Vol. 9 No. 2 (2023)

Dogs do not exhibit avoidance behavior in response to the smell of snakes

Angelo Quaranta
University of Bari

Published 2024-03-13


  • dog,
  • snake,
  • viper,
  • olfactory system,
  • domestication


Dogs possess the ability to recognize potential dangers associated with snakes primarily through their visual system, rather than relying on their olfactory system. Previous studies have predominantly focused on the odors of dangerous snakes in the American continent, which do not overlap with the areas of the domestication process. Consequently, it is unlikely that present-day American dogs have developed innate responses to local snakes due to limited historical exposure. The objective of the current study is to conduct experiments involving dogs and the odor of venomous snakes distributed in regions where the ancestor wolves of dogs coexisted and where domestication occurred. For this purpose, we have specifically chosen three species from the Vipera genus. The study involved 40 domestic dogs with an average age of 34.6 ± 26.7 months. Each dog participated in a single one-minute trial and was randomly assigned to either the vipers or control conditions. The trials took place in a room containing the owners, the apparatus, and two water bowls. Nonparametric Mann-Whitney tests were utilized to analyze the data. The results indicated that male dogs exposed to the smell of vipers interacted with the apparatus for a longer duration compared to the control odor group. They also remained in the apparatus zone for an extended period. However, no statistically significant results were observed for females and other variables in both sexes, including behaviors directed towards the owner and the door, exploration, passivity, and stress signals. The findings of this study suggest that dogs do not exhibit discrimination between the scent of vipers and the control odor. Consequently, it supports the notion that dogs may be unable to avoid snakebites when they frequent areas populated by venomous snakes.