The Power of Smell

March 19, 2021

We often think that it is only a walk that will give our dogs stimulation and exercise. A walk is very important and a dog should be taken out daily, to help them keep fit and healthy. Even an older dog can have a small walk. Like us we can seize up when we have not been moving, the same can happen with our dogs. Dogs love to have human contact, and this is because they are social animals.

Whilst out on a walk, they use their noses all the time, sniffing here and there. This is their way of reading what is going on in the neighbourhood, as well as leaving their mark behind for others to sniff. The power of smell, for a dog, is how they interpret the world around them, the same way as we use our sight. A partially sighted, or blind person will use their other senses to help find their way around, and some people will also have a Guide Dog for assistance. Their noses are used when out meeting other dogs, to help assist as to whether they have met a friend or foe. If they have made a new friend, then they will happily walk together and sniff around in the same places. It also helps them recognize the new buddy when they next meet.

Did you know:-

  •        A dog’s sense of smell is between 10,000 to 100,000 times more acute than ours.
  •        Possibly 30% of a dog’s brain is dedicated to analysing odour.
  •        Dogs can wiggle each of their nostrils separately.
  •        They can smell separately with each nostril.
  •        The power of smell can influence a dog’s behaviour and mood.
  •        The use of scents can relax a dog, help reduce their vocals, and aid in their sleeping.   

Working detection dogs sniff out explosives, drugs, firearms, currency, mobile phones to name but a few. Search dogs help to find people who have got stuck or hurt whilst out on the mountains. While you have other detection dogs using their sense of smell, to locate cancer, diabetes, epilepsy and other human conditions, and recently, dogs are being trained to detect coronavirus. How do they do this? A dog can smell minute changes in a person’s blood, even before we realise we are feeling ill. Or in the air, they can detect a specific scent on the human breath. When this happens the dogs then alert their owners generally by pawing them. To train a scent detection dog, takes a long time, with lots of repetitive training, and not all dogs qualify.

For our own beloved canine buddies its usually for treats. My own dog can sniff out a treat from a great distance, but then he is a Labrador x Retriever and governed by his stomach. He can sniff out a treat in a pocket no problems or hidden in a game in the home.

Getting a dog to use their nose and search out treats, food and toys is great for their mental stimulation. Indoors or out in our gardens, this can be done in a variety of different ways.

You can purchase lots of different food dispensers which rock, roll and eject food when the dog has knocked it with their paws, or placed a ball in the unit etc. There are lickable mats, which you can spread dog peanut butter, soft cheese or pate etc spread on them, then hide them somewhere in your home or garden and watch them search. Letting a dog search for some of their food or treats is a great mental workout for them, and can be just as tiring as a walk, sometimes more, depending on how hard they have worked.

Ideas for enrichment games at home:-

1)      Place some treats or kibble in a dog toy, and hide the toy somewhere in the house, where the dog is allowed to go. They may need some encouragement to start off with, but then they will enjoy the searching and reward.

2)      Using an old cardboard box or storage box, fill it with screwed up newspaper and hide kibble or treats in the box. You can also put their toys in the box and hide the kibble or treats again, and watch them search for their rewards. Some dogs will take the toys out, some will just rummage through, others who are impatient, may just tip the box over. Whichever way, it keeps your dog active and stimulated whilst looking for their reward.

3)      Fill a heavy duty rubber dog toy (Kong is one example) with bits of kibble or treats, and then layer up the top with soft cheese, pate, or dog peanut butter for example and then place in a freezer. Dogs love these and they can become a soother for a dog who is anxious, or is teething.

4)      Using a clean and empty plastic disposable bottle either small or large. (generally the ones we have water or fizzy drinks in, NEVER use one which has had any chemicals or cleaning products in). Pierce a few holes near the bottom and then up around the sides, just to let the scent out, you can add a couple more, slightly bigger for the treats to come out of, and let the dog play with the bottle and try to retrieve the treats. The treats will come out of the top and larger holes. As soon as the dog starts breaking the bottle up, then remove it from them as you don’t want them eating any plastic.

5)      A hard boiled egg, which has been cooled, is not only a great source of protein, but a fun game to watch your dog use their nose to play with it, before eating the whole thing. Some dogs can play with an egg for ages, being very gentle, while others will go straight to eating it. Whichever way, It’s their sense of smell, which tells them this is food.


So next time you watch your dog sniffing either out on a walk, or in your garden, take a moment to imagine what sort of tales these smells are telling your dog.

Till the next time, stay safe.


Ruth’s Dog Walking Services.

07855 550608

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Ruth's Dog Walking Services

Ruth's Dog Walking Services

Ruth provides walking services, training and care to dogs of all shapes and sizes.



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