Should I Let My Dog Sniff On Walks? (Solved & Explained!)

Yes, you should let your dog sniff on walks. Sniffing is your dog’s way of getting the latest news on the comings and goings of other dogs in your neighborhood.

Sniffing to dogs is like social media to humans, they get the latest updates on who is who and what is happening in the place where they live by sniffing scents left behind from other dogs and human activities.

How Long Should I Let My Dog Sniff On Walks?

It is understandable that you may want to move a little more quickly when out on walks, especially if you are on a tight schedule. However, allowing enough time for your dog to stop and smell the roses is all part of an enjoyable walk for your dog.

It is a good idea to let your dog sniff for as long as they like, which can be around 5 to 10 minutes. 

Finding a dog-friendly area where you can let your dog off lead safely (and legally in some states) is the best way to allow him to stop and sniff at his leisure.

Why Do Dogs Sniff On Walks?

Dogs primarily sniff places that have been scented by other dogs and animals. It is your dogs’ way of piecing together information on events that conspired in the area moments or days before.

Through sniffing your dog gets to know what dogs are nearby if they are male or female, what areas they commonly walk in, and so on.

Sniffing is enjoyable for your dog and stimulates their curiosity. However, if your dog is sniffing frantically they may be concerned that something nearby is dangerous, or they could be anxious. 

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In these cases, it is a good idea to stop, reassure them, and continue with your walk.

What Are The Benefits of Dogs Sniffing on Walks?

When dogs sniff on walks they are stimulating the neural pathways in their brain. Just as the walk itself is good for your dogs’ physical health, sniffing is great for their brain health.

Therefore it is important that you allow your dog to take its time, and sniff anywhere they like (within reason). Undoubtedly there will be times when sniffing is not appropriate (que walking past the local butcher shop). 

To discourage sniffing in these circumstances, a gentle tug on the lead and a firm ‘no’ will be enough to tell your dog that they are roaming too far.

How Do I Stop My Dog From Inappropriate Sniffing?

Sniffing is healthy for your dog, but there are some times when it isn’t appropriate and you want your dog to stop.

Using commands your dog already knows such as ‘sit’ or ‘wait’ is a great way to get their attention, just be sure to reward them with a treat. 

Other ways of stopping inappropriate sniffing include:

  • Offering new scents

  • Tiring your dog out before arriving at an event

  • Letting your dog sniff you instead

If your dog has a habit of sniffing guests in your home and shows an unwillingness to stop, you may have to separate your dog in another room until your guests leave.

In the meantime keep up with training. Reinforcing the importance of commands like ‘sit’ ‘stop’ and ‘lie-down’ will help you to stop their sniffing.

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Never use punishment or negative reinforcement. This can make the behavior worse.

Why Does My Dog Sniff Other Dogs Butts?

Butt sniffing is the textbook way to say ‘Hello!’ in dog language.

It may be a little off-putting to us humans, but the butt contains all sorts of hormonal information about dogs, that other dogs can read through their sense of smell.

A dog’s sense of smell is 1000 times stronger than ours, and they can pick up the tiniest detail about other dogs through this action.

They can tell what kind of diet the other dog has, when they last went to the toilet, what kind of surroundings they spend their time in, and their gender.

Butt-sniffing is a survival instinct that helped to protect your dogs’ ancestors against aggressive dogs and helped them to find genetically strong mates.

Can Sniffing Cause Aggression In Dogs?

Sniffing does not cause aggression but it may be ‘the paw-over-the-line’ that ends in fights.

Aswell as butt sniffing, dogs communicate primarily through body language, and aggressive, assertive body language is often used to ward off unwanted social visits from other dogs.

If another dog fails to recognize these signs (which happens with humans too) and approaches the apprehensive dog and starts sniffing them, this could be too much for the defensive dog and a fight breaks out.

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Some dogs are uncomfortable with other dogs sniffing them since the action requires close proximity. Just as some humans do not wish to engage in conversations with other humans, your dog may not want to engage in a social display with another dog.

It does not mean that there is something wrong with your dog, like humans, dogs don’t necessarily like all other dogs they come across at the park.

However, if your dog is aggressive with all dogs that approach, they may be suffering from anxiety and you should speak to a dog behaviorist or your veterinarian.

Why Does My Dog Sniff Constantly?

If your dog is sniffing constantly no matter where you are, what time of day it is, or what you are doing, they could have a nervous disorder.

Sniffing is a way of identifying the unknown. If your dog is sniffing, even in his usual surroundings, there is something unknown to him and he is trying to find the cause. 

This could be entirely psychological and there is no physical threat, but your dog does not know what else to do to get to the root of his problem.

In these instances, it is imperative to speak to your vet. Nervousness in dogs could be a sign of something serious, and if not, there are ways to comfort your dog and help them overcome their nervousness.