It's tempting to think our canine friends are just natural born comedians who love to make us laugh. While there may be a sliver of truth to that, the role of sneezing in dogs is rather complex.
Let's take a look.
Sneezing Versus Snorting
In the vernacular, any abrupt and forceful exhalation of air through the nose is called a "sneeze."Technically speaking, however, a "sneeze" is defined as an INVOLUNTARY act, i.e. it's uncontrollable.
In plain English, a sneeze comes whether you want it to or not! The mucus lining of the nasal passageways get contaminated with foreign invaders and the body automatically jumps into action to expel them!
A snort looks almost identical to a real sneeze
but it differs in one very important aspect. It's a VOLUNTARY act
, i.e. it's done intentionally! Unless your dog has allergies
or is sick, most dog "sneezes" are actually snorts
You can tell the difference by noticing if the sneeze comes from deep down or not. The air of true sneezes comes from deep down in the lungs but the air for snorts are more shallow, although your pooch may be putting on quite the animation when it happens.
It's common for people, sometimes even scientists, to use the word "sneeze" when they actually mean "snort."
"Sneezing" (Snorting) Is an Important Social Cue
When dogs interact, they speak to each other with signals, i.e. social cues. From a survival perspective, one of the most important signals for a canine to give is the "I want to be friendly, not aggressive" signal!
Snorting at each other is one of these universal canine cues they send each other, and by extensive, to their human family and friends!
For dogs, snorting is analogous to one human smiling and giving a friendly "hello!" to another human. Just head down to the dog park one day and watch the snort signals back and forth.
Why Do Dogs Sneeze More When Laying On Their Backs?
You may have noticed that your dog sneezes more when laying on her back, especially when outside. In some cases, this is because she's in a position where dust, pollen, and other airborne particles can more easily fall into her nostrils!
If this is the case, she's letting out a genuine sneeze, not a snort. However, it may also be a snort if she is laying on her back to show she trusts you and just wants to play. "Sneezing" (snorting) is her special signal to say, "I'm playing, not fighting!"
It's an added signal to the fact she's laying there exposing her tender belly to you! So, it's okay if you laugh.
Try Pretend Sneezing With Your Dog
If you want to have some fun, and prove your dog is just snorting (play sneezing voluntarily), try to pretend sneezing in the presence of your dog and see if she'll copy you and start sneezing back.
Like yawning, play sneezing (snorting) can be contagious
. This will work best if you grab a toy and start playing while you play sneeze at your dog. Just make sure your neighbors aren't watching because they may think you're loony tune!