Let Your Dog Sniff – Pros vs. Cons

The time that a dog spends sniffing and processing the information that he gathers provides a form of mental exercise.

A doggo’s sniffer is his strongest sense.  Scent is how he recognizes people and other animals. It is how he keeps himself mentally stimulated and it is how he finds his way home if he’s lost.  Sniffing can even tell him if his human is sick. A dog’s sense of smell is more that 40 times more powerful than a human’s, and this allows him to learn and retain details about everything around him. Letting your dog sniff has many benefits.

When a dog sniffs he is gathering and processing information, providing mental stimulation.

When you are walking your dog, it is tempting to rush him along when he tries to stop and sniff every single tree, bush, fence or lamppost. It may not always be possible to stop at every “good sniff”, but if you are able to, your dog will benefit greatly from your patience.

When a dog sniffs the right spot, he can learn about the animals or people that have preceded him.  The time that he spends processing the information that his nose has gathered provides a form of mental exercise.  It acts like a puzzle that the dog must put together and retain. Because dogs don’t have a lot of things to exercise their brains in the house, this is a vital part of his daily activity while they are out. This mental stimulation is one of the most significant benefits of letting your dog sniff.

If they are confronted with another dog, they can learn everything about that dog through a few moments of sniffing.  They can determine the gender of the other dog, where that dog has been, the humans or dogs that this new friend has met.  He can even determine the other dog’s emotional state.

What are the cons?

Having said all of this, there are a few things to be concerned about when your dog is out sniffing the neighborhood.  If your doggo finds poop that has been left behind by another dog, there can be some dangers lurking in that little pile.  Poop from a sick dog can contain worms and bacteria, including E. coli and Canine Coronavirus.

I remember my German Shepherd becoming ill. She was vomiting and had severe diarrhea.  When I took her to the vet, she was diagnosed with a bacterial infection (gastroenteritis) that was treatable with antibiotics.  When I asked where she would have contracted this, and the vet said it probably came from something she sniffed along a walk.  After that I was very cautious.  I am still very aware of what my own dog and all of my clients are getting their noses into. 

What have I learned?

Nothing is 100% safe, but the benefits that your pup will gain from those short sniff sessions far outweigh the possible negatives.  The likelihood of your dog getting sick is very slim, especially if you are vigilant about watching them. 

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