Imagine one of your favourite past times being constantly interrupted. Maybe you are reading a good book, watching your favourite football team, playing a fun game or visiting an art gallery, even watching a live show! And, there behind you, there’s someone covering up your eyes every now and then!
This frustrating and not so enjoyable scenario is how I imagine a lot of dogs feel, being hurried or yanked along when they are simply trying to engage in natural and enjoyable dog behaviour.
Dogs see the world through their leading sense, SMELL. And they evolved this skill to best navigate their landscape, for survival, to learn about other dogs and to evade predators. With 1/8th of their brain dedicated to sense-of-smell (olfaction), sniffing is the primary way that dogs gather and process information about the world.
Yes, taking your dog on a good run around does tire them out physically, but we do underestimate the power of a good sniff walk. From experience with my dog about 30 minutes on a sniff walk is as tiring as a 90-minute run around. I am a firm believer that they should be part of your dog’s regular routine.
Why is sniffing so beneficial for your dog?
- It is a natural doggie behaviour, that is both mentally and physically stimulating
- Sniffing releases calming hormones, thus decreasing their stress levels and their heart rate
- Regular sniff walks will really assist any dog that is feeling anxious as it gives them a strong chance to decompress from any exciting or scary things that have happened
- It gives your dog the opportunity to have choice in what they are doing and where they are going. Giving your dog choice is powerful
- It allows them to fully process their environment and to take in the local news
- Research has shown that the more a dog sniffs, the more optimistic they are!
How to carry out and enjoy a sniff walk with your dog
- Dedicate time, when you are not rushing to any particular destination
- Tell yourself that this walk is for your dog, not for you
- Reframe the walk to be about the journey, not the end point
- Maybe put on some lovely music or an audio book to entertain your brain, while your dog is doing the same
- As soon as you leave the house, pay close attention to your dog’s body language
- Let your dog start exploring with their nose, and keep on going. To encourage them you can drop a few treats on the ground
- Be open to going in completely random zig zag lines, I have crossed many a road backwards and forwards with my dog!
- Do not yank, pull or hurry them up
- Kick back and relax, let your dog do the work
- See it as a chance to zone out from rushing around, and let your dog take the lead
Chrissie is a London based professional dog trainer. Fully accredited, Chrissie works with all breeds.. www.dogsmarts.co.uk