• Lorraine - Waggie Tails

5 Top Tips for walking your dog who's part of the 'Nose Army'

Getting out for a dog walk is one of life’s joys and it gives us a chance to experience all the sights and sounds of the great outdoors

As we soak up these sensory experiences, we often forget that our dogs see the world very differently to us - and while we are looking at the sights, our dog is discovering far more about the area by its smells.

I know with my dogs, especially my Irish Red Setter, we are a little miffed when our dog doesn't actually want to stay by our side and it feels like they are ignoring us. What they are actually doing is their job - SNIFF, SNIFF, SNIFF !!

Whilst we may feel we are wasting time and start clock watching, it's a lot easier to understand it's purely because we do not have anything even close to a dogs sense of smell or know that this incredible ability means that unlike us, they see the world in smell-o-vision.

While they are sniffing, they are finding out about the area, who lives there, who has passed by recently, and even what kind of mood they are in. All the time they are sniffing, they are processing information about the environment and who and what is in it.

The power of a dog’s sense of smell

When it comes to sniffing, humans are pretty useless in comparison. Depending on the breed or type, a dog’s sense of smell is around 10,000 - 100,000 times better than ours. They possess up to 300 million olfactory receptors in their noses compared to about six million in ours and the part of their brains that analyses and processes scents is 40 times greater than ours.

While these numbers mean little to us, if you made an analogy to sight, what we can see at around a third of a mile a dog could see more than 3,000 miles away. Now that's impressive!

Dogs can also detect cancer cells, explosives, drugs, and track and find lost people or animals - all by using the power of their noses and the part of their brain that analyses and processes those scents.

Sniffing has so many benefits for your dog

As owners we need to give our dogs time to sniff and it’s not just their noses that are working, it’s a large part of their brains too.

For worried reactive dogs, sniffing can help them feel more secure - as they have spent time working out what is out there and whether it needs to be worried about or whether, far more likely, it is safe. And for active dogs, time spent sniffing can take the edge off their distracted energy.

For all dogs a chance to sniff fulfills a major part of their sensory needs - as much as physical and mental exercise does and as much as play does. Sniffing makes them happy and gives them an outlet for their hard-wired natural behaviours.

Some tips on how to be nose aware and enjoy your dog walks:

1. Using a long training lead and a harness when you take your dog out and let them spend at least 5 minutes of their walk sniffing. The 5-minute sniff-fest can be as stimulating and enriching for your dog as the whole of the rest of their walk. Every time you visit a new place, let your dog spend some quality time sniffing. They are finding out more about the area than you will ever hope to know.

2. Even when visiting the same places or even the same routine every day, the scents will always be interesting to your dog no matter how many times they have been there before. The information is always changing so the opportunity to sniff is as important the 1000th time as it was the first. Every day is a new sniff-athon challenge !

3. You will get to know the top sniffing spots on your regular walks. It may seem very annoying but please don’t avoid them. They are very probably where other dogs regularly urine mark and you should let your dog spend time sniffing these. You may think it's a bit disgusting but by checking the wee-mails, your dog is finding out about what dogs are in the area, if they know them, when they passed by, their age, sex, size, health, stress level and very probably their mood. All vital information.

4. If your dog stops to sniff, don’t drag them away. That is as annoying as someone pulling you away when you are trying to look at the gorgeous pair of bling shoes at Harvey Nics, or a fab sports car in the showroom on Park Lane. Give them time to sniff before encouraging them to move on again.

5. Be amazed by your dog’s nose. It really is something very special indeed. You could even look in to scent training for your dog or puppy.

Any enrichment exercise is fantastic for your dog or puppy, whether your at home or in your garden, large or small. At home I play hide and seek and it's fun for them too. It may take a while for them to sniff them out but it mentally challenges them too. Don't forget, if you have a small dog, not to place the treats too high in case they can't reach them.

Waggie Tails offers adventurous group and solo dog walks in Dunstable, Totternhoe, Eaton Bray, Whispnade, Studham, Ivinghoe, Stanbridge and Edlesborough. To find out more visit HERE

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