Just as you’re getting to the good part- Who in the world put Harry’s name in the Goblet??– your pup’s head shoots upwards, with snout pointed straight at the ceiling.
He pauses, and sniffs the air with a serious look of contemplation in his eye. Sniff, sniff.
Finally, he lowers his head, content to nestle on the lush carpet. (Barty Couch, that traitorous fiend!)
You can’t even get in two more page flips when your dog lifts his head again to sniff at the ceiling. And again.
Perplexed, you wonder: “My dog keeps looking up at the ceiling and sniffing! Why?”
Well, you’re about to find out all of the reasons why- and more. Read on!
(Side note: I am a member of the Amazon Associates program. From time to time I like to recommend products in my posts that I feel may truly be helpful to readers and their pets. If you do end up buying something by clicking the links on my site, I may receive a tiny amount of commission from the big guys.
And if you do end up buying something- Thank you! I really appreciate your support and I’ll always do my best to put out more quality content for you 🙂 )
There are many possible reasons your dog is looking up at the ceiling and sniffing. Here is a list of the most common causes:
- Your dog may be hearing a noise that you simply cannot detect with your subpar human ears. This could be due to an animal (like a rat) walking on the roof, another dog walking by a block away, or a neighbor playing music.
- The sound of the ceiling fan or air conditioner may have caught your dog’s attention, causing him to try to figure out what it is and where it came from.
- Your pet may just want your attention, so give him some love! Pets often look up at the ceiling when they want to be petted.
- Your dog may have found a scent he cannot identify and is in the process of trying to figure out where it came from by sniffing in different directions. This may mean they smell another animal or pest that might be in your building! If you live in an apartment, they may be able to smell a dog or cat living above you.
- A change in weather patterns may account for your pet’s behavior as well. If the outside temperature has recently increased, it may make any odors inside seem stronger to him than they normally would be.
In general, a pup will display this behavior when notable changes occur in their environment. New people or animals visiting your home, or construction taking place nearby may also encourage this behavior.
Dogs are surprisingly intuitive animals, so if your pup appears to be acting out of character there could potentially be an issue afoot.
If your dog is looking up at the ceiling and sniffing, it is important to rule out any medical causes in the first instance. You should bring him to a vet if he has:
- Swelling under his eyes: Swollen areas underneath the eyes may indicate an infection of the tear ducts.
- Ear infections: Rapid, painful movement of the ears could mean that your dog has a bacterial or yeast ear infection. Your pup may naturally want to tilt its head back to relieve the pressure and promote drainage.
- Swollen glands: Smooth, round lumps under your dog’s neck could be an indication of a bacterial infection or tumor. Your pet may also have swollen lymph nodes on its stomach. Extending its head and neck might be a sign of pain or discomfort.
- Dental problems: If your dog has any dental issues, it may produce extra saliva and drool. Tilting its head upwards and sniffing can help the dog to drain its mouth of any excess fluid.
- Unwanted discharge from the eye or nose: Discharge of any kind from the eye or nose should be examined by a vet, as it could indicate an upper respiratory infection. It could also be a sign of allergies, which could make a dog need to clear its nose more often.
- Changes in behavior, such as unusual aggression or new shyness: If your dog is acting out of character, it may be a sign that something has changed in their environment and they are reacting anxiously to it. Talking to a vet or animal behaviorist can help you to identify what is causing this anxious behavior.
If your dog does not have any of these symptoms and you are just curious why it is looking up at the ceiling and sniffing, it’s probably nothing to worry about.
Try to talk to your pet and engage with them to see if they respond. If not, you can attempt to take your dog’s attention off the ceiling by giving it some of its favorite treats or a toy to play with- as well as plenty of attention!
A potty break is also a good idea when your pet becomes transfixed with sniffing towards the ceiling. Some time outside can help to relieve any built-up energy that might be causing your dog to exhibit this behavior.
The air contains a huge variety of smells, from those that waft in from the food cooking in the kitchen, to that of blooming flowers carried by a gentle Spring breeze.
Dogs have an excellent sense of smell; they can pick up on these scents and use them to identify where they are going or who is around them.
Dogs also sniff to determine if something is good to eat by picking up the scents of food in their environment. They can sometimes use this ability to figure out if something is safe for them or not, such as whether they are nearing a poisonous plant.
Most importantly, sniffing allows dogs to identify other animals from miles away by picking up their scent and following it back to its source.
So, when this behavior happens in your house, it isn’t necessarily a response to something nearby. Dogs can smell up to 100 times better than humans, so they may simply know something that you don’t!
