To sniff or not to sniff?

Did you know that your dog navigates the world by using their nose? Their sense of smell is 1000-10000 times more powerful than ours which means, while we rely on our eyes to take in our surroundings, our dogs are relying on their nose and are analyzing all of the different smells in their environment.

 

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Probably the biggest question I am asked about good dog walking etiquette is, ‘Is it okay for my dog to sniff on walks?’ My answer to this is ABSOLUTELY! If our dog’s day is dominated by the smells around them, why should we deny them the opportunity to check out thousands of new and different smells while out on a walk?

It’s so easy for us to get caught up in the mindset that we’ve only got x amount of time to walk the dog or that we both need to keep moving otherwise it will ruin the power walk that we’re using as our ‘workout’ for the day. However, we need to remember that we aren’t walking on our own, we’re walking with our dogs. Walking our dogs is a bonding exercise, it shouldn’t be all about what the guardian wants to do, it should be a balance of what we enjoy, and what our dog enjoys. Taking 5-10 minutes out of our walk to let our dogs have a sniff at the tree, the light post, the bushes, the grass, isn’t much time out of our day to give our dogs huge amounts of mental enrichment on top of the physical stimulation of going for a walk. When our dogs use their nose, their brain is working at a mad pace analyzing the different components of the smell. It’s so mentally enriching for them.

Now that doesn’t mean that your dog is allowed to have bad leash manners and can pull you every which way towards different scent trails. That’s not what I mean at all. Your dog needs to earn their ‘sniffing time’ by walking nicely on lead and being engaged with you.

If you’ve gone on a pleasant walk and your dog has maintained a beautiful loose lead and has been engaged with you, why not reward them by slowing down and letting them have a sniff of a few different things. Let them check out the different smells that have been left for them on different objects. My only conditions are that you don’t allow your dog to pull you towards objects to smell and that you keep an eye on what they’re sniffing, in case it’s something nasty that they might decide is a yummy treat (dead bird anyone?).

Allowing your dog to have ‘designated sniffing time’ on their walks will only add to the stimulation that your walk has provided them, which means when they get home they’ll be extra tired and satisfied, with less of a desire to be destructive.

So I challenge you, when you next walk your best mates, allow them to have a ‘sniffing adventure’ for 5-10 minutes. Take different walking routes and mix up the part during your walk that you allow them to sniff (eg, at the start, at the end or somewhere in the middle) to keep them guessing. Dogs are fantastic at recognizing patterns so to prevent bad leash manners in anticipation for their smelling stops, mix it up.

Walking our dogs shouldn’t be a chore, so let’s bring back the enjoyment in walking, for us and our dogs. Happy walking!