9 Cools Facts Why Dogs Sneeze When Play Fighting With Humans

As a dog owner, I’ve always been curious about the way my canine pet behaves. Among the things that caught my attention during our playing sessions is a sneeze that I couldn’t tell was real or fake. It wasn’t until I did some online research and talked with a few other dog owners that I figured out the deal behind my pup’s sneeze.

When dogs sneeze during play fighting with humans, it’s to let the humans know they’re just playing and not really fighting. Play sneezing is common in dogs as they use it to show they’re having fun and not triggered. This way, humans won’t mistake their fighting behavior for actual aggression with all the barking, growling, chasing, and shaking.

However, this isn’t the only reason a dog may sneeze when play fighting. If you’re looking for a more detailed explanation to better understand your canine pet, keep reading!

Why Do Dogs Sneeze When They Play With Humans?

Why do dogs sneeze when they play with humans

If you often have play fight sessions with your dog, then you’ve probably noticed a type of sneezing that comes up mid-fight.

You’ve probably shrugged it off as a coincidence the first couple of times it happened, but when it kept occurring every session, chances are you got curious to find out why your pup does it.

Is it a distraction tactic? Is it a defensive move? Well, no. When a dog sneezes during play fighting, it’s to sign they’re being playful. Another reason is something causing their nose to itch.

1. It’s a sign of good intentions

Unfortunately, dogs can’t talk to us. So, there have to be other ways they can communicate with their humans to share their thoughts or emotions. Barking and body language are examples of this, as well as sneezing in the context of play fighting.

The main reason dogs sneeze during playtime fights is to make sure the opposing party knows it’s still all fun and games. After all, many dog owners will confuse their dogs’ growling and shaking with being aggressive when in reality, they’re just messing around.

A regular sneeze while fighting is a sign to you and other dogs that no harm is intended. It’s also a signal that the dog isn’t fighting out of anger or protectiveness.

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In fact, you use such sneezing to detect whether two dogs are getting along or not. If your dog is on a playdate, keep an eye out for sneezes while the two dogs are playing together to make sure everything is okay.

2. Their nose itched

Another simple yet probable reason for dogs sneezing when play fighting is that something rubbed against their nose, particularly their lips when they curl them. This action itches their nose, so the body responds with a sneeze.

Extra Signs Your Dog Is Play Fighting

As previously mentioned, the most prominent reason why your dog is sneezing is to let you know that they’re being friendly and playful.

However, there are plenty of other signs that your dog might also show in addition to sneezing, which can confirm that they’re happy and enjoying their time and that there’s nothing to worry about. Here’s a quick look at each one of them:

Sniffing Around

In some cases where two dogs are introduced to each other, they start sniffing around each other for pheromones.

Upon playing together, you might find the dogs sneezing a few times after. Similarly, your dog might start sneezing around when they sneeze the ground around you.


Similar to yawning, bowing is another way your dog is telling you that it’s okay to approach them and they’re ready for some playtime.

In that case, the dog will stretch their forelegs in front of them and raise its hind legs and tails up in a playful way.

Why Do Dogs Sneeze When You Hit Their Nose

Playful Aggression

Although not all dogs will use this way to express their eagerness to play, some dogs might end up using aggressive signals to tell that they’re ready to play. These includes:

  • Growling and baring teeth
  • Jumping and charging at you
  • Feuding (especially with other dogs)
  • Nipping and/or biting
  • Keeping the tail rigid.

[Related Article: 7 Best Games To Play With Your Labrador Indoors Or Outdoors]

Other Factor That Might Cause Your Dog to Sneeze

Sneezing during playtime only is typically something you should be concerned about. However, there are a few factors that might cause your dog to start sneezing. These signs include:

  1. Infection: One of the most common causes for dogs to sneeze is that they’re simply suffering from a sinus infection. Dogs’ noses are pretty sensitive, so they typically start sneezing as a reaction to certain types of bacteria and viruses.
  2. Tumors: Another reason that is quite common among dogs and causes them to sneeze all day long is having a tumor in the nasal canal. This is typically common in breeds, such as Doberman Pinscher and Afghan hound. If you suspect that, make sure that you take them to the vet to receive proper medical attention
  3. Genetic Factors: Different breeds of dogs have different facial structures. In some breeds, such as brachycephalic breeds, the dog has a heavily compressed nasal passage, which causes several respiratory issues, such as persistent sneezing and difficulty in breathing.
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Why Do Dogs Sneeze When You Hit Their Nose?

The sneeze can be caused by the drying or agitation of its fragile mucus glands

It is normally not recommended to hit the dog’s nose with your hand. Besides risking infection from the dirt and bacteria from your hand,  the dog nose is in a very exposed region and is one of their most valuable assets.[Source]

In such a situation, they will do their best to protect it from any potential harm.

Why Do Dogs Yawn When Play fighting?

Unlike us, yawning in dogs doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re sleepy. However, it’s a common behavior for dogs to yawn around their family as a sign of relaxation and tranquility.

If your dog is yawning and sneezing, it’s usually one of the sure-fire ways to make sure that your pooch is at ease.

Wrap Up

With that said, you now have a complete answer to the popular question “why do dogs sneeze when play fighting with humans? ”. As you can see, sneezing is a pretty common phenomenon in dogs when it comes to playtime and shouldn’t be a concern to you.

However, if the issue persists and extends to after your play session is over, the other factors mentioned throughout the article may help you get to the bottom of the problem, so you can put an end to it.

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