Imagine you’re on a trip of a lifetime. You’re on safari and looking forward to seeing all the different types of animals out on the plains.
However, your tour guide is driving so fast that before you get a good look at what you think might be an elephant, it’s already gone. In fact, it went by so quickly that you’re not even sure it was an elephant, it could have been a rhino.
Our dogs experience this every day as we rush them around on their walks. Not only does it become frustrating, but we are affecting our dog’s mood by denying them a Scent Safari, or a ‘Sniffari’ if you will!
Scent goes directly to the emotional centre of our dog’s brain or limbic system. The limbic system is the most primitive part of the brain and is responsible for our dog’s emotional life.
Pleasure, fear, frustration as well as the ability to learn and remember are all governed by this ancient part of the brain.
Walking isn’t just physical exercise for our dogs. Exploring the assortment of smells along the way is how our dogs make sense of their environment.
It’s well-known that our dog’s sense of smell is far superior to our own. A dog’s nose has up to 300 million olfactory receptors compared to humans who only have around 5 million!
Dogs can separate each smell into the individual elements that make up that smell. While we enjoy the smell of freshly cut grass, our dog is smelling the grass, the earth, the motor oil of the lawn mower, the scent of the person using the lawnmower and everyone else that has recently walked on the grass.
The Nose Knows
While our sense of smell shares the same nasal channels as our respiratory system, our dogs have a much more sophisticated way of detecting scent. Their brain is structured differently to our own, with the area dedicated to scent detection forty times larger than ours.
When dogs breath in, they separate the breath along two separate pathways in the nose. The first pathway moves around 12% of the air to an olfactory recess for sampling, while the second pathway takes the rest of the air to the lungs.
Dogs’ noses have receptors within their olfactory recess that sort the odour into its parts. The brain then receives messages about each of the various elements.
Our dog’s ability to use separate routes for breath and odour allows for an almost constant sniffing action and means that they can hold onto smell even once they’ve exhaled.
And if that wasn’t enough, our dog’s nostrils work independently from each other enabling them to check out two smells at once.
Schedule a Scent Safari!
While it might not be possible to take your dog on a Sniffari every day, you can set aside time within each walk to let them explore smells and scents.
Sniffing is mentally challenging. It’s a bit like us having to sort through complicated paperwork or learning a new skill. Not only will it benefit your dog, but you will reap the rewards too.
Giving your dog an opportunity to use their nose not only enables them to exhibit a natural behaviour but as a bonus, it tires them out much faster.
Remember to Smell the Roses
Our dogs love to use their noses, and they are specifically designed to do so. Giving our dogs the opportunity to explore their environment in their own unique way contributes to their wellbeing.
So, next time you’re out walking with your dog, take time to enjoy their enthusiasm for life and the safari of scents all around us.
Practical Paw is written by Kim and Mike, with inspiration provided by our own dog, Theo (the happy ginger chap in the photo). Whether you are brand new to sharing your life with a dog or an experienced dog parent we are here to offer you a Practical Paw on all things dogs.
We believe in positive reinforcement, kindness and respect to our animals. It is our aim to promote the well-being and best practice for dog lovers for all aspects of being a responsible dog owner. Practicalpaw.com