Let Dogs Sniff
Your dog gets excited when its time for “Walkies” because that is their opportunity to absorb the goings on in the outside world. Sniffing is a mentally stimulating and rewarding experience for our dogs. Dogs have a highly developed sense of smell, so can tell far more than we ever could from a
sniff. To pinch a phrase a friend of mine uses, they are picking up their messages “peemail”!
In these times of lockdown it’s even more important to let our dogs make the most of their walks as they like us are keeping their distance.
The action of sniffing wears a dog out by getting them to use all of their senses, which in turn gives their brains a workout. This can help relax anxious dogs and help tire out our energetic dogs so they get proper rest.
Yes it’s lovely when our dogs walk beautifully to heel, but this shouldn’t be at the expense of their enjoyment and fulfilment. Walking our dogs gives us time to be out together enjoying our surroundings, it should be an interesting and relaxed experience for both of us. If we slow down we might notice something that ordinarily we would have missed too and how nice would that be.
Just being let out to sniff around their own gardens isn’t the same as going out for a walk.
You can play fun scentwork games in your garden with your dog. You will improve your connection with your dog and promote calmness as they use their senses to follow the trail you’ve set for them. If you are self-isolating and are unable to take your dog for a walk here are some ideas for games to help challenge your dog.
You can use part (or all) of your dog’s dinner for these games, making your dog work for his dinner, which will not only last longer than being put in a bowl, but will be rewarding for both your dog and you.
Find the Treat – hide some treats in the garden and watch your dog find them, you may need to help and guide them a little as they get used to it.
Hide and Seek – if your garden is big enough you put your dog in a sit/stay, then you go and hide, then call your dog. This is a good exercise for teaching patience and steadiness aswell. You may also find that this helps your recall when out on a walk, especially if you reward your dog when they find you, the reward doesn’t have to be food based, it’s whatever is a high value reward for your dog, it could be that one special toy.
Cups game - Start by putting a treat under each cup. Then as he gets the hang of nudging the holder with the treat under it gradually make it more difficult by having 3 cups and treats under 2 of them, gradually increasing the difficulty. Once he touches the cup lift it for him and let him have his reward.
Setting a scent trail - Let your dog watch you lay down a scent and food trail. Use an item that has some scent like a sock. Drag the item to create a scent trail and hide the item a short distance away from the end of the trail. Start with a simple straight line trail. Along the scent trail, place some small bits of food to encourage your dog. You can gradually build up the difficulty as your dog grows in confidence, making the trail windy and then making it a blind trail. Only do 1 or maybe 2 trails a day, depending on the size of your garden, you want to keep your dog engaged and always make sure you end on a positive.
Sniffing and scentwork games are a fantastic activity for you and your dog. Just watch your dog enjoy himself sniffing away working those most gorgeous noses.