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If you are wondering why your dogs' teeth are chattering after sniffing, you are in good company. 

Many people are curious about this behavior and many dog owners are wondering about what's going on in those doggy minds. 

To better understand this behavior, it helps taking a closer look into a dog's anatomy, and what happens when dogs encounter an intriguing smell . 

What is Teeth Chattering in Dogs?

Firstly, let's start by describing this behavior. 

When dogs chatter their teeth, the noise produced is similar to when somebody is cold, with the teeth rapidly clicking against each other repeatedly for a few seconds.

Teeth chattering in dogs shouldn't be confused with snapping, which occurs when the dog opens his mouth to deliberately bite the air, when he's feeling threatened, protective or irritated.

Snapping is a dog's way of telling a person or another dog that he has teeth, and that he'll have no problem putting them to use if push comes to shove. 

A Lesson in Anatomy

We all know that dogs are equipped with a superior sense of smell. 

Blessed with up to 300 million scent receptors, while us  humans have a mere 5 million, dogs can be described as noses on four legs. 

What is not known much though is what happens under the hood. To better understand this it helps taking a closer look to a dog's anatomy. Here's a brief guide. 

Within the nasal chamber, dogs are equipped with a specialized patch of sensory cells, that is known as the vomeronasal organ. 

The main function of this organ is to relay chemical messages (pheromones) to important parts of the dog's brain which can trigger a response.

Pheromones are chemical substances that are often emitted by other dogs for the purpose of being detected and providing information. 

Access to a dog's Jacobson organ is granted through a special duct that's located at the top of the dog's roof of the mouth which is known as the "incisive papilla."

Picture of my dog's incisive papilla

Picture of my dog's incisive papilla

Detection of Pheromones 

So when dogs stumble on an interesting smell, they may lick, drool and some may start chattering their teeth.

By chattering their teeth, dogs are basically gathering large scent molecules towards their incisive papilla with the help of their tongue (tonguing).

Once in the vomeronasal organ, the goal of these scent messages is to reach regions of the dog's brain responsible for coordinating mating and other basic emotions.

Common in Intact Male Dogs 

Male dogs, especially intact male dogs, are the "sniffers par excellence" and not surprisingly, the ones who are often seen engaging in tooth chattering behavior.

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This is likely because of their reproductive roles. 

For instance, it's a common scene for an intact male dog to sniff urine, lick and foam at the mouth when they are sniffing female dog urine. 

Through evaluation of the scent left behind, dogs may be able to tell whether the female dog in question is in season. 

Female dogs don't go out telling males, "Hey, I am seeking a partner!" Instead, they deliver their pheromone-rich business cards discreetly through chemical messages found in their urine.

Intact male dogs may also teeth chatter when they are directly sniffing a female dog's rear area.

If the female dog in question turns out being in heat, teeth chattering may also take place in male dogs to manifest their excitement about the pleasant "discovery."

Also Seen in Neutered Dogs

Teeth chattering though isn't exclusive to intact male dogs. 

Interestingly, neutered males and female dogs may also engage in dog teeth chattering behaviors when they are analyzing scent, and the scent doesn't necessarily need to be urine to trigger this behavior.

Some dogs will chatter their teeth upon smelling other animals or other interesting scents. 

Many dog teeth chatter when eager to eat

Many dog teeth chatter when eager to eat

Looking Forward to Something 

On top of chattering teeth upon finding an intriguing smell, dogs may also chatter their teeth when they're anticipating something exciting. 

For instance, some dogs may chatter their teeth before going outside on a walk or when they're about to go to bed or before a meal, when they're hungry. 

Other Reasons Dogs Teeth Chatter

Sometimes dogs will chatter their teeth when they have a tooth problem or due to fear of anxiety. 

Teeth chatter may also be sign of a mild seizure. 

If your dog's teeth chattering started out of the blue and seems to occur for no apparent reason, it's a good idea to mention it to your trusted veterinarian. 

As seen, dogs have their own good reasons for chattering their teeth, especially after smelling something! 

Now that you have quenched your thirst for knowledge, you can finally relax and allow your dog to go on more sniffing adventures!

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