Why Do Dogs Sneeze When They Play?

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Dogs are quite good at expressing what they want from their human companions, even though they cannot communicate through speech (at least, not traditionally).

Whenever your dog barks, nudges your leg, or wags their tail, you can usually figure out how they are feeling or what it is they want with little effort. Dog sneezes are a little stranger, though.

Most of the time, you would assume that when your dog sneezes, they are doing it for the same reason you would: because they have gotten a little too close to some place dusty, or maybe they even have allergies.

why do dogs sneeze when they play

These are not illogical leaps, but neither do they fully explain why it is that dogs sneeze. To elaborate, have you ever found yourself asking, “Why do dogs sneeze when they play?”

If so, you have stumbled onto the other purpose of cute, doggy sneezes. They are, in fact, another way through which dogs can communicate with humans and with one another.

Here, we will explore the different ways through which dogs can communicate and just what dog sneezes are meant to say.

Why Do Dogs Sneeze?

Dog Socialization and Communication

A dog uses their whole body to communicate with humans and other animals around them.

Their tail is extremely important in this communication process, but so are the sounds they make and the way they hold their body.


When a dog wags their tail, we assume this translates to happiness. However, despite what film and television have taught us, this isn’t always the case.

Depending on other body languages the dog may be displaying, a wagging tail could indicate anything from distress to utter contentment.

A raised tail means that your dog is alert to movement; they have potentially spotted a passing squirrel, an innocent mail carrier, or someone they love who is coming home.

why do dogs sneeze when playing

A neutral tail indicates that your dog is relaxed. When the two of you are sitting together after a long day and their tail is smacking against your leg, you can be assured that they love you just as much as you love them.

If your dog’s tail is lowered between their legs, however, the wagging can mean something different. Tension partnered with a low-hanging, wagging tail can mean that your dog is afraid or stressed.

It is up to you to identify the stimulus of your dog’s fear and remove it from play in order to return your dog to comfort. Never assume that just because your dog’s tail is wagging, they are completely content.

Body Language

Observing your dog’s body language can mean anything from checking for unusual displays of tension to monitoring how often they yawn.

Tension in the shoulders or trembling legs usually indicates that your dog is under a significant amount of stress. Check for pupil dilation, as larger pupils can indicate fear.

If your dog drops into a play bow, however, they are not scared at all; they are looking for a good time or the tennis ball that they know you have hidden away.

Likewise, if a dog paws at your leg or arm, they are probably looking to be petted or for you to give them some additional attention.

why do dogs sneeze

A dog who yawns frequently may just be tired, but it is possible that they are trying to calm themselves down; some dogs yawn in order to remove some of the stress from their bodies.

A dog that bears their neck is also looking to defuse a situation causing tension; neck displays are meant to be signs of submission to other dogs and occasionally to some humans.


Barks and growls are fairly straightforward indications of how your dog is feeling: usually, something has caught your dog’s attention, and they want to try and communicate with it or intimidate it.

What about sneezing, though? When your dog is in the middle of a play fight with you or another dog, you might notice that they sneeze with some frequency.

It isn’t that your dog is allergic to you or their comrades. Rather, sneezing in the middle of a play fight is meant to indicate just that: that the fight is not real, but rather for sport.

Much like the baring of the neck mentioned earlier, sneezing during play is done so one dog can indicate to the other that they mean no harm and is instead are just looking to burn off some steam.

Other Causes of Dog Sneezes

That said, frequent sneezing can indicate that something has gotten stuck in your dog’s nasal passages, or that they may, indeed, be allergic to something in their general vicinity.

Allergies, as displayed by dogs, are relatively rare, though. If your dog is sneezing abnormally often, take care to check their nose, and if the sneezing persists, take them to a vet to ensure that their health is as it should be.

Here’s a video going into more detail about why dogs sneeze.

So, why do dogs sneeze when they play fight? Sneezing is just another way through which dogs can communicate with one another, and even with you.

It means that they are looking to have non-serious fun, though if the sneezing grows excessive, you may want to check it out.

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