The Many Reasons Why You Should Let Your Dog Sniff

The Many Reasons Why You Should Let Your Dog Sniff

During your dog's walk, do you permit them to explore and sniff at their own pace, or do you control their sniffing locations and frequency? Sniffing is a significant behaviour for dogs and it fulfills various functions, and letting your dog sniff while outdoors is beneficial for many reasons, some of which we will explore in this article.

The Act Of Sniffing Is How Dogs Learn About Their Surroundings

Sniffing is very important for dogs as it is their way of learning about the things that surround them. Possessing an impressive olfactory system, dogs have one of the best senses of smells among animals. Their nose contains an estimated 200 - 300 million olfactory receptors, which is a stark contrast when compared to our 5 million receptors, and approximately one eighth of a dog's brain is devoted to olfaction. Throughout evolution dogs have developed their keen sense of smell in order for them to survive, aiding them to find food, understand their fellow canines, navigate their surroundings, and elude predators. Sniffing serves as the primary method through which dogs obtain and process information about the environment that they find themselves in, and its importance is akin to eyesight for human beings.

Sniffing Is A Natural And Needed Behaviour For Dogs

It is essential to provide all dogs with the chance to engage in their innate dog behaviours, and sniffing is a vital part of this. Dogs have various natural behaviours, such as digging, foraging, hunting, playing, scavenging, and vocalising, which we sometimes view as problematic when exhibited in contexts that we disapprove of. However, allowing your dog ample opportunities to explore through sniffing is a straightforward and obvious approach for them to embrace their true nature, and letting them be themselves as canines.

Sniffing Exercises Your Dog’s Mind

With a significant part of their brain devoted to their sense of smell, engaging in sniffing provides an excellent mental workout for a dog. A byproduct of this stimulation is a calmer and more relaxed demeanour when they are at home. Incorporating a sniff walk into their routine will stimulate their brain, and you can take it to the next level by introducing scavenging games inside or around your home. These games involve hiding or scattering treats for your pet to find. Another option is to use food puzzles, or you can enrol them in a nose work class. By trying out these scent games, you can provide them with valuable mental enrichment, and observe how it contributes to a more serene and content companion when they are at home.

Sniffing Is A Stress Reliever

It has been observed that when dogs engage in sniffing, their heart rate decreases, so the more that they can use their nose, the more pronounced this calming effect can be. Sniffing can act as a self-soothing mechanism for dogs, aiding in the reduction of anxiety and stress. For dogs that are anxious, fearful, or living in a fast-paced environment, regular walks with a long leash can lead to significant benefits over time. Teaching dogs to sniff on cue, achieved through games like "find it", can help them disengage from distractions in their surroundings, and moreover, the actions associated with sniffing can release built-up tension in their bodies.

Sniffing Makes Your Dog Feel Good

When dogs sniff, it activates their mind, and it also releases the natural feel-good chemical dopamine. This increase in dopamine not only enhances their mood, but it also boosts their motivation and attention, while aiding in learning and emotional responses. Apart from stress reduction, sniffing can positively impact a dog's mood, making them more optimistic. The feelings your dog experiences while investigating scents on a walk are likely comparable to the sensations that we feel through studying, learning, and accomplishment.

Sniffing Provides For Communication And Understanding

While dogs employ sniffing to gather information, relieve stress, and experience pleasure, they also use it as a means of communicating. When dogs feel anxious, overstimulated, or stressed, they may resort to sniffing as a form of self-soothing or displacement behaviour, much like how we use the expression "um” or scratch our heads as a holding pattern when we are feeling nervous or uncertain. By observing your dog closely, you can begin to comprehend the significance of their sniffing in particular situations, and gain insights into their current emotional well-being.

Encourage Your Dog’s Sniffing And Increase The Bond Between You

Each walk with your dog constitutes a meaningful conversation. Granting them the freedom to explore bestows upon them autonomy and choice. It conveys the message that they are valued, and that their desires and feelings are significant. While we may not fully understand a dog's inner workings, we can acknowledge their existence. Allowing your dog to sniff creates an opportunity for them to slow down and live their lives in the present, to observe, and to practice empathy.

After a while, these shared moments with your dog will increase the trust and strengthen the bond between you, and as dogs provide us with so many goods things, we should reciprocate by encouraging their desire to sniff.

For more information about the importance of sniffing to dogs, you can read our article:

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