The art of sniffing

Sniffing, our dogs are big sniffers. Some dogs are super sniffers; those who have been bred for years to use their nose for a purpose. Breeds like the bloodhound; which happens to be the best sniffer in the canine world. Here is a link to a great article on the scent ability of the bloodhound

All dogs sniff, you can watch them on a daily basis even within your own home. If you keep a close eye on the nose you'll see it twitching back and forth. I am continually amazed how my dogs can walk out to the backyard and know immediately that there is a critter close by. They pace back and forth, noses in the air as they follow the scent trail. I love watching them when they are in full pursuit.

Some dogs rely more on their vision than scent but that does not mean that they aren't just as good at scenting. My Jack Russell is a great scent dog but when she is pushed and excited she will opt to use her vision before her nose. My poodles on the other hand are much more prone to sniff first and look second. Infact my boy Luke sniffs out spiders; yes he is the great spider hunter of the Southwest. I thought it was pure coincidence the first time it happened but time and time again I would see him frozen in stance; head down and staring. It was always a spider. He has even dug unstoppably under the coffee table or couch; much to our dismay. When trying to stop him doesn't work; we finally give in and move the furniture to find the little spider culprit. It is always there.

Yesterday I took my little Jessie on a nice walk down a really great trail with a creek. It takes us forever to get any distance at all and my power walking idea does not happen until she gets her smelling done with. Smelling is very important for dogs and those guardians who hate dealing with it need to understand how important that it is. Like I said Jessie will often opt for vision before scent but not when she is out alone on a trail. She will find a spot and smell each blade of grass, each side of one particular leaf and then like clockwork; pee on it.

Have you ever noticed your dog walking along when they stop dead in their tracks? Their head goes up and their nose twitches madly until they find the source of smell. My dogs often press their nose firmly over a whole on the ground and immediately know if there is an occupant in it or not. And many times I have opened a new package of meat and wait to see how long the smell takes to get to my dogs who are in the other room. It is only seconds before they all wander in with twitching noses to see what's cooking.

A good session of sniffing out in a new environment is just as important as a physical run for dogs. Imagine all the informaiton that their brain is processing when they are surrounded by new smells. I am often asked about the sniffing; "my dogs sniffs like crazy, how do I stop it?" You don't. What you do want to do is control it. I always tell people that they should allow their dog to sniff on the way out and if they want to get some serious walking in; then do that on the way back on a walk.

Now that doesn't mean that you have to do it everytime you go outside nor does it mean that you must stand awaiting your dogs sniffing completion for 20 min. My JRT could stay at one spot for up to 1/2 hour; I'm sure of it. So after she has a good whiff of a section I ask her to come along to the next one so that we can move a bit. And yesterday I had predecided that it was her walk on the way out, mine on the way back.

Being so close to the ground probably has something to do with it. My poodles like to sniff but if I'm walking they are with me, only occassionally reaching down if something really great catches their nose. Sniffing is what they do and what they were meant to do so take your dog to new places, not the same ole walk everyday. They'll have a blast sniffing all of the new scents out there; and you'll be working their brain.

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