If your dog walks have turned into a leash tugging battle (one pushing to the left and the other wanting to turn to the right), here’s a tip: let your furry friend win.
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“The world of smells is very rich and important for dogs; therefore, letting a dog sniff at its own pace during outings is essential, since it obtains a lot of information from the environment,” explains canine ethologist and veterinarian Sandra Portals. Not only that: “Sniffing relaxes them a lot and helps them be happier,” says Portals. Science has also confirmed this: in 2019, research concluded that allowing the dog to sniff and use his snout often makes him happy, improves your mood, and allows you to see the world of a more optimistic way.
What’s more, dogs are designed to sniff, an ability that they have improved and refined over tens of thousands of years of evolution. “And although it is true that some smell better or with more detail than others, all dogs they need to be able to stop sniffing at his own pace during walks, be it a tree or another dog, “says the ethologist. Also: pulling on the leash is harmful to your furry friend.
The Science of Dog Smell
There are many ways to smell, but scientists agree on one thing: the method we humans use is far from the best. Smell researchers (yes, you read that correctly) have discovered that humans have about six million olfactory receptors in our noses; while dogs own 300 million. There’s more: while you inhale, on average, once every second and a half, dogs can do it between five and ten times per second. Almost nothing.
As if that weren’t enough, dogs also breathe out more effectively than we do, practicing almost circular breathing, says canine cognition professor and researcher Alexandra Horowitz, author of Being a Dog: Following the Dog into a World of Smell (Being a dog: following the dog into its olfactory world). “Dogs exhale through the side slits in their muzzles, allowing them to maintain a continuous flow of air within their muzzles. This ability allows them to receive a continuous olfactory view of the world“says Horowitz.
Therefore, while our noses do their job, the dog’s muzzle is gifted at the task of traveling the world through the smells and chemical messages that navigate the air. Among others, the pheromones (intraspecific hormones) that it captures when he sniffs at another dog companion.
If you wonder why your dog insists on sniffing the hindquarters of other animals, the answer lies in his powerful sense of smell. It turns out that with this gesture he captures a lot of information about the intentions and emotional state of other dogs: the anal glands secrete pheromones that let him know if the other dog wants to play or, on the contrary, prefers to be left alone.
How to walk the dog, and make him happy: let him use his muzzle!
The most important thing to remember is that this is a walk for your friend. “And if he wants to recreate sniffing a tree, you have to let him do it,” insists Portals. Letting them sniff at will is something simple that we can do, and that will help your dog or your dog to relax and, in general, to be happier.
“You have to bear in mind that they obtain a lot of information through smell: they know if a dog friend has passed by or if a nearby dog wants to play; so it is important to learn to be more patient, respect their nature and skills, and forget about the jerks “, emphasizes the ethologist.
In addition, we can go out into the mountains and prepare smell games. Galtier proposes, for example, placing feed kibbles on the lawn and other quiet areas so that the dog can find them.
Another idea: you can make an olfactory mat; a simple object that activates your dopamine mechanism and helps you release anxiety. The best: you can make it with your old t-shirts or with some leaky socks. Plus, here are seven games to stimulate your furry buddy’s mind and smell.
Science insists: being able to use smell makes dogs happy. The more the merrier. And this is a reason more than enough (among others) to forget about the jerks. You already know, if you want to make your doggy comrade happy, let him guide the walk and the journey. In Other Barks: Let your furry friend win the leash battle.
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