Butt sniffing is a weird thing dogs do to get to know each other. Its like a doggie text message full of info. It's totally normal and you should allow your dog to sniff other dogs butts, as well as let other dogs sniff theirs.
Ample butt-sniffing time can reduce the chance of reactivity when compared to head-on play right off the bat.
Here, Calcifer and Evelyn were meeting for the first time and doing a little circle dance, downloading info on the other dog before play bowing and playing chase.
But there ARE times you want to stop butt-sniffing BEFORE it turns into reactivity:
1. If one dog is unrelenting; If the sniffing dog continues to follow the other dog everywhere after a few minutes continuing to sniff the other dogs butt, which is annoying and can lead to a snap or even a fight.
2. If one of the dogs tail is tucked and they are lowering their butt to the ground to avoid being sniffed
3. If a dog is rolled on their back - a quick sniff is fine, but any more than that is intrusive. Usually the belly-up is an appeasing behavior when meeting new dogs, telling the other dog(s) they are uncomfortable and mean no harm and they need some space. Too much sniffing can cause the dog to become reactive if no one advocates for their space.
4. If the intensity of the sniff becomes overbearing; for example, if a dog pushes their nose into the other dog's nether regions. Some bigger dogs will even lift up a smaller dog by lifting their hind quarters with their snoot!
5. If one of the dogs is standing very still and staring back at the other dog sniffing their butt, or staring at you with big open eyes (aka "help me" eyes). This can be only half a second of stillness, or several seconds, but can result in a dog snapping or biting the other pup if they are fearful or uncomfortable.
6. If you know your dog does not like their butt being sniffed (often a sign of under-socialization), advocate for their space before it becomes a problem. Telling the other dog "oh Fluffy doesn't like that," won't help, but removing Fluffy from the situation or body-blocking will.
Let's all advocate for our dogs a little bit more in 2024!