Why Do Dogs Smell Each Other

Why do dogs smell each other?

When people meet and greet, they shake hands or touch in some way and they exchange pleasantries. And when dogs meet and greet, they smell each other. However people don’t reintroduce themselves periodically throughout their interaction or every time they meet especially if they know each other well, whereas dogs smell each other, each and every time they meet, no matter how well they may “know” each other and even in the middle of a game (especially if it gets rough) and even after they’ve been together for hours, and almost every time two dog housemates come in contact indoors. They constantly smell each other over and over, why?

The usual interpretation is that dogs smell each other in order to ascertain social data, health status and what-have-you-been-eating-lately kind of questions. But that doesn’t square up with the incessant nature of the behavior.

The most important observation that bears on this question is that anytime there is something new, any change, any stimulus or stimulation, and especially when stressed, dogs need to smell something.

Interestingly the only word that can precede a term such as STIMULATION is ELECTRICAL. In other words, a change in the dog’s sensory perception of a situation generates nervous activity in its brain and this of course is neuro-chemical electrical energy. My proposal is that this electrochemical energy acts just like electricity in that it wants “to run to ground.” And behaviorally, the phenomenon of grounding is manifested by an act of physical ingestion, with the sense of smell being the purest and safest manner of ingesting the essence of something. For example, we prefer to smell something funky in the fridge before we deign to taste it. Things have to pass the “smell test” before we’ll put it in our mouth.

This is because animal consciousness is the confluence of the two most primordial systems by which every animal functions, the primal circuits dedicated to balance and the primal circuits dedicated to hunger, the basic systems that keep an organism upright, in motion and attracted to the external world. And this is why every animal has two brains, the Big-Brain-in-the-head and the little-brain-in-the-gut.


While a two brain makeup of an animal doesn’t fit with the conventional gene-centric model of complex behavior “trickling down” from the Big-Brain above, it suits the idea of the body/mind as an “emotional battery” perfectly. All mental and physical energies combine within this emotional battery so as to create a virtual energy circuit that the external world completes. Thus, external stimuli are experienced by an animal just as if it is physically connected to these external objects and events, because indeed it is. The external world stirs internal energies in its very physiology and neurology. Therefore the animal mind is not a function of the central nervous system. The animal feels the outside on its insides and this evolves into its mind. The animal mind is an energy circuit.

In this model of the body/mind as an emotional battery, the primary function of the Big-Brain is to generate intensity as sheer energy; it is a generator of a virtual static electricity more than it is a maker of thoughts, associations, habits and reflexes. It is how the external world neuro-electrically stimulates the battery, like docking a cell phone into its charger in order to re-energize it. Meanwhile the primary function of the little-brain is to digest the Big-Brain’s electrical activity so as to render a feeling of grounding and this is its central function, more important than digesting starches, fats and proteins.The little-brain turns the static electricity of the Big-Brain into a wave function, i.e. a feeling, just it breaks down and digests nutrients through peristaltic wave action.

I’m not saying that these mental activity and digestive function aren’t important to sustaining life; I’m saying that they are nonetheless secondary to the primary function of establishing positive (prey) and negative (predator) polarities as organizing principles in the body/mind as an emotional battery.

The object of all behavior is to “ground” electrical activity of the Big-Brain into the little-brain-in-the-gut. Anytime a dog perceives any change in its surroundings, it’s just as if its front-end isn’t connected to its hind-end, the Big-Brain out of sync with the little-brain. And so an act of ingestion completes the primal circuit and allows a dog to feel conscious awareness of its “self” as it becomes connected with an object of attraction.

Therefore, a dog doesn’t necessarily know another dog just by looking at it. That can sometimes happen visually, but it always happens nasally. Smelling is that primal. It allows the dog to connect with its “self” and quite literally feel the ground beneath its feet.

Smelling is an act of ingestion that connects these two systems into one energy circuit by way of an object of attraction. Therefore, ingesting the essence of things is how a dog feels whole and smelling is the purest path of grounding because it bypasses the higher processes of the nervous system (thus bypassing instincts, habits and built up associations) and appeals directly to the little-brain-in-the-gut. Because the smell of something is unfiltered by the Big-Brain, as my father used to say, “Dogs don’t trust their eyes, they only trust their nose.”

Published June 30, 2009 by Kevin Behan
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2 responses to “Why Do Dogs Smell Each Other”

  1. […] Natural Dog Training: Why Do Dogs Smell Each Other? […]

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Books about Natural Dog Training by Kevin Behan

In Your Dog Is Your Mirror, dog trainer Kevin Behan proposes a radical new model for understanding canine behavior: a dog’s behavior and emotion, indeed its very cognition, are driven by our emotion. The dog doesn’t respond to what the owner thinks, says, or does; it responds to what the owner feels. And in this way, dogs can actually put people back in touch with their own emotions. Behan demonstrates that dogs and humans are connected more profoundly than has ever been imagined — by heart — and that this approach to dog cognition can help us understand many of dogs’ most inscrutable behaviors. This groundbreaking, provocative book opens the door to a whole new understanding between species, and perhaps a whole new understanding of ourselves.
  Natural Dog Training is about how dogs see the world and what this means in regards to training. The first part of this book presents a new theory for the social behavior of canines, featuring the drive to hunt, not the pack instincts, as seminal to canine behavior. The second part reinterprets how dogs actually learn. The third section presents exercises and handling techniques to put this theory into practice with a puppy. The final section sets forth a training program with a special emphasis on coming when called.
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