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Why you should let your dog stop and sniff on walks

 by bora on 08 Nov 2019 |
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All dog owners have felt frustrated when their pets stop and smell during walks, but research is pointing to the benefits of this activity.

Many pet parents have experienced frustration when their curious companions stop to sniff every five steps during walks. However, research is showing that allowing dogs to exercise their noses may be just as important as the physical activity gained from walking.

Most dogs like to stop and smell when they when they are on the go, and this makes sense: Not only do our canine companions have up to 300 million olfactory receptors in their noses—compared to the roughly six million humans have—but they also use this keen sense of smell to gather important information about their surroundings. Dogs communicate partly through chemicals, so they pick up a lot of information about their peers through smell. Giving him time to stop and sniff, then, is truly allowing your dog to understand his environment. Forcing him to forgo this behavior, on the other hand, may be akin to sensory deprivation, as dogs use their noses to determine what other animals have visited a particular spot, how large they are, if a female is in heat, and other social cues. Allowing your pet to sniff other animals’ markings may ease introductions on the street, too, as Fido has already had a chance to “meet” his fellow canine through smell.

If you are concerned about striking the right balance between exercise and nose-to-the-ground time during walks, you can try an experiment with your pet. First, take him on a walk and allow only a small amount of time to stop and sniff. Another day, take your dog on a walk and give him ample time to smell his surroundings. Compare his energy levels after both walks and adjust his smell time accordingly to help your pet strike the right balance of burning mental and physical energy. Another option some pet parents choose to explore is nosework, which kicks Fido’s tracking abilities into high gear. Nosework trains dogs to sniff out a piece of meat, cheese or other tasty morsel, allowing your pet to exercise his keen sense of smell in a problem-solving scenario that activates both his body and brain. By playing this game of olfactory hide-and-seek, your dog engages in a natural behavior and makes independent choices that, research shows, appear to benefit his overall wellbeing.

Whether you are walking through the park or practicing nosework, active time you spend with your pet is a chance for you to bond. By making the experience enjoyable for you both and adjusting activities according to your pet’s individual needs, you can strengthen the relationship you share while improving Fido’s quality of life. While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to giving your dog adequate time to sniff during walks, allowing him to stop and smell can significantly improve his experience.


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