    To me it’s almost like a person who doesn’t like shaking a stranger’s hands for fear of germs. I guess it’s normal behavior, but it doesn’t seem like good etiquette.

    That reminds me of Monk. :)

    As for good etiquette that is something that is very much set by our human society – which we then place upon our dogs. There also seems to be a strange and unrealistic expectation that a dog should like all other dogs, and if he doesn’t there is something wrong with him. Probably comes from Lassie and other television shows.

    Where do you take your dog for socialization?

    My Siberian I sometimes bring her to daycare. My Shiba does not really enjoy the daycare situation, so what works best for him are one-on-one play sessions with friendly dogs at home, or just regular meetups with friendly neighborhood dogs.

    I don’t let him meet and greet all dogs, just the ones who are not dominant. Shiba does not get along with dominant dogs, and vice versa.

  12. Nicco says

    I thought I was the only person who had a dog that didn’t like getting his butt sniffed. To me it’s almost like a person who doesn’t like shaking a stranger’s hands for fear of germs. I guess it’s normal behavior, but it doesn’t seem like good etiquette.

    If we are at the dog park, my dog will readily go up and sniff another dog’s butt with no hesitation. He has no qualms about sniffing another dog. But if another dog tries to sniff his butt, he runs from it, prompting the other dog to chase him, prompting my dog to go on a full on sprint. The other dogs see this helpless little mutt sprinting like a gazelle, prompting them to get their prey drive mojo going and soon every dog in the park is chasing after my dog. It’s funny, but not a good situation.

    Where do you take your dog for socialization?

  13. Sarah says

    I’m glad you liked them! :] I wish I could take more photos, but since I’m usually the one playing with him, its hard to multi-task with a camera in hand, haha. And you are absolutely more than welcome to link to Roush, he would be honored! :]

  14. shibashake says

    Thanks for the pictures Sarah! I love them. Roush is such a cute fella and he has really grown.

    The one where he is sleeping on his back is too precious. Also liked the pictures where he is playing and doing that cute play bow.

    Can I link to Roush on my blog? Thanks! :)

  15. Sarah says

    Thank you so much! And here is a small collection of photos I have of Roush. I dont have too many, but they are cute none the less. :]

    http://s906.photobucket.com/albums/ac264/roushssarah/

  16. shibashake says

    Hi Sarah,
    I am so happy to hear that things are going so well with Roush. Congratulations to the both of you! Please give me a link to some pictures of Roush when you get the chance. I feel like I know him already from all your stories, and would like to see him in all his glory :)

    When my puppy senses anything food .. sound, sight, or smell .. he follows me everywhere.

    Haha – that is a great behavior. Sephy does that sometimes, especially during winter time when he gets more hungry. In the summer he is just too lazy to move his Shiba butt – lol.

  17. Sarah says

    When my puppy senses anything food .. sound, sight, or smell .. he follows me everywhere. Its not usually his food he smells, but it definitely provokes his curiosity anyways. So I am going to try to recalls anyways. Sometimes Roush can be stubborn when his name is called, so I am wondering if maybe recalls would also help with that, haha. I will try this and I will for sure let you know!

  18. Sarah says

    I am very pleased to say that after talking with you these past few weeks and getting a better grasp on little Roush’s aggression and ways to curb it, I definitely feel like I have made great progress! :]

    The movement commands have been phenomenal! Since we have started these, he hasnt even growled once! I am mixing up his meal-time routine; command – feed – touch paw – feed – touch chest – feed – command – feed, etc etc. His body language also tells me that he seems a lot more relaxed also. He still keeps his head back and chest out, but his ears arent yoda-style anymore and he no longer drops his tail. He has also only curled his lips less than 3 times!, haha. :]

    I still feed him by hand and I will eventually, slowly start allowing him to eat my handfuls from his bowl, while still doing commands and touches to see how reacts when he has access to his bowl.

    Just to see how we progressed, I also allowed him a food toy this afternoon. I was very impressed. He allowed me to approach him AND put my hand near his face to take the toy away .. and not once did his lips curl or growl. I sensed he was tense a little bit, but he did not react to his emotions. And well, since I took it away I had to put more goodies in it for him. :] It was a very positive experience and I was so proud of him.

    His bite inhibition also seems like it may be getting better. Before, when he bit me he didnt care if I controlled his resources or if he was biting the hand that fed him. Last night I was doing a fun little “training” session with him to get him moving around and see if I could teach him something new. I use tiny bits of swiss cheese for this, its his absolute favorite. At one point I may have provoked angst in him when I touched his paw, and he bit me. Instead of biting to break skin, almost the second his teeth hit my skin I could feel him kind of pull back .. and for once, I dont have a single mark on me. I dont know how much better it will get, I also dont know that I want to test this.

  19. shibashake says

    He also is never the one to do the butt-sniffing .. and I dont blame him! :]

    That is really interesting. Sephy doesn’t do that with new dogs either but he does do it to my Siberian especially when we come home from our walk. Guess he wants to know what she has been up to and whether she is ok.

    How is Roush doing wrt. food guarding? I had another thought today, one thing to try is to mix the touching – brief one touch to paw – feed – brief one touch to chest – feed – brief one touch to chin – feed – brief one touch to body – feed. At first keep it really brief and before he has a chance to react, he is eating. This way, he will have some good successes for a while – then you can slowly increase the touches. You can also mix-up the number of touches once he is comfortable with the single touch.

    Also the recall thing would be interesting to try. Let me know how it goes – this is something that I would like to learn more on.

  20. Sarah says

    I love this article! My little Roush is the exact same way!, haha. He very much dislikes other dogs anywhere near his behind. Usually if there’s a dog behind him and he senses a butt sniff coming on, he spins around to face the other dog and it usually escalates to a high energy chase ((if they’re in my backyard)), haha. But if he gets caught off-guard and a dog manages to sniff that little butt, he just tucks it in and does his little spin-around, haha. Its so funny to see.

    With dogs he’s unsure of or not familiar with, his meet and greet usually consists of standing tall and stout until he’s comfortable with the other dog, and then he tries to play. He LOVES other dogs.

    He also is never the one to do the butt-sniffing .. and I dont blame him! :]

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