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Why does my dog sneeze when they play?

mixed breed dog doing play bow with pink toy

Sneezing is a communicative tool for dogs

© Emily on Time - Shutterstock

Dogs sneeze for a variety of reasons, and most of the time, it has to do with an irritant in the nasal cavity. But why do they always sneeze when they play?

By Justine Seraphin

Updated on the

Sneezing is completely normal for dogs and you shouldn't worry too much if you notice your dog doing it. Most of the time, sneezing is an involuntary response for dogs: They have an irritant in their nasal cavity, so the body naturally reacts with a sneeze to try and expel that irritant.

There is a time when dog sneezing has nothing to do with an irritant in the nose, though. And if you have a dog, then you've probably witnessed it before: Dogs tend to sneeze when they're playing! But why does this happen?

Why do dogs sneeze when play fighting?

Dogs use sneezing when playing as a communicative tool. By sneezing, dogs are ensuring you (or their canine companions) that they're having a friendly interaction with you. Playful sneezes are calming signals that say "this is all fun and games and even if I'm biting or growling, you're in no danger." How cute is that?

Why does my dog sneeze when I come home?

Dogs' lips have a tendency to curl up when they get excited - this in turn causes the nose to wrinkle up, tickling your dog and enducing a sneeze. A dog who's sneezing and wagging their tail is basically telling you: "I'm happy!" You may notice the same behaviour when your dog gets a new toy or sees something they really like (e.g. their favourite treat!).

Why does my dog sneeze when he wakes up?

If your dog sneezes when they wake up, it could be a sign of excitement. They've just opened their eyes and are happy to see you there, and excited to get some cuddles or go for a walk! However, excessive sneezing could be a sign that something is wrong. If you have any doubts, pay attention to your dog's facial expressions and body language. If your dog's behaviour doesn't say "I'm happy" - then the sneezing might be due to something else. If this is the case, best to go talk to your vet.

Dog sneezing to communicate

As you'll have understood, dogs use sneezing as a communicative tool. If you notice your dog sneezing during playtime, it could mean any of the following: "I'm happy", "I'm excited", and/or "I'm comfortable with this situation". Wild dogs do this too! Make sure to check in with your pet though. Sneezing could also be a way of telling you they're getting tired and need to catch their breath for a minute.

Does your dog sneeze a lot while you play?

Frequently asked questions

Why do dogs snort when playing?

Why does my dog get excited when I sneeze?

Why does my dog keep sneezing?

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