Taking your dog for a walk, you may notice that it stops to smell, well, everything—the grass, the sidewalk, those leaves, the fire hydrant, etc. There is no surface that it is uninterested in sniffing.
Why do dogs do this? Why don’t they just enjoy the walk instead of sniffing every single thing that they come across? Here is a basic explanation of what they are doing and why you should let them do it.
Why They Do It?
So why do dogs smell everything on walks? The answer is simple: it’s in their nature. Dogs don’t use their eyesight in the way that people or other animals do. Sure, they can see just fine when they are close to something, and they have the capability of judging distances just fine.
Where they can really excel at recognizing things, though, is through their noses. Their sense of smell can be extremely powerful. It is also what allows dogs to investigate their world and better understand their surroundings.
Comparatively speaking, the nose of a dog is anywhere between 10,000 and 100,000 times more effective than that of a human. Though dogs may not see the world the way that we do, we humans are basically blind to the world of a dog.
The reason that dogs sniff so much on walks is that they are processing information. Each scent can tell them about who or what has been there. Maybe another dog passed through, leaving its scent behind. Your dog can still pick up on that scent even if you never smell it.
Doggy Pen Pals
Another thing to consider when asking, “Why do dogs smell everything on walks?” is that they are communicating with other dogs. Even if they don’t see one another, the scents that they leave behind can be messages in and of themselves.
Each time that a dog passes through an area, it leaves a message. The senders and the receivers of the messages may not ever see one another, but they read messages sent back and forth. That scent takes the place of words, allowing your dog to communicate with others on their walks.
When your dog goes to sniff a tree, it is getting information that allows it to better understand its surroundings. Your dog marks the tree back, giving other dogs that pass through the area an update, a bit of information back.
When walking through a certain area, you may notice your dog sniffing a particular area over and over. This could mean that your dog is familiar with the area and is checking to see if another dog has left a message back. New smells can give the dog new information about the neighborhood and its walking pattern.
Finding that familiar scent can also be a reassurance. Part of what dogs like about going on a walk is being able to experience those familiar scents. It’s like being part of the neighborhood pack, enjoying companionship without ever seeing one another.
Finally, there is the possibility that a turf war is in progress. Perhaps your dog marks a spot, comes back, and it has been marked over by another. Your dog might be coming back to the same spot to ensure that its scent has remained and hasn’t been taken over by another.
Putting Them in Check
One final thing to consider when wondering, “Why do dogs smell everything on walks?” is whether or not it is becoming a problem. If your dog is stopping at every other spot, sniffing thoroughly, it can drag your walks out for far longer than you want.
That said, it is important that you don’t totally dissuade your dog from sniffing. Remember, this is its way of gathering information and learning about the world around it. By not letting the dog sniff, you are essentially asking it to move blindly.
There are a few things that can be done to put a dog in check, providing a happy medium for both of you. The first is to keep your routes consistent. Having a couple is fine, but you want the dog to have a good idea of the “hot spots” on that route. This way, the dog will go to the familiar places and not stop every two seconds to check out everything in the area.
Use the leash to help your dog understand when enough is enough. If it’s okay to sniff, give the dog some slack on the leash. When it’s time to move on, tighten up the lead a bit. Make sure that you don’t pull or yank the dog. Just lead it gently away, giving it praise for moving along.
Stick to the landmarks on your walk. There are a couple of spots where your dog should be allowed to stop and sniff thoroughly. Eventually, the dog will recognize those landmarks rather than stop everywhere.
Your dog’s nose is its most powerful weapon. Whereas we use our eyes to see the world around us and to better understand it, dogs use their noses. When they are going on a walk, they are simply trying to learn about the world around them.
The sniffing can get to be a bit much at times. If there are new smells every time that you go out, it is going to provide a distraction. With some consistency, patience, and rewards, you can keep your dog on track without discouraging it entirely.