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Let them be dogs!

From day to day, how much time do you think your dog actually gets to spend being a dog? I know for a lot of dogs, it isn’t much time at all. A lot of dogs are stuck in their house or backyard every day with little to no novel enrichment. I believe we are disserving our dogs by not letting them…well, be dogs! So, here are a few simple things you can do to give your dog a bit more time to be just that - a dog. The first thing that all of us can start doing right away is allowing our dogs to sniff their nostrils off during walks. Most of the time, leash walks are, in my opinion, used the wrong way. We take our dogs out with the objective of tiring them out, but then we attempt to get our dogs to do “structured walks” at our sides during most, if not all, of the walk. Here is my advice: Let your dog use their nose! Did you know that dogs possess up to 300 million olfactory receptors in their nose? AND the part of their brain that processes those smells is 40 times greater than ours! Can you imagine? They live in a nostril driven world! Allowing our dogs to use the most powerful tool they have is a win-win for both us and for our dogs. Another option is to break away from the routine leash walks entirely and get your dog to a safe space for some off leash, or long lead, exploring. Dogs LOVE exploring. They were born to do it! Allowing them to do their sniffing off leash or on a long lead is the ultimate way to let them be a dog! A recent study by DogFieldStudy showed that dogs who were on a long lead spent 280% more time sniffing than dogs who were on a short leash, and unleashed dogs spent 330% more time sniffing than dogs who were on a short leash. If you ask me, those numbers speak volumes about how much our dogs would actually use their noses, if only we would let them. Life is wild. Weather, busy work schedules, kids and family obligations can all prevent us from getting our dogs out and about. I definitely understand the challenge. So, on those days when getting your dog outside just isn’t possible, I’d like to suggest you still provide an opportunity for your dog to use their nose. There are games and toys designed to help assist dogs with getting their smell on. Games like “find it” work really well for this purpose, and it’s very easy. Instead of putting their kibble in a bowl, simply hide little piles of it around the house or stuff a couple of Kongs with yummy kibble and mixtures of goodies and hide those around the house for your dog to find. There are many resources out there specifically for Kong related games and recipes. Do you have a dog that likes to dissect toys (but doesn’t ingest them!)? Try wrapping their kibble or Kong in an old hand towel or sock and hide those around the house. It is amazing what a game of “find it” can do for a cooped-up, bored, or under stimulated dog. Let’s do right by our dogs this year and make it a goal of ours to let them use their noses and just let them be dogs.



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