Wet Noses Howling and Digging

Updated November 29, 2020

When we were kids we used to ask these questions. Then we stopped. Finally, here are the answers!

Why do dogs have wet noses?

The answer is: all the better to smell you by! There is a thin layer of specialised mucus in the moisture. It helps trap odour particles that are then transferred to the olfactory receptors inside the nose.

This makes perfect sense. All animals with acute senses of smell have wet noses; its something like an enhancer. Some people say dogs’ noses are wet to help keep them cool, or due to allergies, but these ideas don’t explain why noses are wet all the time. Read more here.

Does a dry nose mean a dog is sick? Although it’s true that a dehydrated dog often has a dry nose, it’s not that simple. Some dogs (like many Boxers) always have a dry nose and plenty of sick dogs have wet noses. If a dog is sick, a more reliable way of knowing is by behaviour change like being lethargic, quiet or not hungry.

Where does the moisture come from? Some may come from the tongue but this fact will surprise you: when a dog’s eye stops producing tears, the nose dries out on the same side!

Why do dogs howl?

They’re trying to tell us something, but what?

First, there’s normal howling. Wolf packs howl to:

  • communicate with each other
  • locate other members, and
  • declare their territory to outsiders

Just like wolves, if our dogs hear another dog howling, they’ll probably start too. With your dog’s amazing hearing you may not even hear the other dog.

Sirens, musical instruments and even singing can also trigger this instinctive vocalisation. It’s only a problem if the trigger stimulus happens frequently. If so, call us for help.

Abnormal howling is the sign of a dog in trouble. If your neighbours complain about howling all day your dog may be just bored or lonely. Are you giving all the play, attention and exercise his or her breed needs every day?

If you also notice other things like destruction, chewing, repetitive pacing, toileting problems or other signs of distress your dog probably has a serious anxiety disorder. We’re here to help.

How do you stop dogs from digging?

Why do dogs dig?

  • For fun mostly, but also:
  • to dig up their bones or other foods
  • to hunt garden critters
  • to escape, and
  • to make cool beds, especially in summer.

Most dog digging is normal behaviour, especially for terrier breeds.

digging dog

To reduce a dog’s digging is all about giving good alternatives like play, walks, bones and treat dispensers. The more other fun stuff taking up your dog’s time and energy, the less they will dig. The only way to stop digging completely is to prevent your dog from having access to diggable areas. If you feel the need to do this you probably shouldn’t have a dog.

Have you thought about creating an allowed digging area with soft sand and buried toys? Put matting around new plants you don’t want dug up and sprinkle their faeces on top. Don’t let them see you digging if you don’t want them to join in!

If your dog is digging to escape and an undesexed male, desexing often helps a lot. However, escape attempts can also be a sign of serious separation anxiety so please call us if you suspect this. 

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By Andrew Spanner BVSc(Hons) MVetStud, a vet in Adelaide, Australia. Meet his team here.