Dog Behaviour and Training 

Everything about your dog’s sense of smell

A walk is one of the joys of life and gives us the opportunity to experience all the sights and sounds of nature – be it on our regular walks or exploring new places. When we soak up these sensory experiences, we often forget that our dogs see the world very differently than we do – and as we look at the sights, our dog discovers much more about the area through its smells.

The owners are so annoyed that while they stroll across the landscape or want to take an active walk through the park to ensure that their dog is exercising daily, their dog ignores them as they put their nose down and “Only” sniffs.

It’s easy to pull them away because they think they’re wasting valuable practice time, but that’s only because we don’t even have a sense of smell for dogs and we don’t understand how fabulous our dog’s nose is – or that this means incredible ability that, unlike us, they see the world in smell-o-vision.

As they sniff, they learn about the area, who lives there, who has come by recently, and what mood they are in. While sniffing, they process information about the environment and who and what is in it.

The power of a dog’s sense of smell

It’s easy to understand why we don’t understand this. When it comes to sniffing, people are pretty useless in comparison. Depending on the breed or type, a dog’s sense of smell is about 10,000-100,000 times better than ours. They have up to 300 million olfactory receptors in their noses, compared to around six million in our noses, and the part of their brains that analyzes and processes smells is (proportionally) 40 times larger than ours.

While these numbers mean little to us – since we are visual and therefore think and process what we see instead of being olfactory – when you draw an analogy to what we can see on a half-mile a dog can see more than 3,000 miles away. Are you a little more impressed by your dog’s sense of smell?

Dogs can detect cancer cells, explosives, medication and track down and find lost people or animals – all with the power of their nose and the part of their brain that analyzes and processes these smells.

Why do dogs sniff so much?

It’s very easy to ignore what we don’t understand, but part of living with a dog is realizing that a dog’s sense of smell is important to him in a variety of ways. First of all, it’s fun. As we look around and enjoy it, our dog’s sniff and are equally happy about it. Second, it’s a way to find out what environment (and who) it might contain – and whether it’s safe. And they collect information that other dogs have left (they check their little mails!) – and they process all this constantly changing information about the area and its residents, while we believe that they are just wasting time sniffing.

Sniffing has so many advantages for your dog

As owners, we have to give our dogs time to sniff. Most of us know that five minutes of training will tire our dog up to an hour of physical activity, but we don’t always recognize that five minutes of sniffing does the same. It’s not just their noses that work, it’s a big part of their brains too. For active dogs or for dogs that start their walks completely uncontrollably and either pull on the leash with excitement or whiz around everywhere, the time they spend sniffing can relieve their unconcentrated energy.

For concerned reactive dogs, sniffing can help make them feel safer – as they have spent time figuring out what is out there and whether they need to worry or whether it is far more likely to be safe.

Perhaps more importantly, the ability for all dogs to sniff fulfills a large part of their sensory needs – just like physical and mental movement and as much as playing. Sniffing makes them happy and gives them an exit for their hard-wired natural behavior. So often we ignore this important part of our dogs’ needs because we just don’t understand it.

How to become “nose-conscious” on your walks:

  1. Use a long training leash and harness when you take your dog out and let them spend the first full 5 minutes (at least!) Of their sniffing. Don’t consider this a waste of time – it’s just the opposite … this is your way and you meet your needs. This 5-minute sniffing party can be as stimulating and enriching for your dog as the rest of the walk.
  2. Let your dog spend some time sniffing every time you visit a new place. You will learn more about the area than you will ever hope to know.
All About Your Dog Sense of Smell

3. Even if you take the same regular walk, the scents are always interesting for your dog, no matter how many times he has been there – because the information is constantly changing and the opportunity to sniff is as important as the 100th Time when it was the first! The weather changes the smells, making them either easier or harder to recognize and process, as well as things like freshly cut grass (if you can smell it, imagine how overwhelming it is for your dog!). For your dog’s nose, every day brings a new sniffing challenge, even on the most famous walks.

4. On your regular walks you will get to know the best sniffing spots. They are most likely where other dogs regularly leave urine stains, and you should let your dog spend time sniffing them. You may think it’s a bit disgusting, but if you check the little mails, your dog will find out which dogs are in the area, whether they know them, when they went by, how old they are, gender, size, health, stress levels and most likely your mood. All of this is important information – and in fact … can you imagine how useful it would be if we could do that ?!

5. If your dog stops sniffing, don’t pull him away. This is as annoying as someone pulling you away when you try to look at something interesting or important. Give them time to sniff before encouraging them to continue.

6. Take time every week to go on a scented walk only. Go to a new park or outside area and let your dog sniff the whole walk with a harness and a leash. Follow them where the scent goes. Watch your dog (don’t just stare at your phone!) And try to understand how important the scent is to him and what he may discover about the world.

7. If you have a very odor-conscious dog (certain breeds and types such as Scented dogs Prioritize fragrances and have better olfactory abilities. You can hide your favorite toy or treat while you’re on the go so they can sniff out. It is helpful if you have someone who can hold your dog while hiding the toy (so that it cannot see where you put it and so that you can leave a clear scent trail for it).

8. Let your dog’s nose surprise you. It is really very special.

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