WHY ARE SOME DOGS AFRAID OF THE SMELL OF LAMB?
As bizarre as it may seem, some dogs, including some Greyhounds, are afraid of the smell of cooking lamb meat. If you haven’t experienced this with your dog, be glad. The topic of dogs fear of lamb meat may seem peculiar, but you might be surprised to learn that many dog owners report their dogs getting anxious, to the point of acting panicky when they cook this meat.
What's up with these dogs? Aren't dogs supposed to like meat and its tantalizing smell? Until dogs can talk, we can really only make some assumptions. Here are a few possible explanations.
THIS FEAR IS NOT RARE
If you search “dog afraid of lamb meat”, you will find a surprising number of instances where this is a problem for dogs and their owners. Not all dogs have this reaction, just as not all dogs have a fear of thunder/fireworks.
In a recent post in a Greyhound Chat Group on Facebook, the person was asking for advice for their Greyhound, who had had a full-blown panic attack when smelling the lamb they had cooking for dinner. The dog had to escape the house, then could not be persuaded to re-enter the house again! At least, not until the smell had completely dissipated. Many other Greyhound owners reported similar experiences, including in the Greytalk Forum.
Interestingly, this reaction has not been reported with raw lamb meat, or even cooked meat after the fact. Many treats and high-end dog foods contain lamb and dogs typically love those. It seems to only occur during the cooking process.
This is also completely different than a dog being allergic to lamb.
Some people theorize that because the lamb is often fatty, and is typically cooked at high temperatures, smoke is given off during the cooking. Dogs are sensitive to smoke, which is why we hear stories of dogs alerting their families when they smell smoke in the house. Now, if there is so much cooking smoke that the smoke alarm goes off, that shrill, piercing noise can easily send your pup around the bend!
Another related possibility is that your dog may have had a bad experience during the cooking of lamb, such as fat sizzling and spattering, perhaps burning a nose that was too close? Or if broiling in the oven, again a nose getting too close to the hot oven door. Negative associations like this can be difficult to overcome.
Other people say it could be due to the particular spices which we use when cooking lamb, versus other meats. In the distant past, lamb had a much more gamey taste than that available today, and so pungent spices helped disguise the taste and make it more palatable. This seems like a dubious explanation, though, because those same spices could be used on other meats/fish, and these do not seem to provoke the same reaction.
AN UNUSUAL AROMA
A study of the volatile organic compounds captured during cooking sheep meat may hold the answer. Minced lamb samples from 12-week-old lambs were fried in the absence of added fat. The aroma components were isolated into a total of 132 compounds, and a further 31 were partially characterized as components of sheep meat aroma. One of these, 4,6-dimethyl-1,3-oxathiane, which has not previously been reported in any meat, was associated with a stale/wet animal odor. ~ Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture Volume 69, Issue 4, pages 403–413, December 1995
WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT?
Do you have a dog who acts fearful when you cook lamb? If so, you may want to know what to do about this behavior. Some dogs may even refuse to eat lamb meat after all the negative associations. Here are some suggestions.
Have a person walk your dog when you are cooking lamb. This way your dog is spared from the whole sizzling and smoking event.
Keep your dog in a different room with a helper. Your dog may still smell the lamb, but at least he's not fully exposed to the full-intensity situation. Or keep your hound outside while you cook dinner, or conversely, if you are grilling it outside, keep your dog inside until the cooking is done.
Distract with something tasty. If your dog's fear of lamb meat is mild, chances are, he'll be able to become distracted if you offer him something tasty like a Kong stuffed with goodies or a bully stick.
Open all windows and doors. This way any smoke will escape and not trigger your fire alarm.
WHAT ABOUT YOUR EXPERIENCES?
Please share in the comments below if you have ever had any experience with this behavior in your Greyhound. Were you able to pinpoint what exactly caused it? And more importantly, what did you do to help your dog through the trauma?