To say a dog is a super-smeller is an understatement. Dogs have an enormous sense of smell, capable of spotting scents humans can’t pick up. That is why we see dogs rescuing people from the rubble of buildings after an earthquake, or we see them smelling luggage at airports, trying to pick up illegal drugs being smuggled.
However, a tail-wagging friend with a weak sense of smell can become a hazard, both to itself and its owners. A dog with a poor sense of smell can be caught by surprise and probably attacked by another dog, or may even have a hard time identifying someone close to the family and react in a violent way. Therefore, in this article, we will review a few drills that will quickly help enhance your dog’s most important sense.
Understanding your dog’s super sense of smell
We all know that dogs are natural-smellers. We have all seen how dogs interact and tend to stick their noses into everything, people, shelves, trash bins and other canines, of course. As the handshake for humans is the way to greet, dogs salute with their noses first.
Millions of years of evolution gave humans a brain to rationalize things, while at the same time, it gave dogs a sense of smell that is around 40 times stronger than ours. This basically means that dogs understand the world through their noses.
Take, for example, your neighbor’s Dachshund. Its nose is equipped with a whopping 125 million scent-detecting cells. Yours? Roughly 5 million cells are all you got to understand the world by just “smelling”.
The connection between smelling and playtime
Fortunately, a dog’s abilities to play, to fetch and to retrieve toys are all residues of their genetic code, back to the times when men and dogs would hunt together for survival. “Golden Retrievers” and “Pointers” have their names for a reason, as they “retrieve” prey during hunting events; therefore, outdoor activities that involve playing, are an easy setting to enhance your dog’s sense of smell.
Remember, keeping your best friend’s snout in an optimum condition is paramount, as it is an essential part of its well being.
Fun and smell-enhancing drills your dog will love
A great way to enhance your dog’s built-in smelling capacity is through games you can play together. Vets and dog trainers all coincide on this as the best way to form a lasting bond between your dog and the rest of the family, as both are naturally inclined to them.
Games involving food in the form of “treats” are the easiest and fastest way to help improve your dog’s smell.
To get started, this is all you need:
- Get a non-greasy, non-sticky treat your dog loves (a bone cookie)
- Create an easy-to-remember command, such as “Go get it!” or something short your dog will be able to remember every time you play this game.
- Find an open space, like a park, a sandlot or even your own backyard where you can create a circuit.
“Food and Scent” games
- The guessing game:
We all know this easy trick: which hand holds the treat? By having your dog sitting in your front of you (while stepping on the leash), hold a treat in one of your hands and show both closed fists to the dog, asking “Where is it?”. Your dog should easily identify the hand holding the treat by smelling them.
- Eating in the dark:
One of the best exercises to stimulate your dog’s sense of smell is by locating the food source inside a dark room. Just leave treats in different places inside the room and let Rover find them!
- A Smelly Trail:
This drill requires open spaces, which is great for our four-legged companion. Carefully locate treats on a pre-designed route your dog will have to follow to find the treats and have your dog find them one by one! It is a great and fun way to enhance its smelling capacity, as well as a great energy-burner for your overcharged dog.
- Let them follow your scent:
Your dog knows you by your body odor, so leave objects that carry your smell on different locations and watch how it retrieves them by just following your scent. A variable of this game includes someone else carrying an item with your smell, with you hiding to see how the dog tries to find you. Try it!
Yes, it works for dogs too, especially those with high anxiety levels, as it has been found to be a great way to ease down the long hours of boredom at home. This usually results in a dog chewing off furniture or other household items.
Maybe your dog is more inclined to play with its favourite rubber duckling, or a chewed off teddy bear. Whatever they like, if the toy calls your dog’s attention, bring it into the drill too.
A smelling dog is a healthier dog.
These games and drills are highly important, and even if your dog is not a rescue or a police dog, the need for its sense of smell to be sharp and acute is there.
Destructive and highly stressed dogs (and their owners) will find solace and recreation in these games, as the energy burnt on them in just 5 minutes can make up for a full 15-minute run on the park; remember, these exercises are essential and must not be overlooked by any responsible dog owner.
Try these easy drills with your dog. You will see quick and great results with benefits like you’ve never seen before.
Remember, in the same way, you’d need skills – or even glasses – to better “see” the world, your dog requires a well-performing nose to better “smell” the world.