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Walk a few steps. Stop, sniff, pee, repeat. Sound familiar? Some dogs can’t make it through even a short walk without being stopped several times by their noses.
At times, it may be frustrating, especially when you’re in a hurry, but it’s actually quite important to let your dog stop and check their “pee-mail”. Though you may have a goal to reach the next mile marker, it turns out that your dog can get more out of a walk when they are able to stop and sniff, compared to walking a long distance with no pee-mail breaks.
A dog’s nose
Dogs have highly powerful noses with 50 times as many scent receptors as humans. Additionally, they have an organ that we humans do not; the vomeronasal organ located above the roof of their mouths helps trap the scents they pick up.
Why dogs need to sniff
As you can imagine, being able to detect so many different smells presents a wealth of information to a dog. All of this information gathering is very mentally stimulating, giving your dog’s brain a lot to process.
From the smells they pick up, a dog can find out that another dog has passed through and about how long ago they were there. They can also learn clues about the other dog’s gender, mood, and what they have been eating.
Given the choice between reading/watching TV or staring at the wall for two hours, you’d likely choose the first option, right? Just like people, your dog, too, craves regular mental stimulation.
What happens when they aren’t allowed to sniff
Without sufficient physical and mental exercise, dogs can become anxious and even destructive. Often times, they’ll invent their own ways to let out excess energy, which can be destructive and undesirable, like chewing the furniture.
Most of a dog’s life is out of their control as it is structured by their pet parent. A walk is their chance to get a little bit of freedom (even while on leash) to make their own decisions about when and what they stop to sniff. Without this freedom, you could be adding to your dog’s stress and anxiety rather than relieving it.
We know you don’t always have all the time in the world when you take your pup out for a walk. Fortunately, you don’t have to let them sniff every last thing for as long as they want. Just make sure they get some good sniffin’ time during their outings. And if you are unable to meet your dog’s needs, consider hiring a drop-in dog walker!
At-home sniffing activities
Is your dog a super sniffer? You may want to look into canine nose work, a stimulating activity for dogs of all ages.