Why Do Dogs Sneeze When They’re Excited?

As a dog parent, you’ve likely experienced at least one of the following scenarios. 1) You arrive home from work and your dog greets you at the door snorting like a warthog. 2) Your pooch meets a new pal at the dog park and joyfully snarfs all over him as they play. 3) You present your pup with a new toy/bone/treat and he goes into a sneezing fit.

Image Credit: Flickr/Tony Alter


Have you ever wondered what that “excitement sneeze” is all about? Good news, pawrents! Play sneezing is a sign that your dog is a happy, well-adjusted member of the canine species.

Dogs provide subtle cues through their body language and behavior that signal their state of mind. For example, did you know that when two dogs approach each other while sniffing the ground, they are saying “Hi, there. I’m friendly. Wanna get to know each other?”

Image Credit: Flickr/Bennilover


There is a whole complex series of actions, postures and vocalizations that allow our dogs to express themselves. Sneezing is just one of the ways that they convey “I’m happy and I want to play with you!” or “I’m having a great time!” They often use it during rougher, more rambunctious play sessions to say “Hey, this is fun and all, but let’s not let it escalate into a fight.”

Image Credit: Flickr/Ben Askins


You can tell the difference between an allergy/illness sneeze and a play sneeze based on its intensity and, well, what kind of “stuff” they snort out! A true sneeze comes from deep in the chest and releases fluid like saliva or mucus. Dogs with allergies or respiratory infections also tend to have other symptoms like red, itchy eyes, runny nose, cough, or colored nasal discharge.

A play “sneeze” is more of an excited snort or a sharp exhalation of air from the nose. The sound is similar, but shorter and not as deep.

Image Credit: Flickr/Eric Sonstroem


Dogs mimic our facial expressions and empathetically yawn when we do in order to bond with us. If you’d like to return the favor, try “play sneezing” at your pup. He may become very excited, wag his tail, bow, or bring you his favorite toy to show he understands your gesture…or he may just look at you like you’re crazy!


Featured Image via Flickr/Alex O’Neal

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