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  • Writer's pictureNICE

Dog Professionals, Use and Celebrate the Sniff!

Updated: Sep 15, 2023

Something we see regularly, daily in fact is dogs pulled away from an interesting sniff. It's commonplace to see dogs secondary to phones or just a human forward march. It's sad to see and quite unfair. It's even harder when we see a dog trainer telling or showing people how to walk their dogs, by marching them along. And let's face it - the dog always looks sad, doesn't he? I would go so far as to say that dog trainers who discourage snuffing are causing more problems than they think they are solving.

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. We have full minds more than we are mindful. Can you imagine though, being marched through your life on a rope, never having time to pause or mentally explore? Always at someone else's pace.

Here's something to make you think. I wrote the paragraph below for the first time a while ago:

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.

And I wrote it about the dog below, Vinny.

And now he's gone.

One awful November evening he left us in one of our most traumatic experiences. Luckily though, he was never rushed through life. He sniffed everything, right to the end.

Please remember that one day your dog will be gone too, please let them sniff and enjoy that primary need for as long as you have them.

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 living with dogs ethically. It’s respecting the senses of our dogs and giving them some freedom in a choice limited world.

Allowing and creating opportunities for dogs to sniff is the ethical and educated choice. All dog professionals should teach people to let their dogs sniff.

To encourage it even.

If you're a dog professional and want to join an amazing practitioner organisation, check out the National Institute for Canine Ethics.

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