Energetic Dogs

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Dog smell training

The Importance of Exploring New Smells for Energetic Working Dogs

You may have experienced never-ending pauses for long sniffs during your walks as a pup parent. Exploring new smells is an essential aspect of a working dog’s life. It can be a great way for them to stay stimulated, engaged, and active. But how important is introducing novel scents into your pup’s life?

A scent walk is a great way to provide your pup with an exciting activity. By gathering the necessary supplies, taking your pup to a new or familiar location, and allowing them time to sniff around, you can provide them with a beneficial experience that not only helps burn energy physically and mentally but also strengthens the bond between you and your canine companion.

This article will explore various advantages that come with exposing your four-legged friend to new smells and how best to do it. Let’s get started!

Dog’s Powerful Sense of Smell - A Unique Feat

We, humans, can’t compete with a canine’s remarkable olfactory capabilities. Dogs wield an astonishing 100 million scent receptors in their noses, while we possess only 6 million receptor-packed snouts. To process this information, their brains allocate 40 times more resources than ours – making the power of smell they are blessed with comparable to our vision!

Our canine companions are far more impressive than we often give them credit. With their impressive sense of smell, dogs can detect explosives and drugs precisely and track lost people or animals – all by relying on what their noses tell them!

Additionally, these brilliant creatures even have the ability to understand the passing of time and predict changes in weather patterns. Truly remarkable!

Dogs possess a remarkable advantage over humans in terms of their sense of smell, enabling them to detect odors from long distances. To put this into perspective, using sight as an analogy: we can only view objects up to around 0.3 miles away, whereas dogs can see more than 3,000 miles!

This ability makes them invaluable for various tasks, such as aiding people with medical needs and being used by law enforcement agencies or military groups for search-and-rescue operations and finding drugs or bombs.

Dog tracking with nose

Why Is Sniffing So Important for Working Dogs?

We often underestimate what lies beyond our comprehension, yet it is crucial to comprehend that a dog’s olfactory sense plays an invaluable role in its life. When living with a canine companion, we must always remember the magnitude of its smell-driven world. Sniffing is important in a variety of ways:

  • We often delight in the beauty of our surroundings; similarly, dogs derive joy from sniffing. Through this olfactory exploration, they can experience a sense of pleasure just as palpable to them as ours.
  • Exploring the environment enables them to gain insight into what (or who) is inhabiting it and if the area is safe.
  • While we may assume our pups are just squandering away their days sniffing, they’re collecting data from other canines’ scents (basically reading canine “e-mail”) and using this ever-evolving info to become aware of the area as well as its inhabitants.
Dogs tracking a smell

Nose Work - A Must-Do Activity with Your Pup

Nose work is an engaging activity that taps into a dog’s innate scenting abilities. It enables them to detect and indicate their handler of specific odors such as birch, anise, or clove.

These scents are scattered among other objects like toys and treat to challenge the dog further. When they successfully locate these targets during nose work sessions, they get rewarded!

Nose work can easily be tailored to every skill level and enthusiasm. To start, a fun activity could include hiding your dog’s most beloved toy or snack for them to discover.

As a dog’s training progresses, it can become proficient in four search tasks: containers, interiors of buildings, exteriors of buildings, and vehicles.

With container searches, dogs are trained to sniff out and locate the target scent amongst items such as cardboard boxes or suitcases.

A more confined search called interior search involves searching in one or multiple rooms of a building like their own home.

Exterior searches can be more challenging, yet; they must choose the right target amidst the numerous outdoor smells.

On the other hand, vehicle searches require them to pick up a designated scent from either an individual vehicle or even several vehicles simultaneously – making it all the more challenging!

Further Reading: How to Tire Out a Working Dog Mentally with Toys and Games

Dog smelling on a walk

Advantages of the Nose Work

Participating in nose work activities with your pup will provide both of you with a multitude of advantages. Let’s review some of the key benefits here!

  • Nose work provides your pup with an excellent opportunity to burn a lot of energy.
  • It is an excellent way to exhaust your pup mentally.
  • There’s no need for previous training – your pup can start immediately!
  • By dedicating quality time to your pup, you can cultivate a closer connection with them – and reap the rewards of that bond!
  • Teaching dogs to complete tasks independently builds their self-confidence and gives them a sense of accomplishment.
  • Engaging in nose work can effectively reduce behavioral issues with your canine companion.
Dog given a scent

How to Practice Nose Work with Your Dog?

