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Why It’s Important to Let Your Dog Sniff During Walks (5 Reasons)

german shepherd on a leash sniffing the ground

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Most owners think of dog walking as allowing their dogs to get physical exercise and to do their business outside the home. However, a walk can provide much more than this for your dog. It can be a time to socialize with and meet other dogs, as well as owners and people. It allows you to advance your training sessions and your dog the chance to sniff.

While it can be tempting to hurry our dogs when they sniff, especially in inclement weather conditions or if we’re in a rush to get to work, doing so could be depriving your dog of a host of benefits since it enhances their mental stimulation and can be beneficial to exercise their sense of smell. Below are five reasons you should let your dog sniff, unhurried, while you’re out walking.

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The 5 Reasons For Your Dog to Sniff During Walks

1. It Makes Them Happy

All good dog owners want their dogs to be happy. That’s why we provide toys, train our dogs to exhibit good and safe behavior, and why we pet and love them. According to one study, letting dogs sniff while they are out walking is another way that we can improve their general mood.

Specifically, sniffing has been shown to increase a feeling of optimism in pet dogs. This means that your dog will look forward to walking because it will be allowed to sniff. Dogs that were given heelwork, rather than nosework, during their walks did not show the same response.

beagle hunting
Image Credit: olginaa84, Pixabay

2. Sniffing Encourages Independence

The same study also shows that sniffing encourages independent decision-making. While too much independence might be considered a negative trait for a pet dog, at least when it means that that dog ignores commands and requests, it can be a positive attribute.

Independent dogs don’t need to be told what to do and when to do it. They are more likely to instinctively know what is expected of them and how to do it. By allowing more natural behavior, such as sniffing, owners can encourage a greater level of independent decision-making from their dogs.


3. Sniffing Exercises a Dog’s Sense of Smell

Sniffing is a natural activity for dogs, and it is easy to forget just how powerful their sense of smell is. In fact, a dog’s nose is thought by some scientists to be 100,000 times more powerful than a human’s nose based on the relative number of olfactory receptors. This means that they pick up on very faint scents and from a considerable distance. If they are allowed to sniff, they can investigate these scents and can determine canine activity and the activity of other animals in the area. They can even determine what kind of a mood those dogs were in, and having this information means that your dog can more confidently approach a given situation.

In the wild, they would use their sense of smell throughout the day, but other than calculating where you’ve hidden the pack of dog treats, it isn’t really required when at home. Sniffing allows your dog to hone its sense of smell.

dog sniffing flowers
Image Credit: Sergej Razvodovskij, Shutterstock

4. It Provides Stimulation

Dogs don’t just need physical exercise; they also require mental stimulation. This can come in the shape of socialization and training. It can be further provided through canine sports or agility classes, but even a simple walk provides stimulation for your pet pooch.

Mental stimulation keeps the brain agile and may help prevent conditions like dementia and other cognitive impairment. A stimulated dog is also less likely to show behavioral issues and will be easier to train.


5. It Tires Them Out

It might seem counterintuitive, but letting your dog sniff, rather than taking them on a physically demanding walk with no breaks for sniffing, could tire them out more quickly. The “exercise” of the olfactory sense may provide mental stimulation. A tired dog is a well-behaved dog. This is another way that letting your dog sniff could help prevent behavioral issues, too.

german shepherd dog sniffing sand
Image Credit: DanaTentis, Pixabay

6. Walks Are More Fun

Dogs love to use their sense of smell, whether it’s to investigate previous canine park visitors or to hunt out the dry kibble you’ve placed in the grass of your local park. The more your dog enjoys their walks, the more they will want to go on the next one. This means that you can continue to provide healthy exercise and mental stimulation, even if your dog typically is a couch potato.

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Conclusion

Walks are an important part of a pet dog’s life. They provide physical exercise, and they enable socialization and training. While it is tempting to try and get out, walk as quickly as possible, and get back as soon as you can, you should try and take the time to let your dog sniff uninterrupted, ideally in a variety of locations and settings. Not only does it exercise their incredible sense of smell, but it provides mental stimulation and may even tire them out more than brisk walks.


Featured Image Credit: Vilve Roosioks, Pixabay

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