Getting a dog meant you’d spent more time out exercising on walks.
But what if your dog just won’t stop sniffing?
It can be so frustrating. Every few feet, there’s yet another fencepost or tree that your dog has to inspect.
It’s a terrible way to get any exercise, let alone around the block in less than ten minutes.
But it’s the best way for your dog to learn about the world around her – way easier than teaching her to read the news or use social media!
You can find a healthy balance between letting your dog sniff on walks and actually getting ahead.
Why Your Dog Needs To Sniff
Making your dog walk with you without allowing her to sniff anything is akin to you having to walk around the block blindfolded. It’s just not fair to deprive her of one of her primary senses.
This is probably why sniffing is such a common calming behavior, as you may have noticed if your dog ever starting sniffing after a stressful confrontation at the dog park.
If you want a calmer, happier dog, you must allow her to sniff at least some of the time.
Sniffing has also been shown to make dogs more optimistic. In the study, dogs who did nosework activities were more likely to investigate an empty bowl placed in front of them – showing that they developed the confidence to lead themselves and make discoveries on their own.
So, it goes to show: sniffing is essential to your dog’s mental health.
But That Doesn’t Mean All Walks Should Go To The Dogs
Okay, so you understand that it’s important to let your dog sniff, but you still need to get exercise.
You can balance exercising and sniffing by training your dog to stay focused on a walk, yet enjoy some free time when you release her to do her own thing.
First off, start bringing treats on walks. It’s okay if you don’t always remember, or if some walks are too quick for that, but even bringing treats more often will direct your dog’s sniffer – and her attention – towards you.
At the start of the walk, give her about 5-10 minutes to just sniff her heart out. Follow her, so long as she does not lead you into traffic.
Once she’s gotten some sniffing out of her system, start up the “real” walk.
If she stops to sniff, tell her “come,” and offer a treat when she breaks out of the sniffing session. There’s no need to tug her along, it’s okay to be patient if she takes a moment to get back to you. As she realizes that you’re giving out treats, she’ll get better at it.
Once you have your dog’s attention, you can stroll or jog down the block – she’ll likely follow without issue – and offer another treat after a successful stretch.
When you don’t have treats, you can just praise her. Tell her what a good girl she is, and encourage her to keep going.
Now, I totally get that you’re not going to want every walk to be a focused training session. That’s okay! Even if half your walks include treats and training, she’ll get more attentive on walks.
How To Better Understand Your Dog’s Sniffer
In an article I wrote for Chewy.com, I interviewed Nathaniel Hall, director of the Canine Olfaction Research and Education Laboratory at Texas Tech University.
No, I don’t know why Texas Tech U has a whole department dedicated to dog noses, but I think it’s a fabulous thing.
Anyway, one of my favorite parts about that article is how it’s not only the structure of a dog’s nose and the larger olfactory part of their brain that gives them those super smelling powers… it’s what they do on walks.
Dogs sniff 5-6 times per second, and they’re close to the ground, so they really make the most of those notorious noses.
Try sniffing like a dog – get a bit closer to the ground, sniff rapidly, and see what you can smell.
And if your dog is fixated on something really interesting, feel free to go over and check it out, too. Even if it’s with feigned enthusiasm to show your dog that you’re a part of her world – rather than an interruption of it.