Dust, allergies and even sunlight can trigger a sneezing fit in adults. But what about dogs, and why do dogs sneeze when they play exactly?

If you've been noticing sneezing while toying around with your pup, you might be concerned. Well, rest assured that sneezing during play sessions is completely normal. Below, we'll explore what causes this phenomenon.

Why Dogs Sneeze When They Play

There's no one, single cause behind your canine friend having a sneezing fit while they're playing with you or another dog. Here are a few different reasons why your dog might sneeze when playing.

  • Showing affection: Also known as "fake sneezes," this kind of playful sneeze might be used when your dog wants to show you that they're fooling around rather than being aggressive. They originate in the nasal cavity as opposed to the lungs, which is why it may seem like your dog is having a rapid sneezing fit. However, they cause no harm or distress to your pup.
  • Expressing their enjoyment: When your dog sneezes while playing, they can simply be telling you how much fun they're having. If coupled with lots of tail wagging and generally excitable behavior, it probably means they’re having a blast.
  • Communicating with you or other dogs: We communicate with words, but dogs don't have that luxury. As we're exploring here, sneezing can have many meanings, both intentional and unintentional. In addition to being playful, when used with other dogs, sneezing can mean, “You’re taking things too far,” or, “I need a breather.”
  • Asking for attention: When our pets sneeze, we tend to notice. If a human sneezes, we'll normally respond with something along the lines of “Bless you.” And let’s face it, we tend to do the same with our animals out of affection and rarity. Sometimes, your dog will pick up on the attention that it receives from the action. So, they may use sneezing to signal that it’s time to give them your undivided attention and play with them.

There are other reasons behind dogs sneezing while being playful, including some signs that you need to watch out for:

  • Symptoms of ill health: Certain health conditions can cause sneezing in dogs, such as pneumonia. These conditions can be worsened by exertion - which will result in symptoms being more obvious during play sessions. In cases where a respiratory ailment is responsible for the sneezing, you can often expect to see mucus as a result, and their breath may sound wheezy. Be sure to schedule a trip to the vet if these signs present themselves.
  • Allergies: Dogs can be affected by allergies in much the same way as their owners. This could be from something as simple as an increased pollen count in warmer months. If you notice the sneezing predominantly when your pup is playing outside, then they might have an allergy to pollen, or a particular plant or bush. Your vet can help you determine the best course of action and treatment if needed.
  • Airway obstructions: An obstruction in your dog’s airway can cause sneezing, such as if they get a blade of grass lodged in their nasal passage. Sneezing resulting from this cause tends to be more rapid and forceful, as your pup wants to expel the object. If you notice this kind of rapid sneezing, you’ll either need to remove any visible objects or dial your vet’s emergency contact line.

Other Signs Your Dog Wants to Play

We’ve discussed how sneezing can be a form of attention-seeking behavior, but how else will you know that your dog wants some quality time with you? Below, we’ve listed a few other signs that your dog wants to play:

  • The “Play Bow” pose: This is a well-recognized sign that your dog wants a chase. First, they'll lower their front legs into a horizontal position, leaning into the bow. Then, they'll raise their hind quarters up into the air, their tail either vertical or wagging. They may also dart rapidly to either side. The meaning? “Chase me!”
  • The “Belly Rub” pose: If your dog flops onto his or her back, their belly exposed and paws in the air, it’s a sign of their trust in you and their desire for some attention. Be sure to rub their belly and offer lots of praise!

However, watch out for the warning signs of a similar belly-up pose that’s actually an avoidance technique. Their tongue and ears should be floppy, and their tail exposed. If their mouth is closed, their ears are pointed, and their tail tucked away, it’s best not to disturb them.

  • The “Toy Delivery” service: If your dog brings his or her favorite toy and drops it at your feet, there can be no other meaning. They want to play with you, and they’re even trusting you with their favorite toys! Be sure to interact with them and their belongings.

The signs that your dog wants to play with another dog, or is engaging in play rather than being aggressive, are a little different. We’ve already covered sneezing, and the “play bow” applies here too. But here are a few more signs that a dog wants to play with another dog.

  • Your dog has a goofy expression on their face, tongue lolling to one side.
  • He or she is bouncing around with excess energy, on their front paws.
  • They continually fall onto their backs, exposing their belly.
  • They growl continually and in an exaggerated way. When combined with bounciness, it’s clear that they’re just fooling around.

Despite that last point, make sure you know the signs of aggression. This includes stiffness, pinned-back ears, a closed mouth and curled lip, and low warning growls.

Otherwise, you’ll soon become adept at spotting when your canine wants to fool around and play with you or other dogs!

High five from Archie