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Why Do Dogs Sneeze When Playing, Happy, Or Excited?

At A Glance

Why do dogs sneeze? A sneezing dog is definitely high on the list of the cutest things to witness. But did you know that they achoo for a number of reasons? Unlike humans who need to sneeze to expel dust or foreign objects, dogs do so because:

  • They’re having fun playing!
  • They want your attention.
  • Something from the environment entered their noses, irritating it.
  • It’s a symptom of a cold, nasal infection, or some other sickness.

Last Updated on: Nov 21, 2022

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What? Again?

If it seems to you like your dog sneezes at every chance they get, you’re not way off.

They do it when playing with a toy or a friend, welcoming you home from work, and relaxing on their back.

In fact, dogs can actually induce sneezes when they’re excited or having fun. Their little faces scrunch up and it looks utterly adorable.

However, not all their sneezes are about good times. Some indicate illness or allergic reactions.

Let’s decode what your pet’s sneezes mean, and when they become a cause for worry.

The Play Sneeze

As a pet parent, you must’ve wondered, why does my dog sneeze when playing?

Dogs sneezing when playing is a short burst that comes from the nose, as opposed to a deeper sneeze from the chest. Their lips tend to curl up during light and playful moments — that movement alone is enough to trigger a little sneeze.

“Increased activity and facial expression changes in an excited dog can change the way air moves through nasal passages. This can change the rhythm of their breathing”, says Dr. Sarah Ochoa, a veterinarian in Texas.

Whether alone with their toys or play-fighting with other pups, your dog sneezes to show eagerness.

Play sneezing can translate to other exciting moments in your dog’s life, such as when you come home after a long day or when guests come to the door. Your dog may then sneeze to convey its excitement”, adds Dr. Ochoa.

So, why do dogs sneeze when excited? It’s just one of those incredibly cute traits nature has bestowed upon them to melt our hearts.

It could also be a message to other dogs: “Hey! Let’s mess around and have fun!”

why do dogs sneeze - infographic image

The Gimme-Attention Sneeze

Along the same lines of a short, playful nasal reflex, dogs sneeze when they want attention. This typically means, “Human, I need you to look at me. Right. Now!”

If they don’t succeed at first try, they’ll get closer to you, make sure you’re looking, and sneeze again.

And when you’ve missed walk time or meal time? Expect a few short sneezes coming your way.

The Health-Related Sneeze

It’s not always fun and games when it comes to dog sneezing. Sometimes, their sneezes can signal a health issue or concern.

These are a few ailments that manifest in achoos:


Just like humans, dogs also can be allergic to loads of things, such as a change in temperature, seasonal transitions, or even too much pollen. You might notice this type of sneeze occurring around those specific circumstances.

“A sneeze is triggered when an irritant enters a dog’s nose or pharynx — where the nasal passages meet the throat. Dogs forcefully expel air through the nose to clear the respiratory tract of foreign particles”, says Dr. Lori Teller, DVM, DABVP (canine/feline), CVJ.

If you’ve ever asked yourself, why does my dog keep sneezing, allergies could be the answer.

Nasal Mites

While fairly uncommon, canine nasal mites affect dogs of all ages, breeds, and sizes. However, studies show that larger and older (3 years and above) ones are more vulnerable to this affliction.

Nasal mite infestation happens when mites enter and thrive in your pet’s sinuses and nasal passages.

Aside from constant sneezing, you might notice other symptoms like:

  • discharge and/or bleeding from the nose
  • inability to smell
  • reverse sneezing (rapid inhaling)
  • labored, high-pitched, loud breathing
  • face itchiness
  • head shaking

Occasionally, a dog with nasal mites would be restless, cough, or collapse.

If you notice these in your pet, bring it to your vet so they can perform a nasal scopy and flushing to check for mites.

Colds and Infections

Dogs can catch viral infections and colds just like us. These cause respiratory troubles like coughing, deep sneezing originating from the lungs, and lots of nasal discharge. In serious cases, they can contract a fever, too.

Other ailments that provoke sneezing are kennel cough, canine flu, and pharyngeal gag reflux (reverse sneezing).

It’s always a good idea to consult a vet if you suspect your dog might have a cold or an infection, no matter how mild it may seem.

dog sneezing

The Strong Smell Sneeze

Why do dogs sneeze when smelling certain odors?

Well, those can tick off a dog’s incredibly sensitive sense of smell. Their noses can detect a LOT of scents. This super proclivity could also be the culprit for your pet’s sneezes.

Dogs possess a sense of smell powerful enough to detect substances at concentrations of one part per trillion—a single drop of liquid in 20 Olympic-size swimming pools! It’s many times more sensitive than even the most advanced man-made instrument.

