Most pet owners have two goals when going on walks with their dog: elimination and exercise.
While both of these goals are essential to maintaining a happy and healthy dog, limiting your pet to these basics is neglecting an important part of their enjoyment: appealing to their sense of smell.
Largely, our dogs “see” the world through scent, and it’s important to allow them to interact with their surroundings through their noses.
Our daily life with our dogs does not generally allow us to fully exploit the capacities of their incredible sense of smell. We squeeze them during rides, focusing on the destination rather than the journey itself.
By giving your dog more opportunities to use his powerful sense of smell, he will undoubtedly enjoy his walk more. He will also be more stimulated, have more choice and freedom, and ultimately be more tired and relaxed.
Here’s some information about your dog’s sense of smell and how to perform a “smell walk” so your dog can get the most out of it.
Don’t underestimate the power of your dog’s sense of smell
While you’re busy gazing at the scenery, your dog’s nose is working overtime. He walks a few feet before stopping to sniff, then takes a few more steps to find something else to smell. It’s tempting to tug on the leash to get him going, but a good walk isn’t always measured in miles or minutes. Every once in a while, it’s important to let your dog stop and smell the roses…and the fire hydrants, and that bush, and maybe even that fence post a little further.
While humans are primarily visual creatures, dogs are beings of smell. They have millions more olfactory sensors than humans, and they even have an extra organ, the vomeronasal organ, on the palate to process smells. Their long snouts are ideal for reading the “olfactory mail” and they discover the world by putting their nose to anything that seems interesting. Every tree, every lamp post, and every trouser leg is potentially covered in instructive smells.
You can put your nose to the same tree your dog has been sniffing at for a minute and get nothing but the smell of wood bark, but your dog senses a whole lot more. He can tell that another dog has been there recently and approximately how long he was there. Moreover, he can know the sex of the dog, what he likes to eat, and his mood.
When in new territory, a dog can sniff a tree and determine what other dogs live in the vicinity. He can smell a visitor’s clothes and get a good idea of where the person lives and if they have pets at home.
Asking a dog not to sniff while on a walk is like asking a person to walk around with a blindfold on. Dogs rely on their noses to tell them important things about the world, and the time they spend walking is time spent catching up on neighborhood news.
Sniffing – the canine superpower
Dogs don’t depend on their eyesight the way humans do. While they can see up close and judge distances reasonably well, their sense of sight is nowhere near as keen as their sense of smell. A dog’s sense of smell is its most powerful resource and its primary mode of investigating and understanding the world around it. The human nose is nothing in comparison.
Dogs’ sense of smell is so powerful that it determines how they perceive every aspect of life. To put the power of your dog’s sense of smell into perspective, consider this: Humans have an average of 5-6 million olfactory receptors in their noses. Dogs, on the other hand, have over 100 million olfactory receptors, depending on their breed. And bloodhounds (you know, dogs known for smelling a piece of clothing and tracking down its source) have a staggering 300 million olfactory receptors.
Dogs can be trained to sniff out bombs, bedbugs, and fugitives. They can locate the droppings of endangered animals on land, in the air, and the water; and they can even detect certain cancers in humans. The breadth of their abilities is almost beyond comprehension, which makes the accidental ways in which we discourage our dogs from sniffing all the most unfortunate.
Because of this significant disparity in ability, humans are essentially blind to the world of the dog, which is made up of hundreds of thousands of interesting, unique, and instructive scents
The smell is therefore the dog’s main source of information about the world, even more, important than sight. What the dog sees and knows goes through his nose. The information that every dog, the tracking dog, of course, but also the dog lying next to you, snoring, on the sofa, has their world from the smell is unimaginably rich. Dogs’ biological predisposition to sniffing doesn’t stop at their big, wet, cute noses, though. The importance of smell is also written into the brains of dogs, whose scent section is 40 times larger than that of a human. One-eighth of a dog’s brain is devoted to interpreting smells, which is more important than the part of the human brain devoted to smell.
