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A Whiff Into Your Dog's Nose

I wrote a series of letters from the perspective of companion animals and am compiling them into a booklet called "Bark, Meow, Growl. What your companion animal might be thinking, and how listening to them can greatly improve your relationship."

Here I am publishing my first letter as a sneak peak! Enjoy!

Dear Human,

Did you know that I use my nose the way you use your eyes, except my nose is even more powerful? I do not “see” the world, I smell it! When we walk into the kitchen and you smell a fresh lasagna, my nose and brain break down the components of the scent. So I smell pasta noodles, tomato, spices, herbs, and all of the individual ingredients separately. That is how good my nose is!

When you take me for a walk and I sniff the grass, I am gathering information about the world around me. I am learning about what other animals have been there, what certain things are going on in the air, and what types of plants grow there. I want to sniff so badly on walks. In fact, it is the primary way that I communicate with Sparky, the dog who lives down the street. We exchange pee-mail regularly.

When someone new comes into our house and I want to go say hi to them, I do not understand why I get yelled at for sniffing them. I am just trying to get to know who they are, what animals they live with, and what they ate for breakfast this morning.

Smells are so fascinating and relaxing for me. Just like the way that you scroll and stare at the small, handheld electric device that you carry around everywhere.

Please don’t yank me or yell at me for smelling. Let me sniff. It is how I “see” the world.

With love, Your Dog

Did you know that dogs have more than 100 million sensory receptor sites in their nasal cavities? Humans have 6 million. The area of the canine brain devoted to analyzing smells is 40 times larger than in humans.

For many years, dogs have helped us sniff out missing people and cadavers, drugs, and weapons. More recently, dogs have been trained to sniff out cancer, droppings from endangered wildlife for conservation work, changes in blood sugar, and more.

We train dogs to sniff out so many different things in order to help us. Yet, we often get annoyed and try to prevent them from sniffing in their daily life.

Here are some tips:

Take extra time to walk your dog and allow them to sniff. Even better, take your dog on a “sniffari walk” so they can explore and sniff a new location.

Play “nosework” games with your dog where you encourage them to sniff around a space to search for hidden treats or a toy.

Let your dog eat their meal scattered in the grass so they can sniff around to find their food.

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