No one can deny that companion dogs make us happy. In turn, we strive to give them good lives, providing food, shelter affection, and companionship in return. Despite the seeming closeness of the relationship I have with my dogs, I’m still all too aware that snuggling on the couch, taking rides in the car are very human activities, and the dog is happily fitting in to that. The daily “walk”, which rarely miss, is more balanced, in that we feel natural strolling along, and the dog gets to to what is instinctively natural: sniff.
My dogs, like most dogs, live for the “walk.” If they had to choose between that and a treat, I think they would choose the walk every time. This is my projection, of course. I enjoying “seeing” everything and everybody we encounter on the walk, and they enjoy smelling it all. Their nose is, of course, their most important of the five senses we share, and magnitudes more sensitive.
Just how much more sensitive might blow your mind. BBC entertainment recently aired a program about this and demonstrated a dog on a boat being able to pinpoint exactly the location of a can stuffed with treats that had been dropped to the bottom of a lake and weighted down so they knew it hit bottom. The dog sniffed and sniffed the air and alerted in the direction of where it had been dropped, and their sensors told them it was precisely where the treat had been submerged.
Now I’m not saying that the dog could smell underwater, but perhaps molecules in the air just above where the can was lowered were still concentrated enough to let the dog know it was there. Either way, it boggles the mind to think about the scent abilities of dogs. It’s a dimension we can only try to imagine.
Most of us are too busy to be able to take a dog on more than one or two walks a day, and so there should be (and are!) ways to stimulate your dog’s mind and nose that will make for a happier dog and a more entertained human. All that is required is a bit of enthusiasm and some treats. So here is how it works.
I instruct both my dogs to go into another room and close the door. I then take several treats and break them up into small pieces and place them strategically around the room. (If I want to make this last longer I will use more treats and multiple rooms.) One all treats have been place, I go back to the room where the dogs are, open the door and shout “Doggie Treasure Hunt!” and then “Find it!”
You would think they were racehorses that had been kept for hours behind the starting gate the way they scramble and run to start our game. It’s so much fun to watch them search and sniff and search some more. They are completely engrossed, happy and in their element. Not only does the Doggie Treasure Hunt game utilize the dog’s sense of smell, but it also satisfies his need to scavenge, which is the instinct that likely brought human and dog together in the first place.
This is a quick, easy and fun game to play that will not only alleviate a dog’s ennui from inactivity or lack of stimulation, but it will also focus his attention and energy in a way that will sometimes alleviate nervousness that might kick in for things like rainstorms. Give it a try…it’s easy and fun. Just make sure you have plenty of treats on hand!
If you want to do more to stimulate your dog’s sense of smell, try finding a “nosework” class in your area. They are starting to get more popular as people see what fun it can be as a shared activity.Featured photo by: Stan Rawrysz