Your perfume, scented candles around the house, and the air freshener in your car can all make your pet go achoo even if their aromas are mild.

Similarly, smoke and cleaning products smell strong enough to irritate your dog’s keen nose.

And when they engage in rough and tumble play, or even bump their nose somewhere, they can sneeze. Why? Well, these movements stimulate your pup’s delicate nerves.

So, why do dogs snort when playing? It’s similar to when an irritant enters their nasal pathways.


As we’re already aware, dogs sneeze to inform their canine friends that they don’t mean any harm while engaging in rough play and playful biting.

Sometimes, their sneezes are a signal that they’re done with the play. When they want to stop, a short sneeze may accompany their refusal to further rough around.

But sneezing can mean communication on deeper levels, too.

One 2017 study found that wild African dogs use sneezes for negotiating that shaped collective decision making. They would commonly start sneezing if they wanted to leave gatherings of the pack.

Additionally, dogs sneezing to communicate doesn’t just extend to other canines.

Experienced vet tech Dina Fantegrossi, who also writes for iHeartDogs, advises, “Since dogs mimic our facial expressions and empathetically yawn when we do in order to bond with us, you may want to try ‘play sneezing’ at your pup.”

It will surely forge the connection between you two. She adds, “He may become very excited, wag his tail, play-bow, or bring you his favorite toy to show he understands your gesture… or he may just look at you like you’re crazy!”


Do dogs sneeze when they are happy? Absolutely!

A short burst of a sneeze coming from their nose also displays happiness. Many dog parents will swear to that. Their pets do it when they come home from work, head towards the treats cabinet, or present toy gifts.

Dog dad Paul Kelly of Florida calls it “snot of joy” because “it’s similar to how people get choked up or have their eyes start watering” when they’re emotional.

Why do dogs sneeze when they’re happy? It is their way of telling you that they feel loved and that your caring for them is very much appreciated.

dog sneezing

Frequently Asked Questions

When Should I Be Worried?

Your dog’s sneezes coupled with nasal discharge, bleeding, or a lot of itching on their face could mean a health issue. Typically, colds or nasal infections are the culprit.

Sometimes things can get stuck in their nasal passages without you realizing it. If your pet goes out often and explores around in the yard a lot, keep checking its nose.

For frequent sneezing, contact a vet. It’s always best to get a check up done.

What is Reverse Sneezing?

Why do dogs sneeze a lot? It could be reverse sneezing!

That’s when dogs rapidly inhale through their nose. They could be reacting to inflammation, infections, or irritants in their nasal pathway.

However, reverse sneezing can also happen if they’re very excited.

Are Some Breeds More Prone to Sneezing?


Brachycephalic breeds—those with short snouts and small muzzles—tend to sneeze more than others. These include flat-faced dogs like Boston terrier, pug, Pekingese, and English bulldog.

Such breeds sneeze more because of their anatomy. They have shorter noses, longer and thicker soft palates, narrower nostrils, and smaller skulls compared to others. All these features make it more difficult for them to breathe.

Why Do Dogs Sneeze When They Play Together?

Dogs sneeze while engaged in play to let each other know that they aren’t being aggressive and that all the rough play is just for fun.

why do dogs sneeze - tweet

Why Do Dogs Snort When Playing?

They give out a little snort from their noses when they get excited during play.

Why do dogs sneeze when playing? This could convey happiness and also show a non-threatening position.

Why Does My Dog Sneeze When I Kiss Him?

Canines don’t typically understand kisses the way humans do. To them, it can be a confusing gesture. So they let out a little sneeze, as if to say, “Hey! What was that about?”

Sometimes, they sneeze to show amusement at their human parent’s behavior.

Why Do Dogs Sneeze When On Their Back?

When your pet lies on its back, nasal drip (mucus falling back into the nostrils) can sometimes occur and cause slight irritation.

Worry not, it’s absolutely normal!

Why Do Dogs Sneeze When They Wake Up?

The allergens entering their noses during nighttime might bother them as soon as they’re up in the morning. Those sneezes are just meant to clear out any dust or irritants that might have found their way into their nostrils while they were asleep!



Meet Paul, a devoted dog dad to the delightful French Bulldog, Cofi. With a flair for humor and a deep understanding of Frenchie quirks, Paul brings a lighthearted touch to his writings. His relatable stories and practical insights are a blend of laughter and valuable advice and resonate with fellow dog owners.

Through his words, Paul aims to celebrate the joys and challenges of being a dedicated pet parent, reminding you that life is simply better with a four-legged, snorting sidekick by your side.