We hoomans are pretty set in our ‘meeting each other’ ways. We encounter each other at parties or work. Then, typically, we then share factoids about our backgrounds and a rapport is often established. Then, we Facebook friend each other and never speak in person again.
Dogs, however, don’t have it so easy…
Or do they?
Turns out, we hoomans have been taking the LONG road on the journey to friendship. Turns out, dogs have salutations alllll figured out, and they’ve been doing it this whole time right under our noses…or more specifically, under theirs.
I speak, of course, of the age-old practice of dogs sniffing other dogs’ butts. We hoomans laugh at them, we do. “They’re so weird and crazy!” we say. “Why is Rover sniffing Foofee’s butt hole?! It’s madness!” Well, no actually…its SCIENCE!
You see, a canine nose is about 10,000 to 100,000 times more sensitive than that of a hooman nose. While that instantly explains how drug dogs get their jobs, it’s also a good reminder that dogs use their nose in a whole different way than we do. A deeper way. A better way. Granted, super-sensitive smell might not sound like a day at the park, especially if that park just had a Chili cookoff, but for your pup, its a regular ol’ ice breaker.
Simply put, when a dog smells another dog’s butt, they are downloading a ton of information about that dog. Facts like the dog’s health, diet, cleanliness, and even emotional state. It’s basically a super intrusive equivalent of perusing someone’s LiveJournal. Still, that doesn’t explain the whole b-hole half of this equation. Welp, let’s say right up front that like so many other animal-related communication, it all starts with CHEMICALS!
That’s right, a dog’s brown eye is actually more complex than an iPod nano. It all starts with the anus (doesn’t it always?) as you might imagine. On either side of a dog’s anus is a small anal sac, which contains all these magical chemicals used in dog butt-based meet-n-greet. The apocrine gland emits that trademark dog smell that we weak-noses can usually pick up, but its partner in crime, the sebaceous gland can also add some flavor. Apocrine is the Simon, sebaceous is the Garfunkel.
But what the H-E-double-golf-clubs even are these chemicals? Well, the daddy chemical at play is trimethylamine featuring a bunch of short chain acids. These are responsible for that sharp dog-butt smell. HOWEVER, the emotional state, health, diet, etc. of a dog alters these chemicals accordingly. It would be like if you lost your job and your armpit sweat started smelling like Slim Jims or something as a result. I recognize that maybe thats just its natural state, but work with me here.
Still, you might be saying – dog butt/poo smell is pretty darn potent, how the mutherpuppin’ heck do the smellers get past it? The answer lies in the anatomy of a doggie nose, for it contains a whole other canal/system appropriate for just such an occasion – the vemeronasal organ (or Jacobson’s Organ,) which contains its very own set of nerves which connect directly to the brain. Its basically a filter for all the smells that WE get saddled with, oh joy. Keep the Jacobson’s Organ in mind next time you see little Foofee sniffing a fire hydrant or a strange person’s hand because THEY ARE TOTALLY USING IT!
Well, I hope we all learned something today. If nothing else, you got to read the word “butt” a lot. That’s something, right?