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Why Does My Dog Get Excited When I Sneeze? This May Surprise You.

OK, so why does my dog get excited when I sneeze?

Simple - your dog is extremely sensitive to their owner and what happens to them, since they are the most important being in their life. You are, in a very real sense, their Alpha dog. Dogs have evolved over millennia to be social animals in tune with their pack, and their survival has depended on keeping close tabs on each other.

When you sneeze, it’s an unexpected and exciting noise that your dog will want to examine closely. They want to make sure that you’re ok, and will come over to you and pay close attention to you.

In fact, you may be reinforcing this behavior yourself. Remember in the past when you’ve sneezed, and your dog got real excited and came over to check you out? What did you do in response?

Since it’s kind of cute and adorable when your dog gets all up in arms over a simple sneeze, I bet you patted them on their head, maybe even gave them a treat. This creates a positive reinforcement feedback loop that makes your dog keep doing the same thing the next time it happens.

What else can your dog do when you sneeze?

If a dog is extra sensitive to noise, a loud sneeze may scare them. A scared dog can bark, jump on or climb on you, or maybe run away and hide in a safe place.

If you feel this reaction is a problem, you can help your dog cope with your sneezing in a few different ways.

  1. Whenever you feel a sneeze coming on, prepare a treat for your dog. As you sneeze, you give them the treat. This will teach them to associate your sneezing or coughing with getting a treat, which over time will help them not get scared or react negatively.
  2. You can also sit with your dog when you sneeze, and show them that even though your face scrunches up and you make a strange noise it’s not dangerous. They'll see that you’re just fine, it didn’t affect you in any way. Your dog should learn to cope with the noise over time.
  3. You can try throwing a toy away from you when a sneeze is coming up. This will get your dog running off to fetch the toy, and hopefully distract them from the scary sneeze. This may be hard to coordinate, especially if you’re feeling under the weather and sneeze a lot. It can also be slightly confusing to your dog, since you’re playing with it but also feel sick.

Which dog breeds are extra sensitive to loud noises like sneezing and coughing?

A scientific study from 2015 showed that three dog breeds are the most sensitive to sound:

Norwegian Buhund (aka Norsk buhund)

The Norwegian Buhund has been shown to be sensitive to noise.

Irish Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier

The Irish Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier also has great hearing, and can be quite sensitive to loud noises.

Lagotto Romagnolo

The third breed that the scientific study found was prone to excitement by loud noises was the Lagotto Romagnolo.

If you own a dog that belongs to one of these breeds you may find that they’re extra attentive to sounds and noises you make, since their hearing is even keener than that of other dog breeds.

Which breeds are more tolerant to noises and disturbances?

Boxer

Chinese Crested

Great Dane

According to the same study the above three breeds have been shown statistically to be less prone to fretting over unexpected noise. This could be due to the fact that they are not quite as keen of hearing, but it could also be because these breeds are more even keeled in temper generally.

Summary

So your dog gets really excited when you cough or sneeze. Now that you have a better understanding of why it happens, I’d encourage you not to worry about it. It’s just a dog thing, and you love your dog, right?

If you want to correct your dog’s behavior you also have some tools for that. Just make sure you don’t send mixed signals though, because your dog will pick up on any clue you leave. If you’re secretly enjoying the attention your dog gives you when you sneeze, but also try to discourage the behavior, that’s a recipe for disaster. Good luck!

Cover photo by Tamas Pap on Unsplash.

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