The Animal Doctor

Dog Body Scents

DEAR DR. FOX: I was very surprised to see your mention of fragrant scent spots on dogs in your recent column. I have a 5-year-old miniature black and tan dachshund, and several years ago, my kids and I discovered a spot on her that we later came to describe as her "sweet spot." It is located on her breastbone. I can only describe it as a very subtle flowery smell, but I can't put a flower name to it. -- L.B.

DEAR DR. FOX: We rescued a blue brindle greyhound. She smelled like baby powder until the day she passed. There didn't seem to be any particular area on her body from which the smell emanated, but we loved to stick our noses in her soft, silky fur and breathe in her scent. Of course, the noseful of hair was a drawback. Subsequent greyhounds have remained scentless. -- G.C.

DEAR DR. FOX: Our German shepherd, spayed at an early age, had a very pleasant flowery smell on each cheek, like your new dog. It seemed to fade with age. I've had many dogs in my life, but she was the first female and the only one with the flowery smell, almost like a delicate perfume. -- B.E.

DEAR DR. FOX: We had a Scottish terrier who had that wonderful puppy smell on the very top of his head all the years he was alive. You know -- that wonderful scent that usually goes away early on. He kept it only on the top of his head. Lovely. -- R.W.

DEAR DR. FOX: I presently have shelter-adopted mutt mother dog Sunnie, and her son Danny. Danny smells like brown sugar. He is now 7 1/2, and the smell is a bit fainter, but still there, mainly along his neck but also a bit on his chest. No matter how long we go between baths, he never smells doggy. His mama smells feral. Not doggy -- feral. She has a faint musky odor; your nose has to be in her fur to notice it, but it's there. Too long between baths, and she will feel a bit oily.

And yes, they do have popcorn-smelling feet, too. My 12th birthday gift (oh so many decades ago) was Sandy, a basenji, and her stomach smelled like rosewater and her feet like popcorn. -- B.W.

DEAR RESPONDENTS: Thanks to you all for sharing about your dogs' scents. I can see some dogs feeling surprised, or thinking "it's about time!" for their human companions to really start sniffing them.

Our noses can give us rapture with certain aromas or alarm when another's familiar scent has changed, even making one want to vomit with the sensation of something going sour or rotting. Veterinarians and others caring for animals use their sense of smell as a diagnostic tool, just as dogs are now being employed after selective training to detect the presence of bladder and other cancers in humans, using their noses that are some 100 times more sensitive than ours.


-- Founding father of ethology, the science of animal behavior, Dr. Konrad Lorenz: "Far from seeing in man the irrevocable and unsurpassable image of God, I assert (more modestly and, I believe, in greater awe of the Creation and its infinite possibilities) that the long-sought missing link between animals and the really humane being is ourselves!"

-- Ethologist Frans de Waal, Ph.D., has concluded: "The more self-aware an animal is, the more empathetic it tends to be."

-- Anthropologist Loren Eiseley wrote: "One does not meet oneself until one catches the reflection from an eye other than human."

(Send all mail to or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns.

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