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Is Your Dog Smelling the Roses?

Is Your Dog Smelling the Roses?

New research shows that dog sniffing keeps them mentally fit


My neighborhood is a menagerie of dog-walking types.


Most owners let their dog do doggy things. But others treat the activity as if it’s a huge inconvenience. Pee! Poop! Let’s go!


One neighbor doesn’t so much walk her two small dogs as drag them. When they try to stop to sniff the grass, she yanks them away.


Another neighbor jogs with his three leashed dogs. What might be a great way for him to stay fit leaves them panting.


Then there is the couple with two large dogs who walk in perfect formation with eyes straight ahead. Such good boys! But no time to stop!


I can only surmise that my neighbors think these calisthenics constitute “walking the dog.” As a bystander, it’s not only sad to watch, but it’s clearly traumatizing the dogs beyond the obvious physical exertion and stress. 


Most dog lovers have long understood that canines enjoy their walks because they can sniff their way to learning and communicating about their surroundings. Who was just here? Was it male or female? Should I remind them who the Big Dog around here is? Is that pizza in that bin? 


New research shows that allowing a dog to sniff while outdoors is even more essential that previously believed: Veterinarians and scientists say that sniffing keeps dogs – especially older dogs -- mentally fit.


It increases respiration rates and stimulates hormonal and metabolic processes. It can also lower levels of stress-inducing cortisol. When an elderly dog loses its other faculties, it is its sense of smell that can keep them going. 


My dog is an epic sniffer. There is no smell he won’t examine as thoroughly as if he were writing a PhD. dissertation. If I were allow him to sniff everything he encounters for as long as he’d like, our walks would take hours. He yanks and drags me to the same grassy patches, tree stumps, and leaf piles every day and, yes, it’s annoying. But I force myself to be patient and remember the walk is for him, not me. 


So, the next time you take your dog for a walk, pay attention to your dog-walking style and ask which type of dog walker are you? If you find that you resent having to walk the dog, or you’re always running late, or you need to get your steps in, try to remember to let your dog take the lead once in a while to sniff and explore.


Your dog will love you for it and your neighbors will, too.

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