Message Us

Why Do Dogs Sneeze?

By SheriRenaud. | Dog Health Dog Info

When dogs sneeze, humans almost always laugh. There's plenty of YouTube evidence of this! It seems to hit our funny bone in just the right way.

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!

African Wild Dogs Use Sneezing To Make Group Decisions

It's always fun to see our domesticated pooches give us a glimpse into their wild past when they were free roaming wolf-like canines. African Wild Dogs are endangered species living wild in Botswana. 

In an effort to save this species, researchers with the Botswana Predator Conservation Trust, have been studying their behavior in the wild. Through their observations, they have noticed that African Wild Dogs use sneezes to cast their individual "vote" on whether or not the pack should go out hunting. Of course, this is a much-needed activity but it is also dangerous and energy consuming.

In these free-ranging African Wild Dog packs, they have a rather democratic process. Each member of the group gets a vote but the leader of the pack has their vote count more.

So, if the leader is present, and he sneezes to indicate he wants the pack to hunt, it only takes a few more affirmative votes (sneezes) for the whole pack to follow.

On the other hand, even the pack leader can be overruled if no one else sneezes! Further, if the leader isn't there, scientists estimated it takes about ten votes (sneezes) for the whole pack to go on the hunt!

Dog Sneezing Is Complicated

In canines, sneezing is more than just body language. It can indicate a precise social signal that is very important to the individual and to the entire pack. Now go practice your pretend sneezing in the mirror so you can try it out on your favorite pouch and see if she snorts right back!!

Good luck to you and pooch!

Best Natural Constipation Remedies for Dogs and Dog Seat Covers: Cargo, Dog Bed Liner, Bed Cover: 30% Off Premium Seat Covers

Sheri RenaudSheri Renaud

Sheri is the owner and founder of, a blog inspired by her girl Bella, a five pound Yorkshire terrier with “attitude”. She was ready to have the perfect Yorkie… And she did… for about a minute. That’s when she realized that she had to train her if she wanted to have a well-behaved companion. Long story short, through many mess-ups and not knowing what she was doing, she was able to figure out a few things. Reading, researching and studying about dog training online helped her to better understand Bella and what she was going through, and she learned even more. As she talked to other dog owners at dog parks, out and about and at dog-related forums, she realized one thing – More people could benefit from what she was learning through trial and error. That was the moment that Train That Pooch was born. The only thing that outweighs her love for all things dog related is here love for Bella. She knows how much you love your pooch and wants you to have the same kinds of fun experiences and memories that Bella and she have had thus far.



Signup/Login to post a reply


Reviews From 4Knines Customers VIEW MORE »

The best evaluations of our products come from the people who’ve bought them.

bought two of these

Searched for different ones, decided on this one. Exceeded all expectations. Bought one for a new care and another for our 2004 4 runner. Provides good protection for vehicle and our 140 dog. We travel and camp extensively also good for bringing thing back form garden shop.

George Linhardt

Great product!

Does exactly what we wanted. We can easily raise a part of the seat to give our dogs better access to the rear seat of our pickup. And it's easily removed or installed when we need to put humans back there!

Michael Dean

Back Seat Cover for Subaru Impreza

Excellent quality and great customer service!

Alex Garcia-Osuna

Great covers

Not only are they great covers, 4knines has great customer service. Truly deserving of more than five stars.

Carmela DiCristofano

Great Cover - Great Company

The covers are absolutely the best and I have had quite a few over the years. I had a minor issue with my cover and asked if I could get it repaired. The response was: "Thank you for reaching out to us. Your cover is absolutely covered by 4Knines Lifetime Warranty!" I received a new one.

Bud Conner


This liner was so easy to install!! I love the way it fits and looks. My puppy also loves it.

Susan Frick

dog loves it

i don't have to fuss a the dog for clawing the door panels,a much more enjoyable ride for both of us.

Steven Walker

Perfect gift

I purchased this rear bench cover for a friend with two dogs that frequently accompany her to her barn. No problem with wet, muddy feet. Fits well and protects her investment in her car. The cover arrived promptly as promised.

Maribeth Hartin

For all general inquiries, please call or email us
Phone: 888.602.2509

Sign Up to Our Newsletter

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Nothing but the best for your best friend!
© 4Knines. 2017. All rights reserved | Terms | Privacy