Sniffing is so vitally important for dogs.
Their sensitive nose is amazing and the experience they get when using it in the world is extremely enriching. Whilst we look at the world with our eyes, our dogs survey it with their nose. So, when they suddenly stop on the way to the park and really need to sniff for a minute or two, this is really important to them. We might not fully understand it but their sniffing experience when they have their nose pressed to a small patch of pee on a wall, is the equivalent of reading an exciting email for us. In the same way, we might see something super interesting when we are out and about, and stop to look more closely, our dogs might smell something interesting that really enriches and improves their day.
We people can find stopping to sniff when walking along the street, quite a tedious experience. I have a 14-year-old dog now and whilst he’s really sprightly and not at all like an old dog. He has however, ramped up the sniffing. We don’t usually walk along streets but when we do, we don’t get anywhere quickly so I get it. It can be easy to think that rushing along to the field is the best option – but the smells at the field may not be as interesting. So, we could easily be rushing them away from an experience that might be the most life enriching experience they have that day.
The dog’s nose has evolved to be so amazing that even if they don’t see another dog on their walk, they get a lot of social information about who is around and who has passed by recently. They can tell the health of another dog and their sex just by sniffing the pee the other dog left behind. We live on the start of a public footpath with lots of footfall dog and human. My dogs love a good sniff around the start of the path when they get the chance. They can tell who has passed by, when and how the other dog may have been feeling at the time. That sniff they get between the car and the house is one of the most enriching things that can happen to them, they love it!
Sniffing on walks is a crucial part of good guardianship. It’s respecting the senses of our dogs and giving them some freedom in a choice limited world.