This Is Why Some Dogs Sneeze When They Play

Dogs definitely sneeze for the same reasons we do—sometimes, at least.

Environmental irritants like dust certainly cause sneezing, though dogs are less susceptible to allergens like the molds and pollens that typically affect human sinuses.

Dogs will also sneeze violently and frequently if a foreign object, such as a blade of grass, becomes stuck in the nasal passage.

But you may have noticed an odd sort of sneezing in your dog—one that comes right in the middle of a raucous play session with another canine friend.

But why would a dog need to sneeze during a bout of fun and excitement? Do their noses get itchy from all the bouncing around? Is it a defensive tactic to distract the other dog and gain the upper hand?
Dog behavior experts believe this particular sneeze is part of a set of a communication tools dogs use to relate to one another—to signal cooperation, warning, deference, or an invitation to play. The sneeze in this context is a reminder to the playmate that the scrimmage is just play, not a true fight.

You may notice a dog sneeze just as play begins to escalate and become more intense. The sneeze is a cue to the playmate to keep things fun, light, and safe. But it’s also a sign the dog is having a great time! And it’s definitely fun to watch.

It’s a particular joy watching dogs frolic, chase, and nip at each other. Their energy is remarkable, and their goofy dance with one another is nothing less than delightful. A few random sneezes thrown into the mix only drive up the entertainment value!

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