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Sniff Walks

It’s spring, and we’re all getting outside more. The days are warmer and getting longer.

It’s time to get back on an exercise schedule, get some sunshine, get back into shape and feel good.

Does your dog get enough exercise? Well, maybe you have a fenced-in yard, and the dogs can run all they want. You throw a ball or a frisbee for them. They play with their friends or go to dog park. So why are these dogs still hyper? Why do they still drag you down the street on walks? Why can’t they just relax and chill out at home? Along with exercise, your dogs need enrichment. A mental workout can tire a dog out even faster than physical exercise. It’s like when you’re in bed, and just can’t sleep – you’re wide awake, so you pull out a book and start to read, and before long you can set the book down, and drift off to sleep. The dog equivalent to reading a book is a “sniff walk.” When dogs sniff, they learn about the world. A sniff walk for a dog, is like reading the newspaper, social media, and the comics page all at the same time. Sometimes they don’t want to put the book down. Jake is a Lab/Collie mix with boundless energy. He would pull his human, Joe, along on walks for miles, and would lunge toward other dogs, cats, people and anything that moved. So I suggested that Joe take Jake on a “sniff walk” in the woods across the street, just before the normal neighborhood walk. Joe let Jake sniff for 15-20 minutes before the walks, and the results were amazing. After a 15-minute sniff walk, Jake’s brain was so much more relaxed that he walked right beside Joe for the whole neighborhood walk. Sniffing relaxes your dog. A dog’s nose contains more than 300 million olfactory receptors. Your nose has 6 million, so your dog’s sense of smell is 50 times greater than yours. When dogs exhale, the carbon dioxide escapes through slits on the sides of their noses, and that stirs up the air that they breath in and pushes new smells in, intensifying the smells.

Sniffing decreases anxiety and aggression, it stimulates the brain, it tires dogs out, and makes them happy. This doesn’t mean that every walk should just be letting your dog sniff. They also need exercise, and they need to work on their polite walking skills – following your lead, checking in, and listening to you. Sniffing can happen before your walks, can be a break during walks, or can be a destination. You can keep sniff walks separate from regular exercise walking.

When I walk Reggie, he walks beside me on a regular 5 foot leash for about 1/4 mile until we get to the park. He knows that he’ll get to sniff, run, and potty when we get to the park, so he’s on his best behavior.

When we get there we stop, and he sits. I attach a flexi-lead (extendable) on him, and wait until he looks at me to release him (“okay”) to go and run, explore and sniff.

We walk along the creek and woods up to the end of the park and back at his speed, and when we get back to the street, he sits. I put the regular leash back on him, and he politely walks back home beside me. It’s a great combination of exercise and sniff walk, and he loves it. Find a good sniffing area for your dog, and take breaks there. Let your dog read the doggy social media posts, and even answer some of them! Sniff walks keep your dog smart, relaxed and happy.

Sniff walks are fun!

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