New Years Resolution: Let them sniff!!

When I mention ‘sniff walks’ many owners say ‘but I do let him stop occasionally to sniff ‘.

However a true ‘sniff walk’ is much more than this. The focus should be on the dogs needs and wants and not merely as an ‘infrequent addition” to the daily walk.

These walks are not about cardiovascular exercise or distance covered, they are about the brain and promoting brain health.


Regardless as to whether a dog is on leash or off,  on a ‘sniff walk’ they should be allowed to set their own pace and go in the direction their nose takes them!


You can see from the video that my black and white dog (although off leash and free to run) is actually choosing to smell and investigate his environment in the same way that the golden dog is – dogs WANT to be able to do this when they are in a new place.

This can undoubtedly be frustrating to owners who are time poor or who want to incorporate some of their own fitness training into the walk. There can be a lot of starting and stopping on a ‘sniff walk’.


Of course not every walk can or will be like this; for most of us, it’s helpful if dogs can learn to walk ‘at heel’ politely in public.

 But dogs probably benefit from ‘at heel’ walks less than we actually appreciate. For some,  the inability to slow things down and attempt to make sense of their new surroundings via their nose, can be very stressful and contribute to their reactivity when out walking. 


So let’s keep ‘sniff walks’ as their own special ‘thing’ and recognize their importance. Allocate time for them just as you would an obedience class or taking the kids to sport on a Saturday morning.


Letting dogs really, truly smell their environment is incredibly stimulating mentally (we all know dogs experience and make sense of their ‘world’ predominantly through scent).

Importantly though, stimulation of the olfactory (smell) cortex in the brain also helps dampen down the reactive flight/fight centre which ultimately promotes better behaviour all round.


So think of a sniff walk being the equivalent of a long leisurely beach walk for us humans! At the end of the day its not about physical exercise its about mental health! And it’s important!!


 Written by Dr Emma Hughes BSc; BVSc; MSc (Animal Behaviour); MANZCVS (Veterinary Behaviour).
Dr Emma Hughes

Author Dr Emma Hughes

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