Among a dog’s most powerful tools is the nose which makes identifying changes in their humans a piece of cake.
They can track bodies, identify illegal substances, and sniff out diseases such as diabetes or even cancer.
But can they smell a woman’s period?
Dogs are definitely equipped with the tools to sniff out when a woman is on her period.
A 2022 study found out that dogs can discriminate between human baseline and stress odors (36 samples were presented to 4 dogs across 36 sessions).
In addition to the strong metallic scent (often described as iron-like or coppery) and the odor of all mixed bodily fluids that heavily depend on each individual, there are also hormonal changes.
As I’ve outlined in another article, dogs may be able to detect hormonal changes when their humans are pregnant as well as the accompanying behavioral changes.
Will your dog be affected by it though?
Yes, in case your behavior changes or you experience stress during your own period, it’s likely that your dog will be affected by it.
But the odor and chemical changes themselves shouldn’t bother most dogs, although they may create displacement behaviors such as excited humping or undesired sniffing.
Forceful sniffing actually happens between dogs too, for example, when a male notices a female in heat.
There are ways to curb that behavior as outlined in that article and it’s crucial to avoid conflict between two dogs.
Regarding a woman’s period and a dog who’s taking an interest in it: As long as it’s not a guest or stranger, sniffing is usually not concerning unless your dog is obsessing about the smell and displaying restlessness or other unusual behaviors.
But is there a difference between how it affects males versus females?
Are Male Dogs More Affected By Your Period?
That’s where some people jump to the conclusion that males must be attracted by the smell as they are attracted by that stunning female dog in heat living down the street.
Whereas males may be naturally inclined to identify potential mating partners by smell, it doesn’t mean that a male canine’s interest automatically translates from female dogs to humans.
Furthermore, it doesn’t mean that males have a stronger sense of smell compared to females, on the contrary actually.
Female dogs may even have a slight edge considering this study found they have more active cells in their olfactory bulbs.
In addition to that, females may be more apt at tasks such as identifying levels of competence in humans which means they may be more receptive to behavioral cues from their two-legged friends.
Scent-driven dogs will be more likely to sniff excessively regardless of gender, however, dogs trained to greet politely and calmly may suppress that urge.
How To Handle This
To limit the effect that a human handler’s period has on their dog, it’s best to just keep calm, not change anything in your behavior or the dog’s routine, and cut curious dogs some slack as long as it doesn’t inconvenience anyone.
Another article mentions that you should use “scent-masking products”.
There’s no scientific evidence that masking your scent is necessary or helpful, it should not trigger a healthy dog. Stick to the routine and provide mental and physical stimulation. That’s it.
What I most commonly see is false causality.
People may behave differently during turbulent or generally demanding times and that’s reflected in the dog’s behavior but it doesn’t mean the period itself has caused it.
Do yourself – or recommend it to the affected person – a favor and reduce your own stress levels and take a more laid-back approach to make caring for your dog as stress-free as possible, no matter the circumstances.
Dogs who are particularly interested may benefit from counter-conditioning and being taught a non-compatible behavior (e.g. lying down or going to their bed). Mental and physical stimulation is crucial.
Summary & My Personal Tips
A quick little summary to understand what your pup may experience when somebody close to them in the same household is on her period.
- Dogs may detect stress, the coppery smell, as well as hormonal changes
- Canines are great observers so your behavior changes can affect them
- Displacement behaviors are possible
- Forceful sniffing can be curbed but usually just signals curiosity
- Female dogs may actually have a stronger sense of smell
While protective or curious behavior can be accepted to some degree, aggression is never normal.
If your dog does behave aggressively and you suspect it may be related to your own menstrual cycle, it’s best to consult a licensed behaviorist and vet. Evaluate your own behavior in the past (i.e. has anything changed).Disclaimer: This blog post does not substitute veterinary attention and does not intend to do so. I am not a veterinarian or pet nutritionist. If your dog shows any sign of illness, call your vet.