The Importance of Sniffing

Sniffing, one of the things dogs do, but most dog owners don’t give much thought. But did you know that sniffing is really important for your dog for several reasons? So, why is it important that we give our dogs the opportunity to sniff? Let’s have a closer look at what sniffing means and does for our dogs.


A dog sees the world through their nose. They have an incredible sense of smell. With about one eighth of their brains being dedicated to smell, and about 300 million olfactory (smell) receptors, compared to the 5 million us humans have, they can even detect certain health issues in humans. Dogs use their sense of smell to process the information about the world around them. From gathering information about territory, to the mood of the neighborhood canines, dogs use their sense of smell in a way comparable to that we use our sight. Sniffing keeps them up to date about the world, just like we watch the news and follow those around us on social media.  

Mental exercise 

Most people are aware that during a dog walk you provide them with physical exercise, but a walk can be great for mental exercise too. As read before, about one eighth of a dog’s brain is dedicated to smell, so giving your dog the chance to sniff during their walk is a great way to provide them with mental enrichment. Keep in mind that sniffing will be tiring for your dog, and a 30-minute walk dedicated to sniffing, can be as tiring as a one-hour walk without sniffing. Besides letting your dog sniff during their walks, you can also play sniffing games, like search games where you hide treats or by using food puzzles. Be sure to give your dog plenty of rest after stimulating activities.

Sniffing will make a dog feel good and relieve stress 

Sniffing activates the part of the brain that releases dopamine, which is the hormone that makes you feel good. An increased level of dopamine will boost motivation, mood, and helps regulate emotional responses. Besides the release of dopamine, sniffing also lowers the heart rate. The more a dog sniffs, the lower their heart rate becomes, which suggests that sniffing has a self-soothing and calming effect on dogs, which in turn helps reduce stress. So allowing your dog to sniff, will help them feel happy, calm and relaxed. 

The Importance of Sniffing


Sniffing is one of the innate behaviors of dogs. An innate behavior is a behavior that’s genetically hardwired into an animal and can be performed without the need of having prior experience. They are also called instinctive behaviors. So by giving your dog the opportunity to sniff, you are giving them the opportunity to be a dog.  


Besides sniffing to learn about the world around them, dogs use sniffing as a way to communicate. Sniffing is an appeasement signal, and can also be used to communicate emotional state. When a dog feels anxious, overstimulated, or stressed, they may sniff to self soothe or avert an unwanted situation.


Giving your dog the freedom to use their body as they wish during a walk and letting them explore, is a great way to strengthen the bond with your dog. Keep in mind that we as humans are often focused about the destination of the walk, but for our dogs, it’s the journey that counts. Giving your dog plenty of time to sniff might be a big mindset change to some dog owners and will require a decent dose of patience, but it will be well worth it. It will give you the opportunity to get in tune with what your dog is doing, and you will experience first-hand how much they enjoy having the freedom to sniff all they want.

Sniffing activities

By incorporating sniffing activities into your dog’s daily routine, you can keep them happy and satisfied. A fun sniffing activity to try with your dog is a ‘sniff walk’. A sniff walk is also referred to as a dog-led walk, scent walk, free walk or decompression walk. During a ‘’sniff walk’’ the dog will decide the route of the walk without intervention of the person that is walking them. They get to sniff where they want, how long they want, and decide where to go. During a sniff walk, the focus of the walk will be on scents logged instead of distance covered.

Another fun way to incorporate sniffing into the daily routine of your dog is through games and puzzles. An example of this is the snuffle mat, which comes in different sizes and shapes and is designed with the idea that you can hide treats in them. You can also do sniffing games which do not require a purchase, like a scavenger hunt where you hide treats throughout the house and/or garden. Would you like to know more about enrichment activities, have a look at our blog “Enrichment Ideas for Your Dog to Keep Him Happy”.

The importance of sniffing

Is often underestimated by dog owners. By giving our dogs this simple opportunity, we can mentally stimulate them and ensure they lead happy and fulfilling lives and improve the connection with our dog in the process. Through this article we hope to have shown what being allowed to sniff will do for your dog, and how you can incorporate this in their daily routine. And hopefully help dog owners that may have issues changing their mindsets about what an ideal dog walk could look like. Would you like to know more about our dog sitting or dog training services, feel free to contact us, our team will be happy to help.

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