Why Do Dogs Sneeze When They Play?

Written by: Will Storie

October 30, 2018

Maybe you’ve noticed this too. The more you play with your pup – or when your dog gets in a high-energy rassle with their pup friends– the more likely they’ll sneak a sneeze in the middle of their GRRRRs and RUFFs. So why do dogs sneeze when they play?

As it turns out, dogs sneeze to say: “I’m having a great tiiiiime!” …Think of it as a play sneeze!

According to dog behaviorist and trainer Katherine Smith, the sneeze is a dog’s signal to the other dog that a rowdy dance/fight play sesh is strictly play– so both dogs know it’s all in good fun. The sneeze is a mark of when your dog “is really loving what you’re doing.”

Boxer sneezing

So our pups have found a weird new way to say, “maybe it LOOKS like we’re fighting, but it’s all cool, we’re buds!!”

You may have your own reasons for loving your dog– their cuddly fur, their perfect faces, their everlasting loyalty. As for me, I love dogs most of all when they’re rowdy. I will literally roll on the floor with any dog (ask my coworkers.) I’ll grab any drooly old raggedy toy and hold onto that thing for dear life if there’s a good game of tug of war to be had. The feistier and rowdier the dog, the more I love ’em. So why do dogs sneeze when playing? They’re just having fun!

Other General Reasons Why Dogs May Sneeze

As cute as it may be to see a pup sneeze during play, there are many other situations where you might see dogs sneezing. While not every situation may be so cute, it is important to know because every dog breed is susceptible to the occasional ‘achoo!’

1. Attention

If you’re a dog owner, you probably know the ol’ fake sneeze pretty well. If you forgot to fill their bowl of dog food, or they are getting antsy for their daily walk to the dog park, they may let out a fake sneeze right in front of you in order to get some well-deserved attention!

2. Allergies

Sneezing Brazilian Mastiff

Similar to humans, dogs get allergies! Seasonal changes, such as the increase of pollen in the spring, could make your dog sneeze. But it isn’t just seasonal allergies that have the potential to make your pooch sneeze- some dogs can also have an allergy to things such as chicken, dairy, and beef, among many other things. If you notice your dog experiencing frequent sneezing in a certain situation or environment, it could be due to an allergy. 

3. Strong Smells or Irritants

Another possibility of why you may find your dog sneezing is if they are around strong smells or irritants. A dog’s nose has an impressive sense of smell, so just because you can’t smell it, doesn’t necessarily mean they can’t. Things like strong perfumes, candles, or other aerosols can cause irritation to your dog’s nasal cavity. A quick sneeze, or maybe a little longer of a sneezing fit, can momentarily help this problem, but it’s important to try to help your dog avoid these irritants.

Chihuahua puppy sneezes in flower petals

4. Other Health Concerns

If you notice your dog is experiencing excessive sneezing and the reasons above don’t line up, it could be due to a different health concern. It may be as simple as a bug being caught in their nasal passage, or a case of the dog-cold, but it’s worth getting checked out by your vet to make sure your pooch is in good health. Other less common concerns include nasal mites, tumors, or infections, which your vet will be able to help you with.

For more, check out these articles!

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Written by: Will Storie

October 30, 2018

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