You are here:

Canine Behavior/Excessive sniffing


Hi, for the last 4 days our maltipoo has been sniffing us (both me and his "dad") excessively. This is not a normal behavior and he seems agitated while doing it. This mainly occurs when he's up in the bed with us. He keeps sniffing my wrist/arm over and over. I ask him to lay down, he half sits for a second then sniffs again. He then turns to his dad and smells his arm, then back to me, then repeats this behavior many times before finally tiring of it.  We're not using any new soaps or detergents. This did start almost immediately after he returned from the groomer several days ago, but it's a groomer he's been to regularly over the past couple of years. While he doesn't love going to get groomed, he's always fine when I pick him up. His appetite is normal, as are all other behaviors. He's 5 years old and I can't think of any changes in our lifestyle or routine that would be causing this sudden behavior change. Thanks in advance for your expertise.

Thank you for your question. You indicated that this is a new behavior and that neither your nor your partner are using a new soap or new detergents. Have you been putting lotion on in the evenings? or perfumes? Anything else that might smell different?

The smells aside, do you and your partner laugh at all when he does this? Or pet him or talk to him or play with him, etc? Any kind of interaction may be reinforcing to him, thus prompting him to continue doing it. Even just leaving your arm within easy reach - if he is finding something about the interaction to be pleasant and you leave your arm available to him, then this itself can be reinforcing.

Have you tried putting your arms under the covers so he can't access them? If he begins to do the behavior, tell him in a polite tone, "that's enough" and then put your arm under the covers for at least 1 minutes. If he begins the behavior again when you put your arms back out from under the covers, repeat the cue "That's enough" and put your arms under the covers again. This repetition will teach your dog that his excessive sniffing behavior will result in losing access to your contact. But, if he's relaxed, you will pet him and talk with him and snuggle him, etc.

Another question - what are you and your partner doing when he does this? If you two are trying to be romantic, he may be doing the behavior in an effort to interrupt you. Some dogs are uncomfortable with the actions that go along with our intimacy - sometimes it's jealousy of one member of the couple, sometimes it appears that the dog just finds it weird or scary and so they begin to act out in an attempt to put a stop to it.

If you and your partner are attempting to be romantic when he begins these actions, you might try either keeping him out of the room until you're done, or provide him something to do that can occupy him on the floor until you're done. Occupying activities might be a bully stick, a nylabone, a food-stuffed Kong (if you use Kongs, make sure you are either using the Kong to provide regular food rations or that you are reducing regular rations to account for the extra calories he's getting from whatever you put in the kong - peanut butter is filled with sugar and fat so I wouldn't use a Kong that has nothing but peanut butter in it).

If this isn't an issue of interrupting your romantic efforts, then I would look closely at how you and your partner respond to him when he does this behavior and make sure that you're giving him a clear cut-off signal ("that's enough") and then remove your arm so he can't continue the behavior. Most people forget that last part - you can't just flap your hand at him or keep it present and expect him to leave it alone. You have to actually remove his ability to do the behavior you're trying to eliminate...

I hope this proves useful. Please feel free to followup if I can be of further assistance.

Worcester, MA Behavior Specialist
Masters Candidate - Animals and Public Policy
Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine

Canine Behavior

All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts


Jody Epstein, CPDT- KA, APDT


IF YOU BELIEVE YOUR DOG IS ILL OR INJURED, PLEASE CONTACT YOUR LOCAL VETERINARIAN IMMEDIATELY. THIS IS NOT THE FORUM TO ADDRESS URGENT MEDICAL ISSUES. I AM NOT A LICENSED VET AND HAVE NO DIAGNOSTIC SKILLS. ***I have been answering questions on All Experts for over 5 years now. I enjoy being able to offer assistance in this forum. I do need to be clear, though. If you’re looking for free advice about a specific behavior question, you MUST submit your question to me via All Experts. If you bypass All Experts and write to me directly through my website, I will ask you to submit via All Experts. On the flip side, if you’re local to Los Angeles and you wish to speak to me privately about an in person consultation, please go through my website. I appreciate your assistance in keeping my volunteer work on the volunteer site.*** I can answer questions about the following canine behavior issues: obedience, timid/fearful & fear-based aggression, nuisance behaviors, families that are expanding with either new human or new animal members. If you have potty training questions please first read my trio of blogs at If you still have questions after reading the blogs you can post your specific questions here. PLEASE be as specific as possible when asking a question. Give me a detailed example of the situation - dog's behavior, body language, circumstances surrounding the issue, what the consequences are (another dog's response, your response), etc. I can only provide insight if I can get a picture of the whole scenario. If I ask for further details, please provide them. In person I would normally observe for at least 90 minutes to assess the situation and the dynamics before offering tools and suggestions to modify it. In writing it is ever so much more difficult. Thank you for your participation in the process.


I have been professionally modifying behavior and training obedience for 7 years. I have owned dogs my entire life. I have just changed the name of my business. It is no longer Good Dog! Dog Training. The new name is Nutz About Mutz!. If you see previous questions with the Good Dog! website information, that is my response.

I am a Certified Profession Dog Trainer - Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA), #2133301 ; I am a member in good standing with the Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT), #77763 ; I am an AKC certified Canine Good Citizen evaluator (CGC), #71253

Publications ; ; Multiple articles in the local pet magazine Pet Press (found across Southern California)

I have a graduate education in animal behavior and learning. (While I completed my coursework and did the requisite research, I did not defend a dissertation. I am qualified, but not certified and so technically not a doctor. This is commonly referred to as Ph.D.-ABD which means All But Dissertation.) My educational focus was with non-human primates, but my personal interest is with domestic dogs and their relationships with humans and other animals. I continue to educate myself to canine-specific behavior through extensive reading, online interactive workshops, vidoes and attending canine behavior conferences.

©2016 All rights reserved.