What Is The Best Type Of Exercise For A Dog? Letting It Use Its Nose!

What Is The Best Type Of Exercise For A Dog? Letting It Use Its Nose!

Often when we are out walking our dogs, we notice our canine companions sniffing about with great enthusiasm. They can sniff with a great amount of energy while they are also enjoying the benefits of physical exercise from their walk. However, there is also a major mental and emotional benefit that they derive from their sniffing adventures. It can’t be emphasised enough how crucial this nasal exploration is for dogs, and in particular domestic dogs, that are kept in urban settings. Dogs have busy minds, and we disregard their welfare at our own risk, and theirs, and by engaging a dog's brain through olfactory exploration, it not only keeps them mentally active, but it also helps prevent a multitude of unwelcome behavioural problems from taking place and occurring.

Finding Time For Your Dog

Many people enjoy the companionship that a dog brings into their lives. However, dog owners may find themselves occupied with the demands of work or family, leaving them with limited time and energy to physically invest into their furry companions. Through experience it can be noted that the most effective way to exhaust a dog in a healthy manner is not solely through physical exercise, but also by providing it with mental stimulation. Teaching a dog trick’s is one approach, and allowing dogs to utilise their olfactory capabilities is another. This second approach can be achieved through introducing engaging scent games or by taking a dog on a walk, particularly in unfamiliar surroundings, where they will encounter new smells and sensations, and the rewards reaped from undertaking such activities can be great.

Taking Your Dog For A Walk

Often when we are out walking our dogs, we come across other owners who are doing the same thing. Sometimes it can be observed of others that for every few steps that they take, the dog will attempt to pause and explore with their nose, only to be repeatedly pulled forward by their owner, who is determined to maintain a constant pace, moving forward. Unfortunately, this is a case of the owner not knowing what their dog really needs in this situation, and what will be of most benefit to the dog.

Humans have an inherent love for walking. Not only do we find joy in taking walks alongside our friends, exchanging news and views, but we also expend a great deal of energy observing our surroundings, appreciating the scenery, and noticing any changes in our local surrounds. Dogs, however, have a different agenda when they are out for a walk. Their primary objective during walks is to explore the environment through their sense of smell, a sensory modality that we human beings possess but often do not consider.

Expert Opinions On Smells, Senses, And Benefits

Smells and odours can both cause distress and enhance an animal’s life. In a study published in December 2015, Birte Nielsen and colleagues highlighted the importance of olfaction as a sensory modality, when applied in ethology and animal welfare. It is argued that by disregarding the importance of scent on animal behaviour and well-being, we fail to provide for animals adequately. Additionally, Clark and King, as mentioned in the Nielsen article, found that stimulation induced by scents increased behavioural diversity and levels of activity in certain types of captive cats.

At the 2012 IFAAB (Interdisciplinary Forum for Applied Animal Behavior) conference, Jenna Bueley, DVM, announced that air collected from a busy urban veterinary clinic heightened stress-related behaviour in the dogs that were present at the time, and in 1992, Bradshaw and Lea determined that most of a dog's interactions with a newly met dog revolve around olfaction.

Acknowledging the significance of the sense of smell in animals, and in particular dogs, is very important, even if it is not second nature to us human beings, and there are numerous examples available that highlight this level of importance. For example, Wells and Hepper, in their 2006 study, found that newborn puppies displayed a preference for the smell of aniseed if their mother had consumed it during their pregnancy, and we can ponder the implications of this finding: that dogs can associate emotions and behaviours with specific smells from a very early age.

Furthermore, research suggests that scent perception in dogs is lateralised in the brain. Siniscalchi and colleague’s study in 2011, titled "Sniffing with the right nostril," revealed that dogs prefer to utilise their right nostril when encountering new scents, but switch to the left nostril when the scent becomes familiar or non-threatening. In this study, dogs exposed to arousing stimuli such as adrenaline or sweat never switched to using their left nostril. Given that the right nostril is linked to the right hemisphere of the brain (contrary to the usual pattern of the left eye being connected to the right brain), this suggests that olfaction in a dog's brain is lateralised, with the right hemisphere playing a primary role in mediating the "on alert!".

And finally, in recent years, it has been found that a dog's nose can sense heat, which opens up the possibility of other abilities that a dog and their nose possesses, but which we are not even aware of as of yet.

In Conclusion: The Best Type Of Exercise For A Dog Is Using Its Nose!

All of this brings us back to the core message of this article: that taking a dog on a scent-filled walk is a great way for them to exercise their body and their mind. The importance of providing a dog with some form of autonomy is closely related to this, and it will assist in providing them with an increased sense of happiness and well-being.

What we are suggesting, is that a dog will be most satisfied when it is allowed the freedom to utilise their sense for scents and smells. For those owners who can walk their dogs off the leash, this is easily achievable. However, for leashed dogs, compromises might be necessary. A stimulating walk with their human companions, during which dogs are allowed to explore various scents, will provide a dog with the information and mental activity that they crave, while still enjoying periods of walking alongside their owners.

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