From Tracie Titchkosky, No Bad Dogs Training
There has been a lot of information out there lately about the efficacy and usefulness of walking your dog. There are many benefits of getting outside with your dog and getting them appropriate exercise and the best way to do that is to get off the sidewalk and let your dog sniff.
Let’s talk about the boring science stuff first: Dogs have, approximately, 20,000,000 scent receptors in their nose, humans have about 5,000,000. A Dog’s scent receptors are linked directly to the limbic system in their brain (their pleasure system) and their limbic system is 4 times larger than in a human’s. What this means is that dogs derive most of their pleasure from their nose.
Physically, the act of sniffing engages a dog’s respiratory system, muscular system, and pleasure system allowing them to experience better physical benefits from this than from walking alone.
There have been many studies indicating that a dog’s desire and ability to sniff and forage is the most natural form of canine exercise.
There are also mental benefits that come from the activity. When a dog is in sniffing mode their brain is focused and the dog is able to concentrate, this allows dogs that may have hyper-arousal or hyper-energetic tendencies a natural way to calm themselves.
Scenting classes and exercises have also been instrumental in treating dogs with separation or other anxiety disorders.
There is a definite correlation between body tired and brain tired, dogs who are able to focus and utilize their brains when undergoing physical activity tend to be more focused, connected to their guardian and less anxious in general.
When exercising your dog start thinking about exercising the brain along with the body. If your dog has just had a good run, swim or game of fetch, try playing a connection game with them, tug or chase are good examples and can bring them down a notch from the adrenaline of fast paced exercise. Once they have been engaged with you in play allow them time to sniff, play a scenting game or take them to a green space or boulevard and let their brain focus and calm down naturally. Your dog should be good and ready for a rest after tiring out body and brain.
The big question for dog guardians who like to walk with their dogs is who is the walk for? If it is your walk and you are focused on getting from point A to point B in a certain amount of time then maybe it is not the right time to take your dog with you. Dogs really don’t care about Point A or Point B, they care about the journey and what they can discover along the way. So if the walk is for them, decide on an amount of time the walk will take rather than a destination. 1 hour of sniffing will be much more satisfying for your dog than 1 hour of walking beside you.
Add a long line and some treats, let the dog walk with some distance and some choice, at their own pace and you will be the proud guardian of the happiest dog around.