Let Them Sniff: Letting Your Dog Sniff On Walks Is So Important
Updated: Oct 25
When you take your dog out for a walk, it seems like while you're enjoying the landscape, they have their nose to the ground. The first time you meet a dog they take time to sniff all over you. When they meet a new dog, it's right to the behind to have a good sniff.
What is it that makes dogs sniff so much? Is this normal? Or is it something that needs to be trained out of them? Let's explore the reasons why dogs tend to let their noses guide them through the world and why it's important to let them sniff.
The Nose Knows
It can be highly aggravating when you're out for a walk, and your dog just won't stop sniffing. Sometimes it seems like you're pulling them out of every flower bed. What exactly are they getting out of this? How can it possibly be enjoyable for them?
It's a well-known fact that dogs have an incredible sense of smell. In fact, their olfactory senses are 10,000 to 100,000 times more powerful than a human's depending on breed! So it’s no wonder that dogs are truly guided by their sense of smell.
Fun Fact: Scent hounds, like Bloodhounds, have features that help their sense of smell work even more efficiently. Those long dangly ears of theirs help stir up the dirt so they get a stronger scent.
Like those with normal vision typically rely on our eyes, dogs rely on their noses to guide their everyday life. They sniff to find where other dogs have been, to learn about their surroundings, and as a way of finding out if there is anything dangerous nearby.
This means that blind dogs can still navigate by means of scent. Some are so good at doing this, you would never even know they are vision impaired!
Dogs sniffing each other is more than just their version of a handshake. These sniff sessions convey information like the other dog’s sex, health, if they've met before, and even what their mood is. This helps them decide how they should react. It's like a coffee date without the awkward conversation. This is the same reason they sniff us when they meet us or when we come home after a day out. Our sweat glands tell them what we've been up to and where we've been.
Sniffing isn't just about smells. It is also a gesture of appeasement if they run afoul of another dog. This is their way of showing they are non-threatening and easing a tense situation.
Letting Your Dog Sniff
Since sniffing is so integral to a dog's life, it's important to let them use their noses as nature intended. Giving your dog room to sniff benefits your dog mentally for many reasons:
Allowing your dog to sniff while on walks helps them explore the world outside the house. They’ll learn more about the other dogs in the area. This will lead to a more relaxed, well-rounded dog.
Allowing your dog room to sniff also makes them easier to walk in the long run. The neighborhood smells will be familiar after several walks which will curb the amount they want to drag you as they sniff in the future.
They feel more confident since they're familiar with their neighborhood and the smells.
They're more social. Allowing your dog freedom to sniff eases anxiety and helps them to be more social since they're allowed to follow their natural behaviors. If you have an anxious dog, allow them more freedom to sniff. You may see a change in how they react to new situations.
It helps them remain calm. Since dogs experience the world through their nose, sniffing is also a mental workout. Working breeds especially benefit from mental as well as physical activity. If you have a hyperactive dog, physical exercise may not be enough. Try a sniff walk and see if this helps curb their enthusiasm.
Sniffing gives them a little independence. Dogs no longer need to hunt their own food or worry about finding safety. In the case of many working breed dogs that are strictly kept as pets, they no longer perform their bred function. This can actually lead to anxiety and depression. Allowing them to sniff gives them a touch of control, without giving them room to injure themselves.
Walking While Sniffing
You might be thinking, "but now every walk is going to take forever, and I won't even get my heart rate up!" Science has shown that mental stimulation is just as important, if not more important, to a dog's health than physical exertion is. Allowing your dog to sniff on walks is one of the easiest ways to add enrichment to their lives.
The freedom to sniff may need to be combined with teaching leash manners to your pup. Your dog should not be pulling you from smell to smell - this is not safe for you or your dog. Be sure to work on loose leash walking skills during your walks as well. Experiencing all the smells and working to learn new behaviors will leave your pup just as tired and enriched as if you had covered twice the distance.
Planning a Sniffing Walk
Sniffing in one place can get boring. Instead of your usual route, plan a sniffing route. Find a route that is a little off your beaten path, and stop to allow your dog to freely sniff. Don't rush, give them their freedom to get acquainted with new smells.
For a fun change of pace, you can take your dog to a local pet store. This will be full of exciting new smells! They can meet other dogs and work on their sniffing social skills. If they've been an extra good boy or girl, you can even let them sniff out a treat to take home.
If adding sniffing walks into your dog’s routine is not in the cards, give us a call! As pet care experts, we tailor walks to each dog’s needs.
P.S. Did you check out our ‘Let Them Sniff’ post on social media? Take a look here!
So let them sniff! Your dog will get to enjoy learning about the world through their nose, and you'll get to enjoy watching your dog have fun and expand their horizons!