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Why Your Dog Sniffs The Walls! – (5 Key Causes)

This bizarre behavior leaves dog owners scratching their heads with confusion.

If your dog sniffs the walls, you are likely wondering why and what it means. Is there something wrong with your dog? What could possible be causing this weird behavior.

This article explains why your dog is sniffing the walls and what you can do about it.


Why Your Dog Sniffs The Walls: The 5 Reasons

Reasons why dogs sniff the wall include: Curiosity, smelling another dog or animal, food or drink spills, due to an obsessive-compulsive disorder, or an underlying health issue.

1. Curiosity

It’s entirely possible that your dog is sniffing the walls out of simple curiosity. There’s isn’t anything wrong with an occasional wall-sniff. Dog’s, after all, use their nose to understand their surroundings and environment.

With their sense of smell being up to 100,000 times better than ours, it’s no wonder they’re sniffing everything.

2. Your dog can smell other dogs

When you’re out walking with your dog, it’s pretty much guaranteed that many other dogs have previously walked where you are walking.

Dog’s are always marking where they go with their own scent, usually intentionally, but sometimes unintentionally too. Walls are a classic place where dogs walk beside, rub against, and most certainly urinate up.

Your dog will be able to smell previous dogs extremely easily and as dogs are territorial animals, this is of great importance to your pooch. “What dogs have been in my area?” is what he’s likely thinking.

This could also be the case inside your home if the previous owners had a pet. You would be surprised to know that the scent of another animal could still be in your house for up to 1 year after they’ve gone. Your dog knows the answer…

3. There’s food or drink on the wall

This will certainly be true for the walls outside in public, but it can also be the case for the walls inside your home.

Especially in the kitchen! You would be surprised just how far spits on oil from the frying pan go, or unintentional splatters off plates of food. Most of the time, we probably can’t even see it! But don’t forget that your dog can definitely smell it! It’s normal for them to inspect and lick any remnants of what they believe to be food.

4. Obsessive compulsive disorder

If you notice that your dog is constantly sniffing walls, inside and outside of your home, it may suggest that he has developed an obsessive-compulsive disorder. It’s hard to say what causes this to happen and the best course of action is to schedule an appointment with your veterinarian.

Obsessive disorders can usually be rectified with behavior training, depending on how far along they’ve developed.

5. Other health issues

In rare cases, wall sniffing may be caused by neurological issues. This can all be affected by health issues like Cushing’s disease, liver failure, or seizures. It’s impossible to diagnose correctly yourself so in cases where you consider there to be something wrong, you must seek help from a veterinarian.

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Important Things To Consider

To have a rough idea of what’s behind your dog’s wall-sniffing behavior, you need to think about these three questions:

  • Where does it happen
  • When (how often) does it happen
  • When did it start

Where does it happen?

Does it happen only inside your home, or does it happen outside? or both? If it just happens outside of your home it’s likely that it’s caused by the smells of other dogs and animals.

Or does it happen only in your kitchen near where you serve food? it’s possible’s that there are a few small dinner splats on your wall, or the kids have been flicking broccoli across the room! The location will be a big factor in helping you determine the cause.

How often does it happen?

Is it happening constantly?… you wake up in the morning and there we go again, your dog’s face is up against the wall giving it a good sniffing.

Or maybe it happens at certain times of the day? The big factor here would be if your dog is sniffing constantly, this would suggest that he’s developed an obsessive-compulsive disorder, or that he has an underlying health issue.

It could even be caused by stress. Either way, if it’s constant, you should visit a veterinarian.

When did it start?

It’s also worth thinking about when it started. Perhaps you’ve moved house and the sniffing has only been since that moment. Or it could be that this behavior is completely random and you’ve never seen it before, this may be just a random act and isn’t anything to be worried about.

On the contrary, it may be something your dog has been doing for a long time, which in that case it’s definitely worth ruling out health issues with your veterinarian.

What Can You Do About It

Take a look below at the best things you can do about your dog sniffing the wall.

1. Rule out health issues (see a veterinarian)

If this behavior has been happening for a while, or it happens all the time and cannot be explained logically, then definitely schedule an appointment with your veterinarian to find rule out health concerns. This is always the first thing to do.

There’s no point trying training methods to get your dog to stop sniffing the wall if it’s being caused by a health problem. In that case, the health problem needs to be addressed and solved as a top priority. After this, the behavior may even completely stop.

2. Positive reinforcement that encourages him to stay away

Positive reinforcement is a term that’s frequently used in the dog training world, and there’s a good reason for that, it really works!

Dogs learn the best through association and repetitiveness. So the next time your dog goes towards the wall, it’s important for you to redirect him and draw his attention away from the wall and onto something else like a toy. The moment you feel his attention is completely away from the wall, give him a treat, and offer praise.

It sounds simple, but with time, it will build a strong link to him, that he gets rewarded for chewing or sniffing his toy, rather than a wall. It’s not about punishing him when he gets something wrong, it’s about consciously rewarding behavior that you want to see again, and again. This way, your dog will start doing more of it, and less of what you don’t want. It takes time, but it works.

3. Consider your dogs routine, life, and exercise

This is a little broad, but it’s incredibly important. Take a second to consider your dog’s life, and be honest. Is he receiving everything he really needs? Breed matters here, because all breeds require different things.

If you have a breed that requires a lot of exercise, training, and stimulation, then you have to make sure he’s receiving adequate amounts on a daily basis!

Boredom and stress can develop in dogs that aren’t satisfied with their life, and this can cause a huge range of not only behavior issues, but health issues too. So think about the kind of life your dog has and whether or not he’s satisfied.

Last Thoughts

If you are ever unsure, it’s always best to visit your veterinarian. It’s hard to diagnose issues from the comfort of our home and we aren’t professionals (even me) and when the health of your pet is on the line, visiting a veterinarian is the right thing to do.


Before making any decisions that could affect the health and/or safety of your dog, you should always consult a trained veterinarian in your local area. Even though this content may have been written/reviewed by a trained veterinarian, our advice to you is to always consult your own local veterinarian in person. Please read our full dislcaimer if you have any questions.