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13 Reasons Why Your Dog Keeps Sniffing Your Legs (& Knee)

Why Does My Dog Keep Sniffing My Legs

Your dog normally sniffs everything they encounter. 

Which made you think that they’re just exploring. 

But your dog suddenly started to sniff your legs and knees. And you can’t help but think:

“Why? Is something wrong with me?”

Read on to discover:

  • What science says about this behavior in dogs. 
  • Whether dogs can sense pregnancy in women by sniffing. 
  • 13 unexpected reasons why your dog sniffs your legs and knees.
  • And many more…

Why does my dog keep sniffing my legs?

Your dog is sniffing your legs because they adore your scent, or want your attention. They could also be greeting you, investigating you, or picking up your emotions. Or they might be sensing pregnancy. 

Why does my dog keep sniffing my knee?

Your dog is sniffing your knee because of arthritis, injury, or other diseases. They might also smell another dog’s scent or something interesting on your knees. It might also be encouraged behavior. Or they could be scent marking you. 

13 reasons why your dog keeps sniffing your legs/knees

#1: Your pooch loves your scent 

You’re walking around the house. Doing your usual stuff.

But something keeps bumping your legs.

You looked down and smiled as you saw your pooch sniffing you.

You also noticed that they sniff your knees whenever they can.

Dogs who behave like this on repeat may do it because they like your smell. Particularly if they do it with a soft gaze and a wagging tail.

“But why my knees and legs?”

Dogs may sniff those particular parts of your body because they’re reachable. Especially if you have a medium-sized fur baby. 

Your knees might be at their eye level. It’ll be easier for them to smell you that way. 

A study shows that a fur parent’s scent affects a dog’s brain. 12 dogs were tested to see how their caudate nucleus reacts to different scents. The latter included the odor of:

  • A stranger.
  • Themselves.
  • A familiar dog.
  • The dog parent.
  • An unfamiliar dog.

The caudate nucleus is a part of a dog’s brain. It’s responsible for various brain activities which include:

  • Reward.
  • Emotion.
  • Learning.
  • Memory.
  • Motivation.
  • Romantic interaction.

The study’s result suggests that a dog’s caudate nucleus activates when they smell their human. As canines felt positive expectations towards their fur parent. While the other scents didn’t affect the dogs. 

#2: Your dog is trying to get your attention

How long has it been since you played with Fido?

Have you been working all day?

If you haven’t been giving your pooch enough attention, it may cause them to sniff you.

This might be their way of getting your attention. They might also nudge their nose at your legs after sniffing it. It’s like poking you in a form of doggy language.

Besides, it’s a more appropriate way of grabbing their human’s attention. Rather than vocalizing and being destructive.

Dogs who’re used to getting a lot of attention will likely do this. Because they’ll feel strange that your attention is suddenly divided.

As a result, they’ll demand your attention by sniffing your legs and knees. They might also do the same to other parts of your body.

Some dog breeds are more prone to seek attention from their dog parents. Those are called velcro dogs a.k.a clingy pooches. Which include:

  • Pug.
  • Maltese.
  • Shih Tzu.
  • Border Collie.
  • Hungarian Vizsla.
  • Italian Greyhound.
  • Labrador Retriever.
  • Doberman Pinscher.

Further reading: 11 Cute Reasons Why Your Dog Nudges Things With His Nose

#3: Your pawed baby is greeting you

Your Dog Is Greeting You When He Keeps Sniffing Your Legs Or Knees

When did your dog start sniffing your legs and knees?

Did they do it when you just came home from work?

Or when you just woke up?

If yes, then your pooch could be greeting you.

Sniffing as a form of greeting came from canine’s history.

Wolves, a dog’s ancestors, used this in the wild to greet their pack. And up to this date, it became standard practice in dogs.

Which domestic dogs use in greeting their human pack. As well as other dogs and strangers.

This sniffing greeting makes it easy for dogs to be friends with other canines. Sniffing lets them know each other’s moods. Which makes them determine who to befriend. 

Note: Watch your pawed baby closely when you’re in public. Because some friendly pooches might sniff strangers to greet them too.

And there are people who might not take this behavior lightly. And could put you and your dog in trouble. 

They might think that your dog will attack them. When the truth is your pooch is just trying to greet them. Which is understandable too since they don’t know your dog.

