Why do dogs sniff on walks? What to Know

Benefits of Sniff Time for Dogs

You might find it frustrating when your dog wants to stop and sniff every landmark while going for a walk. However, when dogs sniff, they are gathering vital intel about their territory and four-legged neighbors. Whether it’s discerning the scent of a male rival, a notification that a bitch is in heat, or that a critter they’d like to chase took a pause in that spot, sniffing offers a wealth of enriching information.

Why do dogs sniff on walks?

Staci Lemke, CPDT-KA, RVT explains that sniffing is how dogs gather and process information to interpret the world. “Imagine someone taking you to an art gallery, then blindfolding you. You wouldn’t get much out of it, would you? I imagine that’s how it is for dogs that are rushed along on walks without the opportunity to stop and sniff,” she says.

When you look at the science, it’s no surprise dogs love to sniff everything. Dogs’ noses have more than 200 million scent receptors—compared to a measly six million in humans. Plus, dogs sniff five to 10 times a second, which we only do once every 1.5 seconds.

Studies even suggest sniffing makes dogs feel more optimistic. Sniffing offers your pet the chance to make more of their own choices and engage in naturally enriching behaviors.

Sniffing Can Make Your Dog Feel Better

Some dogs can become over-stimulated when they do high energy level activities, but harnessing your dogs natural sniffing behavior is a calm and generally relaxing option.

A 2019 study published in the Applied Animal Behavior Science Journal even suggests that providing ample sniffing opportunities can make your dog feel more optimistic.

Sniffing Is an Important Part of Doggy Communication

Dont forget that sniffing is also a vital part of how your dog communicates. You may get frustrated when your dog wants to sniff every lamp post down the block, but they are usually just checking out the scent marks of another dog in the neighborhood. These scents will allow them to tell if the dog is a male or female, if it is one they are familiar with, and whether they are in the near vicinity or not.

Owners can be embarrassed when their dog automatically gravitates towards sniffing another dogs butt when they first meet. For a dog though, this is almost like an evaluative handshake. They are getting to know the other dogs distinct smell.

Sometimes sniffing can also be an appeasement behavior. If your dog is trying to diffuse a situation with another dog, they may begin to sniff the ground to let them know they are not a threat. By allowing your dog to do this rather than pulling them away, it can help to relax both dogs.

This is the Reason Why You Should Let Your Dog Sniff on Their Walk |