Posted Date: February 22, 2016
Today is National Walk the Dog Day, in which we discuss the ways that a dog can enjoy their walks more through the use of scent.
Today is National Walk the Dog Day, which was created to obviously
promote walking ones dog! Walking can, of course, provide benefits for both
our health and our dogs health, but depending on how you walk, you can provide
your dog with a whole new level of enrichment.
A study by researchers at Michigan State University found
that approximately 27% of dog owners walk their dogs. Of people who do walk
their dogs regularly, 60% met the criteria for the recommended daily amounts of
leisure-time physical activity (LPTA). This correlates with other studies that
have found that dog walkers are much more likely to achieve the recommended
goal of 150 minutes of walking per week compared to dog owners who did not walk
their dogs, or to non-dog owners, and that getting a new dog led to longer and more
numerous walks per week. This is great news for people who regularly walk their
dogs, and the health benefits should encourage people who dont walk their dogs
to do so more often.
When you walk your dog however, do you go on a brisk no-nonsense
walk? Or take more leisurely time and allow your dog explore his surroundings?
In a blog by noted Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist and author Patricia
McConnell, she discusses the differences between primates and canines and how
this leads to a disconnect when we walk our dogs. Humans tend to want to
enjoy walking by moving forward, side by side to their dogs and enjoying the
environment primarily through sight. Dogs however prefer to enjoy the world
using their elevated sense of smell. In her work she notes that she often sees
humans walking quickly and hurrying their dogs along when they stop to sniff
but this is when dogs are engaging in the world in their own special way!
A dogs sense of smell is important to its ability to
understand and relate to its environment to other dogs. Dogs greet each other
using smell as their first sense. A study of one-day old puppies found that if
you put aniseed in the mothers food when she was still pregnant, the puppies preferred
the scent of aniseed. This means the dogs can learn to associate scent with important
elements in their environment before they are even out of the womb, which is remarkable.
Dog olfaction has also been found to be lateral such as the way humans think
with their left and brain. Dogs use their right nostril when interacting with novel
scents, and used their left with more familiar scents. If the smell aroused the
dog, their left nostril took over.
So what does all this mean? Next time you take your dog for
a walk, give them a chance to stop and sniff their environment before
hurrying on your way, and remember scent is so important to how a dog perceives
the world. Doing this can give the dog more mental enrichment during the walk
as well as physical exercise.
Photo credit: Siberian Husky via photopin (license)