Dogs love to sniff and explore. We need to be aware of our dog’s amazing ability and need to use his senses.
Allowing dogs and especially puppies to explore, sniff and taste different safe objects helps their brains to develop, however be careful not to overload a puppy with too much or the puppy will shut down. A few minutes a day is enough for a small puppy.
Give the dog some pet toys or safe household junk, scattered around a room or yard for him to explore. You can even use an old cardboard box and hide some yummy treats in or under some of the objects.
If he is investigating an object, which is not doing any harm, then allow him to do so, as this will help him develop selfconfidence. Don’t pull him away. Give the dog space to explore, don’t interrupt and learn to keep quiet. Dogs need to explore their environment and find out what’s there. This nose work will cost him more energy than a long walk, it is hard work for the dog but it is necessary for his development and self-confidence.
Many problems in dogs develop through lack of selfconfidence, so do not stop him from using his senses. After all this is what he was born to do. However do not allow him to chase and keep him on a lead unless in a safe and secure environment. They will view their new environment first and then their head goes down and they start to take in the information through their nose. We should never yank on the lead or pull the dog’s head up. This can damage the dog’s vertebrae or thyroid.
When walking your dog, make the walk an enjoyable one. Don’t walk your dog on a short lead, making him keep up with your walking pace. Allow him to walk slowly on a long lead, to sniff and explore the environment. This will be more enjoyable for your dog, more mentally stimulating.
As a dog uses his senses, he is taking in a lot of information, he is reading the daily post, who has been there, what has been there, why they were there, and so much more information that we, humans, do not know and cannot comprehend.
Some objects can be scary for dogs, especially for puppies. Allow them to walk up and explore in their own time and own way without pushing or rushing the puppy. Our intervention can do more harm than good in this situation. If the dog wants to go away from the scary object, then allow him to do so, its ok for him to walk away, he may be ready to deal with it another day. Also allow the dog to have an escape route from the situation, this will help him to feel more secure, knowing he can leave if things feel a little scary.
Take your time, walk slowly, enrich your dog’s environment, give him plenty of rest and enjoy your dog.
Scent work is fun for your dog so allow him to do what he was born to do. Understanding your dog’s needs is the beginning to understanding him and developing a good relationship with him.
(Nicole Mackie has over 14 years of experience in handling, exhibiting, training, observing, studying and sharing her life with dogs, gaining many qualifications over the years such as canine behaviour, canine psychology, general animal science and experience in veterinary nursing. She is a regular radio speaker and writer for magazines, works with behavioural problems in dogs and runs socializing groups for dogs with social problems.)