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  • Deb Bauer

Making Scents of the World - Bringing the Outside In

When we walk our dogs, are they getting the chance to sniff? I mean, REALLY sniff?

There is so much great information available about the benefits of sniffing for our dogs’ wellness and wellbeing. We can find advice about giving our dogs plenty of time to sniff on their walks - many of us have started to use the term sniffari to mean a walk where our dogs can sniff to their hearts' content.

I’d like to propose a new thought into the mix.

Making Scents (Sense) of the World

Our dogs' noses are so incredible that they can smell things in the environment that are not even close to them. When they are on a leash, they smell all of these amazing and tantalizing smells that they can’t reach, even if there is plenty for them to sniff right where they are.

Every smell brings our dogs a wealth of information. Some of our dogs are content to smell what they can reach and keep moving at the pace that we set for them.

Other dogs, those dogs that want to know absolutely everything that’s going on are often left frustrated. As if the information they are gathering is incomplete. Or they are rushed and aren’t yet finished when we decide to move them along. They never really get to the end of the story those smells are telling them … they’re left in the middle of a cliff-hanger!

Some dogs are overwhelmed or overstimulated by all the smells in addition to the environment around them - too many people, squirrels, traffic, noise, etc. and they don’t have the ability to fully process and learn from the smells they’re finding.

How can we help our dogs to feel like they are getting all of the information that a scent provides them, in their own time, and feeling safe to do so? How do we allow dogs that need more processing time to have a calm, secure feeling of safety while they check out something new? How do we break down the overwhelming array of new scents for our sensitive dogs so they can become more comfortable and confident in their world?

Bringing the Outside In

By bringing the outside world in - into their home, into their yard - into places where they already feel safe and secure, where they are not bound by leashes or our time limits. Where they can go back to the same smell over and over again until they are fully satiated and satisfied, having gathered and processed all the information they need to …

… we can give them the freedom to explore and engage fully in their own time, as they need to for their fullest benefit and wellbeing.

Often our dogs may walk away from a scent, and we think they’re done so we continue to move them along, but they may want to return to that scent again, and maybe even again. They may be weaving the information-rich experience into the other input they’re receiving from the environment, or they may be taking a break to process and then coming back for another layer of information when they’re ready and have the brain space to process more.

A small white dog wearing a pink plaid harness lies on a brown dog bed.  Between her paws, she holds a small jar with holes in the lid.  Her nose is pressed close to the holes as she takes in the scent of the horse hoof clippings inside.

Bringing scents home with me has brought a new sense of contentment to my dogs. They spend as much time as they want to with each scent and seem fully satiated when they’re done. It’s interesting to watch how each dog responds to each scent, how much time they spend with it, and how many times they may go back to it to gather more information.

I encourage you to bring interesting scents home with you from your walks, and to keep yourself alert to new smells that your dog may find unique. Put them in a secured container with holes in the lid and see what you can learn by watching your dog’s response.

You can add outside scents to your dog’s enrichment plan. If you’re looking for other enrichment activities that use all of your dog’s senses, check out this unique collection of ideas: Enriching Every Sense. It's important that we provide opportunities for our dogs to use all of their senses every day. When considering a dog with sensory differences, nourishing existing senses is imperative for a great quality of life.

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