Understanding how dogs collect and process scents is important to understand why they stop to smell everything they find on their walks. Like humans, dogs don’t always pick up a scent on the first puff. They sometimes need to smell something repeatedly to gather all the necessary information about it. Unlike humans, dogs can pick up scents by repeatedly inhaling. When humans breathe, all odors pass through the nose and arrive in the lungs, where they are then expelled. When dogs take in an odor, some of it is transported to a separate area of their body specifically designed to pick up and examine odors. Besides,
Every time your dog walks, whether in familiar territory or unfamiliar territory, he processes hundreds of smells that are completely invisible to your nose. Informative smells and the variety of life in your environment can all fascinate your dog, who is naturally curious about the world around him. Every time he stops at a fire hydrant or under a specific tree, he is most likely looking at the business card of another dog who has marked his territory there. All dogs leave behind unique marks to let other dogs know that a snack, threat, or friend is nearby. Given all this information, it makes sense that a dog would prefer to explore his world from time to time, instead of always going through it. Unfamiliar smells can take your dog longer, just like an unfamiliar flower or shrub can fascinate you.
We humans just don’t see the world from an olfactory point of view: not only can we not smell everything a dog can smell, but we’re just not interested in the smells of food. same way. So even though we know today that dogs need exercise and socialization, it took us longer to understand that they need to sniff.
How to take an olfactory walk?
Owners often make the mistake of thinking that a long, brisk walk is the best way to tire a dog out. In general, the dog is kept on a short leash, and it is walked along the roads and sidewalks alongside its master. He can then go to a dog park where he walks for a while with many other dogs.
The walk may not be particularly interesting, and dog parks may be too stimulating or stressful if interactions are not carefully managed.
In the ascent walk, the goal of the walk is no longer to walk miles but to record scents, which probably requires a different mindset for most pet owners. Instead of having a specific destination, the route of ascent walk winds as your dog absorbs and processes scents along the way.
If you’re thinking, “In this case, every walk is a scent walk,” think again. Yes, you may feel like every time you walk your dog, he has to stop and sense the world around him every thirty seconds or so, but if you discourage this behavior, let it be in him. saying “leash” or gently tugging on the leash to let him know that this walk has a purpose and that purpose is not to sniff, then this walk is not a walk scent. What distinguishes olfactory walks from an ordinary sniffing walk is the intention behind it and the time spent sniffing.
During the ascent walk, you as the owner have established the intention that this time be reserved for sniffing and you have committed to letting your dog sniff the ground at will.
By choosing a more peaceful walking route, with grass and other non-road surfaces, and allowing your dog to be off-leash (or at least on a longer leash) and follow his scent, you can offer him a much more beneficial experience. When your dog stops to sniff, let him. Be fully engaged, which means: putting your phone away and paying attention to your dog.
It can be difficult for pet owners to be patient while their dog sniffles, but if you pay attention to what your dog is doing, you’ll understand how much freedom he enjoys having the freedom to sniff at will. You will also get new insights into how your dog behaves on a scent walk.
During your walk, let your dog choose the path and the time he spends with each scent, but remember to respect the rules of the leash and do not let your dog pull you.
Your dog has few choices, and by taking the time to allow him to decide what he wants to study and how much time he spends doing it on a walk or in another suitable environment,
The benefits of scent walks
Now that we know what a scent walk is, let’s see why it’s becoming increasingly popular with pet owners. An olfactory walk may seem frivolous, even a waste of time (especially for people with busy schedules who never have enough time to walk), but it is very important because it can play a vital role in your dog’s mental health.
We don’t need to train or encourage our dogs to sniff. Puppies do it as soon as they can walk, and old dogs still do it when they can hardly do anything else. It’s as natural as walking.
Sniffing is a dog’s primary way of gaining information about the world around them, which makes scent walks an important source of mental stimulation for dogs, especially those who are often confined indoors. Many experts now consider sniffing to be as important as physical activity and social time for the overall well-being of dogs.
Scent walks can even help reduce behavioral issues, as using their sense of smell provides them with mental stimulation. This can curb destructive behavior by helping your dog stay bored and reducing stress levels.
All dogs need regular exercise to maintain good physical health. Walks are especially important for dogs with lots of energy. If they don’t have a place to put their growing enthusiasm, their excess energy spills over and turns into unwanted behaviors like chewing and being out of control. A long walk or run seems like the only way to use up a young dog’s excess energy, but physical exercise isn’t the only way to meet his needs. If you want to exhaust your dog, you need to enrich both body and mind at the same time.
Sniffing a particular scent and interpreting the accompanying information is the canine version of a mental exercise.
The effort required to classify and identify the individual elements of an odor is labor-intensive. It’s a bit like trying to solve a difficult logic problem, the mental energy required is tiring.
Working your dog’s brain will prevent him from cognitive decline when he’s older and prevent him from chewing on your shoes when he’s young and eager for entertainment. A walk where he is allowed to sniff until he is mentally satisfied is the perfect opportunity to meet your dog’s physical and mental needs.