Perhaps, in addition to looking up to the ceiling and sniffing, your dog is also biting or snapping at the air. This is known as fly snapping syndrome.
Fly snapping syndrome is when a dog snaps at imaginary flies. This behavior usually occurs because the animal has been in one place for too long and needs to relieve some pent-up energy.
It can also, of course, be because there is an actual fly in your home! (In which case- might I suggest Catchmaster glue traps?)
When a dog snaps at this imaginary flying object, it may use its mouth, paws, or even tail to do so. You may hear a bark or growl accompany this behavior, which may be startling if this action comes out of nowhere.
Fly snapping syndrome is typically diagnosed based on observation of the animal’s behavior. If your dog has been known to engage in this unusual behavior and you are concerned about it, talk to your vet to see if they have any inclination on what might be causing it.
It is essential to be persistent and consistent when training your dog to stop air snapping because the behavior can easily become habitual for a stubborn pup.
Don’t punish them by yelling or chasing after them like they’re misbehaving- this will only confuse them! Instead, try to distract them from the habit. For example, praise or give your pup a treat when they look at you for a few seconds in between air snaps.
Make sure that your canine companion gets plenty of exercise every day. This will release any pent-up energy that they may have and will tire out an energetic dog much more quickly than simply telling them to calm down.
Having a variety of toys (such as a few top quality wood-like chews toys) around the home may also help to keep your dog entertained and feeling less bored.
Pent-up energy is the leading cause of this behavior and may be more common in younger, high-energy dogs. Therefore, don’t be surprised if your corgi pup starts showing this trait after being left alone by itself for hours on end!
If your dog is getting aggressive and snapping at people, try giving them a timeout in another room so they can calm down and re-focus.
This will help to teach them that this type of behavior isn’t appropriate – although be careful not to leave them alone for too long as doing so might increase their anxiety and aggression further.
When your pup keeps looking up at the ceiling and sniffing, you may be wondering whether or not they are sensing something toxic in the air that you can’t.
Dogs can’t smell carbon monoxide like humans can- only at levels higher than what you would normally find indoors.
Make sure to install a CO detector for good measure! This is always a good safety precaution for everyone living under your roof.
If your dog has been looking up at the ceiling and sniffing regularly, it may be a good idea to invest in an indoor CO detector that will let you know if there’s any danger lurking nearby.
Dogs can be trained to smell many different substances, such as gas leaks and toxic gases like ammonia.
It’s not uncommon for a dog to be able to detect the smell of certain chemicals in your home- especially if they have been used recently or if you live near any factories that use them!
Usually, if they are interested in a chemical scent, it’s due to a household cleaner such as disinfectant, carpet cleaners, paint, or varnish.
They may possibly be able to smell this even if it is coming from the floor above you- which may be the explanation as to why they are sniffing at the ceiling!
If you feel that there is a toxin or strong chemical presence in your home, your first step is to ventilate or even evacuate your home. You can then test the air (or employ someone to do it) for toxins like ammonia with a chemical sensing kit.
If the smell is coming from something you’re using in your home, be sure to read labels carefully and look at any safety information before proceeding. You may want to consider using alternative cleaners such as vinegar or baking soda which are safe for your pup.
In addition to creating a better olfactory experience for your pup, it will be a good shift for all humans in the home as well!
If you’ve recently found yourself constantly thinking, “My dog keeps looking up at the ceiling and sniffing!” Hopefully we’ve been able to put your mind at ease today.
Unless the behavior is accompanied by worrying symptoms such as swelling under the eyes, ear flapping, neck extension, discharge from the mouth, or changes in aggression or shyness, there likely isn’t anything sinister going on with your dog.
It is much more probable that your dog has detected something with his nose or ears that you simply can’t as a human being!
This could be anything from a rat in the rafters to the neighbor’s cat meowing a few doors over. Even the most subtle of changes in a dog’s environment can be a cause for alert and excitement- hence the inquisitive looking and sniffing.
Usually the behavior will subside once the catalyst has also disappeared, but there are ways to stop your dog from constantly performing the action if you find it too distracting.
This can be achieved through the use of treats or praise as rewards- just with any other reinforcement of behavior in canines!
Heather Abraham is an owner of two dogs, one cat, a leopard gecko, and a parrot (who her dad still cannot teach bad words to), and an avid blogger. From the time she was a young girl, she always felt a connection with pets. She brings her love of every type of pet to you, with information on animal nutrition, medication, toys, beds, and everything else in between. Along with newly-on-board veterinarian DVM editor Elena, she puts pups first while offering other various fun tidbits along the way.