  • Get the necessary supplies – a collar, a leash, cardboard boxes, and an exciting food or toy scent target.
  • Choose a quiet space without any distractions.
  • Show your dog the target item, and then hide it in one of the boxes.
  • Lead your dog to the boxes and encourage them to search for the target.
  • Do not give any verbal or visual cues while they are searching.
  • When they find the target, praise them and reward them with a treat.
  • Increase the difficulty of the hiding spots to keep your dog challenged, such as changing rooms or taking it outside.
  • Repeat these steps until your dog is comfortable with their nose work skills.
  • Make sure to review and practice these skills regularly.
  • Have fun with it, and show your dog how proud you are of them!

Further Reading: Can Dog Socialization and Group Play Help Reduce Energy Levels?

Dog smelling

Scent Walks - Every Thing You Need to Know

A scent walk is a leisurely walk to engage your dog’s sense of smell. The route of a scent walk meanders as your dog absorbs and processes the scents along the way, allowing them to choose the path and amount of time spent on each odor.

During this walk, it’s essential to be fully engaged and pay attention to the dog’s behavior. It’s an excellent way for pet parents to learn more about their dogs and understand how much enjoyment they get from using their sense of smell.


Scent walks are a great way to enrich our dogs’ lives physically and mentally.

  • Sniffing around allows our pups to explore their world through smell and assists in building self-assurance for those who are shy or reactive. As they take time to discover all the aromas surrounding them, it can help reduce stress and bring comfort.
  • Scent walks can also help tire out our more active dogs and cut down on the energy that often leads to misbehavior. As your pup follows its nose, they are engaging its brain and working to decipher what each smell could mean.
  • Not only can scent walks be incredibly beneficial for your pup, but they offer an enjoyable experience that you and your canine companion can enjoy together.

You’ll have the chance to observe how their nose works as it interprets smells in its environment – a unique way to strengthen your bond with them!

Plus, regular scent walks will break up the monotony of day-to-day life and provide both of you with some thrilling new experiences.

How to Take Your Dog on a Scent Walk

  1. Gather the necessary supplies. You will need a long training lead, a harness, and your dog’s favorite toy or treat to hide.
  2. Take your dog out on the walk, and let them spend the first ten minutes at least sniffing around their immediate area. This is important for them to understand their surroundings and the scents in the air.
  3. Spend time at each new location you visit, allowing your dog to sniff and take in all the details. This is especially important for dogs with a higher scent awareness or particular breeds, such as scent hounds, who prioritize smells oversight.
  4. If you take your pup on the same regular walk, they will still be intrigued by the scents in their environment—it’s constantly changing! The sensory information fluctuates and can differ based on factors such as weather conditions or freshly mown grass. Consequently, every day brings a unique sniffing challenge for your furry friend, even if it is an area that has been visited many times before.
  5. Let your pup take the lead on regular walks and discover their favorite sniffing spots – it’s likely where other canines have marked with urine! While this may seem unpleasant, consider what information they are learning from reading these “wee-mails”: who else is in the vicinity, when did they pass through, gender identification, size estimation, and even health or stress level. Can you imagine how beneficial this would be if humans had that capability?
  6. If your dog stops to sniff, don’t drag them away. Allow them the time to take in all the information available from the scent before encouraging them to move on again.
  7. If you have an extra person with you, have them hold onto your pup while you hide their favorite toy or treat. This will challenge your pup’s olfactory abilities while allowing them to explore and enjoy the smells of the outdoors.
  8. Always keep an eye on your pooch, and ensure that they stay safe while on the scent walk. Take breaks when needed and reward your pup for their good behavior with treats or a special toy.
  9. End the walk by taking a moment to appreciate all the smells, sounds, and sights of the outdoors. This will help solidify the positive experience in your pup’s mind!

Following these simple steps will help ensure that your pup gets the most out of their scent walks and enjoys exploring all the fantastic smells nature offers. Enjoy every moment with your pup on a scent walk, and be amazed by their incredible sense of smell!

Dog learning scent

Final Thoughts

Scent walks are an incredibly beneficial activity, both mentally and physically, for your pup. They offer a stimulating experience that can help tire out our more active pups while strengthening the bond between you and your canine companion.

Plus, they provide the perfect opportunity for exploring and discovering all the incredible smells nature offers! So why not get out and get your pup sniffing? Who knows what exciting new adventures await? Happy sniffing!


Dr. Mohsin Iqbal (DVM, RVMP)

Dr. Mohsin Iqbal is a licensed veterinarian with more than 5 years of experience in veterinary medicine. After receiving his DVM degree from The Islamia University of Bahawalpur, Pakistan, he worked as a
veterinarian in both government and private sectors. He has a deep passion for animal welfare and has been working for various animal welfare organizations since he was a student. Being President of Animal Rescue Organization Pakistan (AROP), he has been actively involved in animal rescue and welfare activities. In his spare time, he enjoys spending time with his rescue dogs and cats. 

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