It’s hard to believe we are only just realising the need dogs have to be given time, everyday, to use their noses. Just like humans spend time collecting information and exploring our world predominantly by way of our sight, dogs are built to evaluate their world via olfaction.
In fact, the need for nosing goes way beyond simply stopping and smelling the roses for our dogs. Their olfactory system is the corner stone of their world. The 3 day old pup above has no sensory input other than through touch and smell. Vision and hearing are still weeks away from coming on line and right now all this baby dog is programmed for is to seek the smell of Mum (especially those milk giving nipples) and warmth and closeness from both Mum and siblings. Odour is how dogs perceive the world and that perception is very, very deep.
Consider the… let’s say “standard” or maybe “level” at which they can identify odour. While lots of books and articles will tell us a dog’s sense of smell is “10,000 Times or 100,000 times” better than ours, it is actually impossible to compare. It’s not just better it’s completely different. For instance, the chocolate cake just out of the oven we smell is more likely experienced by them as milk, eggs, coco, flour, sugar… Unimaginable for us!
We could go on, but there are lots of articles and books out there where you can learn more about how we understand our dogs experience the world through their nose. What we want to make sure you understand is that this means engaging a dog’s olfactory system in some way is the best canine enrichment around. Here are some ways we know of that dog owners around the world are doing just that:
- Scatter feeding or hide and seek feeding. Throw away the food bowl! By making your dog use it’s nose to find it’s food you are allowing it to exhibit the most natural canine behaviour around – scavenging for food. Start easy and build up the difficulty. We have clients who’s dog will hunt for an hour for a few bits of kibble!
- Let your dog lead the way on a walk. Thank goodness the days of misunderstanding dog behaviour and our need to dominate our dogs have largely left us. When you take your dog out on a walk, let their nose lead the way! For many dogs this is way weird at first – most dogs are not used to being allowed to make decisions about where they venture on a walk, but it is an awesome way to build up confidence and a sense of agency. And if they want to spend 5 minutes sniffing at the base only one tree, what’s your problem? How long have you stared at the tv, your computer or your phone today???