YOU UNFURL YOUR yoga mat at home, ready to stretch out into downward dog and take some deep breaths. Just for a second, you look away to grab your water bottle and block. But when you turn around, you find that your pup has already staked her territory on your mat, doing some stretches of her own.
If you’re an asana-ing dog person, you’ve probably already figured out a way to tap into your canine’s weird yoga mat affinity. Some people let their dogs hang out on the corner of the mat while they practice, others buy yoga mats specifically for their dog to chill on while they do sun salutations. Some people even practice Doga, which, yes, is the term for “dog yoga.”
Cats enjoy yoga mats, too—but mostly because those feline jerks love sinking their claws into the soft material. Dogs’ love for yoga mats, on the other hand, is a bit more perplexing. Why are dogs are so into yoga mats? We looked to science to help us figure out what’s going on.
Scent is one of a canine’s most important senses. They have relatively large noses with a lot of mucosa to help them trap scent molecules. (When dogs lick their noses, they’re often tasting the molecules that their noses have picked up.) Inside canine nasal passages are up to 300 million olfactory receptors—compared to about 5 to 6 million in humans—and an olfactory bulb in their brain that can process about 40 times more information than ours.
Simply put, a dog’s sense of smell is tens of thousands of times better than a human’s. They can use that sense of smell for all kinds of things, from sniffing out drugs and bombs to hunting down prey. And studies have shown that smelling their favorite humans with that big wet nose of theirs seems to trigger something like love.