Some dogs can get overstimulated when doing high-energy activities, but harnessing the natural sniffing behavior is a calm and generally relaxing option.
It even seems that providing plenty of opportunities to sniff can make your dog more optimistic. For us, it can be annoying, unnecessary, and sometimes even frustrating when our dogs obsessively sniff everything in their path. However, it is very important to let them use their noses and enjoy the calming effects of the sniffle.
Some breeds are more likely to sniff obsessively than others (Border Terriers, St. Hubert’s dogs, or Beagles are great sniffers). Nervous and anxious dogs also tend to sniffle particularly intensely.
Dogs depend on their owners, and along with regular meals and a place they call home, that environment comes with a healthy dose of confinement. Their movements are restricted by fences and leashes, they sit when told to sit, they eat what they are told to eat, and they walk when their master decides it is time. They are even told when they are allowed to go to the toilet.
Your four-legged friend has virtually no control over his life, and this feeling of constant pressure can take a toll on his mental health. Research shows that a complete lack of freedom often leads to stress and anxiety.
Being able to make choices gives the dog self-confidence and a sense of autonomy. If he has no choice, he cannot avoid or relieve stress. Studies have shown that this can lead to depression. A dog in this state has “closed off” and no longer makes any attempt to improve his situation.
Excessive control can hurt your dog. A daily walk is an opportunity to give your dog some slack and let him make his own decisions. If he wants to spend five whole minutes sniffing every inch of a fire hydrant, let him. It’s a small decision in the grand scheme of things, but the ability to choose will do his sanity a lot of good. If you spend every step of every walk forcing your dog to heel at your side and make every decision about which direction to go, you risk adding to his stress when you should be relieving him.
Remember that sniffing is also an essential part of your dog’s communication. You may get frustrated when your dog wants to sniff every streetlight in the neighborhood, but it’s usually just picking up scents from another dog in the neighborhood. These smells will let him know if he is a male or a female, if he is a familiar dog, and if he is nearby or not.
Owners may be embarrassed when their dog automatically starts sniffing another dog’s butt the first time they meet. For a dog, this is almost an evaluative handshake. He gets to know the distinct smell of the other dog.
Sometimes sniffing can also be a calming behavior. If your dog is trying to defuse a situation with another dog, he may start sniffing the ground to let him know he’s not a threat. If you let your dog do this instead of pushing him away, it can help relax both dogs.
How long should a scent walk last?
The short and obvious answer is: as long as you want it to last. The most useful and specific answer is that it’s best to aim for at least 15 minutes. A regular 15-minute walk won’t tire your dog out much, but a scent walk of the same length can provide enough mental exercise to do the trick. If that sounds hard to believe, consider how mentally stimulating sniffing is for dogs.
In addition to giving your dog more opportunities to sniff on general walks, there are other rewarding activities you can consider if your dog enjoys having his nose worked.
Looking for food
If you feed your dog from a bowl and have a yard, try to feed him in a scatter pattern instead. Scattering kibble or treats in a safe, non-distracting grassy environment and then letting your dog go outside and naturally forage for food can be a simple and inexpensive way to provide your dog with additional enrichment. Don’t be stingy and put everything in one small area. Your dog will have a great time sniffing his food and will be relaxed and tired afterward. If you have limited time to exercise your dog in the morning before work, this is a fantastic way to let him work out for his breakfast.
This is a great activity for less mobile dogs with limited exercise, and it can also be a useful tool to help nervous dogs feel more relaxed and confident.
On rainy days, you can still do this type of activity on a smaller scale by using a sniffing mat indoors. These are usually rubber mats to which felt blades of grass are attached. You can bury your dog’s food or treats in there for him to sniff (this will work best if you’re feeding kibble, not an ideal option for wet food).
If you want a more structured learning environment for harnessing your dog’s olfactory abilities, a smell work course can be considered. Not only will this hone your dog’s skills, but it can also be a great way to strengthen your bond.
Your dog will learn to identify a particular smell, find it and tell its owner where it has been hidden.
Walks are important to dogs for several reasons, whether it’s exercise, play, or taking in the calls of nature. But if you rush your dog’s walks or discourage him from sniffing, you could be doing him a disservice, because sniffing is an important aspect of a dog’s life and plays a huge role in maintaining his huge mental well-being. So feel free to let your dog stop to smell the roses or whatever his nose desires. The next time you walk with your dog, don’t be impatient when he wants to stop to sniff; enjoy it and you may find that your dog will be happy.