Does your dog take forever on walks, smelling every last inch of ground? Do they sometimes lick the ground, or have you actually caught them in the act of licking another dog's urine? Good news - I promise you’re not alone, and your dog is not a freak!
Because the organ is located in the soft tissue between the nose and mouth, dogs lick to obtain more of the scent. It’s particularly of interest to unaltered dogs because they are picking up on pheromones that play an essential role in communication and sexual behavior.
Pheromones are chemical substances secreted by glands. They are found in saliva, feces, and urine. When your dog licks urine, they are essentially “reading” the pheromones from another dog that will then cause specific behavioral reactions including sexual behaviors.
You may have seen your dog puff his lips out, or appear to quiver his lower jaw. This is actually a flehmen response.
The flehmen response is linked to the Jacobson’s organ. An animal will curl its upper lip and inhale to pull in the scent to the Jacobson’s organ. This behavior is probably most recognizable in ungulates (hooved mammals), like horses.
There are some serious diseases that can be contracted via contact with urine, like canine leptospirosis. But if your dog follows a regular vaccination schedule or has a strong immune system fueled by a healthy fresh food diet, they are less likely to contract any sickness or disease.
So next time your dog licks urine, don’t get too upset. Let them experience this natural behavior. It is important to let dogs use their nose and practice sniffing behavior on their walks for their mental well-being.
Another way to encourage positive sniffing behavior is to work with your dog at scent training. Nosework is a sport that is similar to what detection dogs do. This is great enrichment for high energy dogs, especially when you have a rainy day, or cannot spend time outdoors.You can also use a snuffle mat to encourage your dog to sniff and find hidden treats. These activities are mentally tiring, and may decrease your dogs sniffing on short walks and potty breaks!