Reading tip: My Dog Is Too Friendly With Strangers: 5 Reasons + 5 Tips 

#4: Your dog is trying to investigate you 

Your dog might also sniff you after you’ve been away because they want to investigate you.

And they’re gathering data through sniffing your legs and knees.

By sniffing, they’ll have answers to questions like:

“Where have you been?”

“What did you do?”

“What did you ate”

“Who’s been with you?”

A dog’s nose is so powerful that it can detect all of that information. Just by a few sniffs.

PetMD says that dogs can detect scent molecules. They can smell and analyze odors from the past and present. And even to scents that you have exposed for a short period of time.

#5: This is an encouraged behavior 

Do you find it adorable when your dog sniffs your legs and knees?

If so, there’s a great chance that you responded to it with petting. Or said:

“Awww, you’re such a cute baby.”

Responding like this may seem okay. But this may cause your dog to develop this behavior as a habit.

Some of a dog’s behavior is reinforced by fur parents. It could even be unintentional. 

How does this happen?

Let’s say your dog displays a certain behavior. Then you respond to them by giving attention, food, or petting.

“I’m rewarded, so it means human likes it.” This is how it works for canines. They’ll think you’re rewarding them by sniffing your legs and knees.

Not only that, saying “No” or “Stop” works just the same. You’re still paying attention to them.

And here’s what you have to take note of. A rewarded behavior is going to be repeated.

So, be prepared. If this behavior is reinforced, our dog will do it again and again. Only because they think that it’s right because of the rewards.

#6: Your dog is picking up your emotions 

Your pooch may also sniff you because they’re trying to pick up your emotions.

A dog’s nose can pick up scents as far as 12,40 miles (20 km). Not only that, but they can also analyze scents of their human’s emotion by sniffing.

Ever wonder why your dog comes to you when you’re sad?

But also when you’re happy? As if they’re ready to celebrate with you?

Fortunately, there’s a science to explain it to us.

A study shows that dogs are able to pick up human emotional cues. One of which is through the scent of a person’s body odor. And also through their body posture, vocal and facial expression.

Results suggest that the 26 dogs were able to determine the following emotions:

  • Fear.
  • Anger.
  • Disgust.
  • Neutral.
  • Sadness.
  • Happiness.

You might also like: 11 Reasons Why Your Dog Sniffs Your Face (Every Morning)

#7: Your fur pal smells another dog’s odor

Dogs Smell Another Dog's Odor

Did you let other dogs be near you today?

Or did you pet other dogs?

If so, that could be the reason why your pooch is sniffing your legs and knees.

As I’ve said, your dog will find out who’s been with you by sniffing. 

They’ll identify another dog’s smell. And they’ll surely know if you’ve been with other dogs when you were outside.

It’s like a wife investigating their husband. They’re trying to find signs if their husband’s seeing another girl. In your pooch’s case, it’s other dogs.

“Wait, what does this mean? Is my fur baby jealous?”

Science reveals the answer.

A study says that 18 dogs showed jealous behavior when there’s a rival around their human. And also showed jealous behavior even if the potential rival isn’t around anymore.

With this in mind, your dog might get jealous if they smell other dogs on you.

#8: Your pooch smells something nice on your legs and knees

Your pooch is sniffing your legs and knees because they might be smelling something nice.

It’s true that a dog’s nose is very sensitive. Some scents may be too strong for them. Such as the citrus ones.

But there are also scents that can be pleasant for their noses.

A study suggests that there are 4 scents that make dogs feel relaxed. 15 dogs showed less vocalization, less movement or pacing, and longer sleep duration. 

All because they were exposed to scents such as:

  • Vanilla.
  • Ginger.
  • Valerian.
  • Coconut.

With this in mind, your dog might be licking your leg’s and knee’s scent. And be the reason why they’re sniffing you there.

Say you used a vanilla-scented lotion on your legs. Or use a ginger-based ointment for your knees.

Ok, storytime!

My friend’s Shih Tzu is fond of vanilla scent.

My friend loves wearing vanilla-scented perfume. But she only uses this perfume whenever she’s going on a date with her boyfriend.

So, whenever she’s wearing perfume, her Shih Tzu, Zia, gets really clingy.

Zia would suddenly glue herself to her fur mom’s shirt. And she places her nose directly on the fabric. It’s always like that every time my friend smells like vanilla.

