Alexandra Horowitz's new book is Being a Dog: Following the Dog Into a World of Smell.
From the transcript of her interview with Fresh Air's Terry Gross:
GROSS: We've all had the experience of going to visit the home of a friend where we haven't been before. The friend has a dog. The first thing they do when you arrive is greet you by smelling your crotch, which is embarrassing for everybody. So why do dogs do that?The Page 99 Test: Inside of a Dog.
HOROWITZ: It's a really smelly place. I mean, dogs are extremely good at honing in on the parts of us that happen to smell. And we secrete a lot of smells from a couple of parts of our body - the crotch, the armpits, the mouth.
You know, one of the things you can do when you don't like that, which most people don't, is give them something else to smell. You know, they might be preoccupied with the smell of your ear, for instance. We have lots of glands that give off odors around our face, and that might suffice to be information about you. That's all the dog is trying to get, information. I love that we often feel like the dog is being impolite in that case. And many people will not unreasonably train their dogs not to do that. But I also see it as just the dog's way of...[read on]
Visit Alexandra Horowitz's dog cognition website.