stop and smell the roses (and the grass, and the air, and the dead stuff)

My fascination with and love of dogs keeps me always pushing my education as a certified dog trainer forward. From ears to tail, there is much to learn and understand.  Lately, I’ve reading about the dog’s sense of smell. In fact, dogs use their noses more readily than they use their eyes. When you come into the room, your dog is more likely to recognize you by the way you smell than by the way you look.  Don’t get me wrong, one of the unique behaviors of dogs, versus other canids like wolves and foxes, is that they make eye contact with us and they are always watching us. They do however, lead with their noses.

Unless we encounter something that smells really good (Thanksgiving dinner) or really bad (well, dog poop), we tend not to think about our noses. The dog’s nose is constantly on duty; deciphering “messages” left by other dogs through urine, taking note of what’s in the air or who may have recently been in the room.  Since we tend to always be in a hurry, we are not good about letting our dogs use their noses often enough.

My Golden Retriever Lucy recently had surgery and it was necessary to restrict her activity for awhile.  This was going to be a challenge because Lucy is a daycare dog and is used to multiple daily romps in the yard with the Frisbee and the tennis ball. As important as it was to keep her quiet, it was also important to keep her stimulated. Animal behaviorist, veterinarian and trainer, Dr. Ian Dunbar, encourages owners to take their dogs on “sniffing” walks. I think of these as slow, lazy walks where your goal is to be patient and accept that you and your dog are going nowhere fast!  I thought about my recent reading and the recommendation of Dr. Dunbar and Lucy and I went for a sniffing tour of the neighborhood.

I am lucky to have a small hiking trail behind my home. From the front door of the house to a full loop of the trail, the distance is about 1/4 of a mile. Lucy and I spent over 30 minutes finding our way around that trail. I summoned all the patience I could muster and just let her sniff – everything – and she loved it! I’m sure that she was using her nose to learn about the deer that wander through the woods behind our home, the other creatures that nest, eat and scramble through and just enjoying the opportunity to stick her nose in the ground without me bugging her with ,”Lucy, let’s go.” She went at her pace; spending however much time she needed from area to area. There is a tree down on the trail that Lucy spent a good 10 minutes sniffing around, at one point even putting her front legs on the trunk of the tree and standing tall to get a good sniff of whatever was on the top. I enjoyed witnessing every minute of it!

We rush through life. There are always things to be done like work, the kids, the house, friends and family.  Those 30 minutes with Lucy were not just good for her. She got to be a dog… we need to find time to let our dogs be dogs. I got to revel in watching her be a dog and forget about the rush for a while.  I recommend you do the same.

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2 Comments

  1. My husky puppy is basically rowdy proper now, this may definitely assist with me trying to calm him a little.

  2. Donnamarie

    Since I’ve been walking Bianca daily, it has been a pleasure to experience how she explores her world through her sense of smell, sniffing the wind, the leaves, the rocks and grass, and yes, the dead things. It brings her such joy, as much if not more than the walking itself.

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