Try to think of any scents you use on your body that your pooch might like. 

#9: Fido is scent marking

Some of you may know that dogs scent mark through using their excrement.

But little did we know that they can do this with their nose too.


Dogs only sweat through their paw pads and nose. And as these parts or their bodies sweat, they produce pheromones.

“Hold on. What’s that?”

A study says that pheromone is a chemical. Animals produce pheromones. The latter can change the behavior of other animals from the same species. 

So dogs use pheromones in scent marking.

Now, your dog might also scent mark you when they sniff your legs or knees. This will be the case if your dog sniffed you and then rubbed their nose against your legs or knees.

Because through that, they can stick their pheromones to you. They could do that to your legs because that’s the most accessible part of your body.

#10: Your dog is sensing pregnancy 

Did you know that dogs can detect pregnancy?

Dogs have an olfactory system in their brains.

Wondering what’s that?

It’s a part of a dog’s brain wherein it analyzes odors. Through this, dogs are able to identify 30,000 to 100,000 different scents.

That’s too many scents to differentiate, right?

Now, your dog might sniff your legs if they sense a change in your hormone’s scent. Because that’s how they detect pregnancy.

“How will my dog react if they sense someone’s pregnant?”

Here’s how a dog will behave to a pregnant lady:

  • Becoming more alert. 
  • Seeking more attention.
  • Being clingier than usual.
  • Acting more affectionate than before. 
  • Becoming more protective of their female owner.
  • Being highly sensitive to the environment and people.

If you’re suspecting that you’re pregnant, this might be the reason why your dog behaves differently. iN this case, it’s best to visit a gynecologist.

Aside from having a safe pregnancy, this is to take steps in preparing your dog for the upcoming baby.

It’s because some dogs will get reactive when there’s a sudden baby added to the family. Some of them may get curious, but others could become aggressive or sad.

In case you’re wondering how to prepare for this event, here’s my guide:

  1. Plan the changes in the daily routine that you’ll have when the baby comes.
  2. Practice the changes in the daily routine with your dog gradually.
  3. Slowly minimize the attention that you give them. You may also try having a baby doll to practice on.
  4. Expose your dog to baby sounds. Such as cries, laughs, and even grunts or small noises they make.
  5. Introduce your dog to the baby’s clothes, things, and toys.
  6. If the baby is already born, bring her used clothes home first. Let your dog sniff it so they’ll get familiar with the baby’s scent.

#11: Your pawed baby detects an injury 

Your dog could be sniffing your legs because of injury.

Dogs detect so much through their nose. And injury is one of them.

Try to do a self-check. See if there’s something painful in your legs or knees.

I know that some people have a really high tolerance for pain. So, they might not be aware that they’re already injured because they can’t feel it.

You may want to see if there’s deformation or discoloration in your legs or knees. Because you might have a fracture or bone dislocation. Which is a common injury in humans.

#12: Fido smells arthritis 

Another underlying medical cause of this behavior is arthritis.

Arthritis is a condition that usually starts in the fingers and feet. Then it gradually worsens and affects the legs and knees. This causes inflammation and the breaking down of joints.

This is common in older people. But may also occur at any age through hereditary and overactive lifestyle.

Symptoms of this condition in your legs and knees are:

  • Pain.
  • Stiffness.
  • Redness.
  • Swelling.

Now, your dog might be sniffing your knees because they smell your joints swelling. Aside from that, they may also pick up painful emotions from you as the pain hits.

#13: Your pooch is checking your health

Aside from arthritis, your pooch may also detect other diseases in you. Which may cause the leg and knee sniffing behavior.

A study from 2006 shows that dogs can detect cancer. May it be at any 4 of its stages.

Trained dogs were made to sniff breath samples of cancer patients. Results showed 88% accuracy in detecting breast cancer. While they’re 99% accurate in determining lung cancer.

Also, a recent study shows that trained sniff dogs can detect COVID-19. 8 German Shepherds were trained for 1 week. Results showed that they can successfully detect the virus with 94% accuracy. 

Other than that, dogs may also detect sickness in humans such as:

  • Malaria.
  • Epilepsy.
  • Diabetes.
  • Migraines.
  • Narcolepsy.
  • Parkinson’s disease.
  • Eye infections and illnesses.

Also check out:11 Surprising Reasons Why Your Dog Sniffs Your Eyes