Dogs love to sniff. Our pooches’ sense of smell is 40 times greater than our own. Whereas our primary sense is sight, for our dogs it’s smell. Which means the world is a very different place for our dogs. For our fun-loving pups, sniffing is another way they ‘see’ the world.
However, sniffing is not just a means of exploring the environment, it’s a mental workout and important for our dog’s emotional wellbeing. So walkies aren’t just for physical exercise. Allowing your dog to sniff gives their brain a good workout which can be hugely tiring for our pups.
But having a good slow sniff around the neighbourhood is far more important to some than others. Take my Loki for example. When I let her do what she wants on walks, her nose is constantly to the ground. She sniffs every area thoroughly. Which means 10 minutes can pass and we’ve only walked 10 metres!
Because every surface outside our homes has a story to tell. By sniffing, your dog can tell when a dog passed by, whether they’re male or female, or if it’s a friend they met at the dog park. Sniffing is like reading the newspaper and getting all the latest on the neighbourhood gossip.
But with our modern day lives those leisurely strolls can become a source of frustration. When we need to get back to work, pick up the kids from school or do whatever else we need to do, it can feel like we don’t have time to let Fido sniff every blade of grass. We need to get back to it.
But it’s important to remember, walks are your dog’s time. It’s the only opportunity they get in the day to let loose and do what they want. Within reason, of course!
I often see owners dragging their dogs along at speed when their pooch is desperate to sniff. And it makes me sad. Because for most dogs they’re confined to the home for most of the day. That daily walk is their chance to explore the wonders of the world outside those four walls.
But I get it, letting your dog sniff for hours on walks isn’t always feasible. But you don’t have to let them do it all the time. And here are a few top tips to manage their sniffing so it works for both you and your pup.
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Use a different harness
It’s a good idea to choose one walk a day that will be your designated sniff walk. If you need to, set a timer and let your dog sniff whatever they want during that time. This will help reduce some of that stress on you, knowing you won’t be late for whatever it is you need to do.
Remember, it doesn’t matter how far you get. Just ensure you allow enough time to turn back so you return home when you need to. Use a different harness so your dog knows when it’s either a fast-paced or a sniff walk. Dogs are intelligent creatures, they’ll soon learn to associate what each harness means. That way your walks will be a more relaxed and pleasant experience for you and your dog.
Teach your dog to sniff on cue
If you’d rather a different approach, you can break up your walks into walking and sniffing opportunities through training. This will help your dog understand when they’re allowed a few minutes to sniff, and when it’s time to walk again.
Simply choose a command such as ‘let’s go’ for when you’re ready to walk. And another such as ‘go sniff’ when you want to let your dog sniff around for a while. If all your dog wants to do is sniff when they’re outside, it helps to praise your dog and offer a tasty treat when they start moving again. When your dog’s attention is on you as you walk, continue to offer praise and encouragement. Then when you’re ready to let your dog sniff again, use the command ‘go sniff’. This in itself becomes a fun game for you and your dog! It’s been very successful with my Loki. It may take a little while before they get it, but be patient and it will come.
It’s important to give your dog time to sniff. No matter what that looks like for you and your dog. Whether you choose to have designated sniff walks or you break it up throughout the walk.
How will you include more sniff time for your dog during walks? Let me know in the comments below…
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