I’m pet sitting for friends this weekend and have the pleasure of walking a different dog in another neighborhood. It’s been a nice change of pace, especially after being mostly homebound due to the pandemic.
Why Dogs Enjoy Sniffing During a Walk
In addition to enjoying my own change of scenery, I couldn’t help but chuckle when thinking about how my friends’ dog, Freya’s sniffing reminds me of how humans check their social media accounts. Not unlike most dogs, she has landmarks throughout the neighborhood that she just MUST stop to sniff. This happens during every walk, every day, no matter how often we pass those items.
There’s a telephone pole, a green and yellow fire hydrant, one specific bush, and a mailbox post made of three vertical logs surrounded by some frayed rope.
As a dog trainer, I understand why she’s stopping and what she’s getting out of sniffing these locations each time. Dogs use their noses to understand their environment and gather information about who and what has been there earlier in the day. So, I thoroughly enjoy watching her make these discoveries. But, as I stand patiently waiting for her to finish sniffing, I’m struck by the feeling that many people would become frustrated by her behavior and try to pull her away or even raise their voice to startle her and get her moving again. They may even reach out to a trainer like myself to see how they could get their dog to stop this exact behavior that I encourage and enjoy.
Dogs See the World Through Their Nose
I wonder if it would be helpful for these pet guardians to think of their dogs’ stopping to sniff being similar to how they check their social media and email throughout the day. Sniffing is a dog’s way of learning about what’s happening in their world. Other dogs left information, not unlike the information in a post on Instagram. Your dog is reading some interesting “pee mail”—he’s simply scrolling through and reading information important to him.
During our most recent walk, I had fun picturing that the telephone pole was Freya’s Twitter account, the brightly colored fire hydrant was Instagram, the bush was her Facebook feed and the mailbox post was, of course, her email inbox. I smiled and waited patiently each time she stopped knowing that she was gathering the latest information, and possibly juicy gossip, from her fellow neighborhood dogs and leaving a little of her own behind for them to read, I mean sniff.
So, I hope the next time your dog takes a little longer than you’d like sniffing around a certain spot, you’ll remember what the walk is really for—take the time to stop and enjoy watching her while she learns about her furry friends and their little community.
Tiffany Lovell, CSAT, CPDT-KA, AAI, has been a professional trainer and behavior consultant with Cold Nose College for 15 years. Their team offers online dog training and behavior consulting, coaching and mentoring for aspiring professional dog trainers and behavior case support for Pet Pros. The Cold Nose College trainers specialize in separation anxiety. Tiffany has contributed articles to Whole Dog Journal and Bark magazine. www.coldnosecollege.com