Your dog's superpower - how smell shapes their world

Your dog's superpower - how smell shapes their world

The way our dogs perceive the world is completely different to the way you and I do. Humans rely on sight and sound to understand our complex environment, making visual shortcuts, forming memories and remembering what positive and negative emotions look like. For dogs it is completely different, they make 'see' the world through their powerful sense of smell. Once you understand how a dog perceives the world, forms memories, emotional responses and builds social interactions you can begin to understand how to improve the bond with your dog and maintain their overall welfare. 

The Dogs sense of Smell - their superpower! 

A dogs olfactory system includes up to 300 million scent receptors compared to the meger 6 million we have, not only that the part of the brain dedicated to decoding all this information is proportionally 40 times bigger than ours. This is why dogs can detect a remarkable spectrum of scents even at the lowest of concentrations. The role that scent plays in a dogs world is incredible, influencing nearly every aspect of their behaviour; from identifying food, threats, friends, mates, other animals, familiar places and communication with other dogs through scent marking. Every time your dog breathes it is brining new information flooding into their brain potentially influencing their behaviour. Dogs would have used this superpower to hunt their prey in the wild following old or new scent trials tracking them with remarkable precision. Or to leave scent marks around their territory avoiding the risk of confrontation over resources. 

It is why today dogs can be trained to find drugs, money, guns or even as the the amazing work of medical detection dogs demonstrations sense oncoming seizures, cancer, parkinson's among other diseases. You can click on the above link to find out more information about this charity.

It is vital that your dog has the time and space to enjoy the rich variety of scents that are out in the world, doing so has a positive effect on their emotional wellbeing. The variety of smells they come across will impact if your dog feels safe, anxious, excited, calm, frisky, or aggressive. As dogs experience the world predominantly through their sense of smell, certain scents can trigger various emotional responses, these scents then act as anchors providing stability and understanding of the world for your dog. For example the scent of you or your home can evoke feelings of comfort, positivity and happiness improving their emotional wellbeing. But an unfamiliar scent can put your dog on high alert triggering the stress response, insecurity or disorientation. 

That is why it is vital as pet parents we create an environment for our dogs to express their natural smelling behaviours as it has huge positive impact on their overall health. 

Some top tips for a smelly game or two:

1. Stop and sniff only walk - be prepared not to go far but your dog maybe more tired that the normal 30min march round a field. for this to work you need to stop every time your dog starts sniffing and not move on until they are finished. You may only take a couple of steps before they start again. This type of walk can tire out even the most energetic of dogs. It is also great for growing puppies and dogs recovering from operations as it is low impact but high stimulus

2. Use a SnuffleKnot or similar to hide treats in and let your dog sniff and figure out how they are going to get the tasty reward. Again like a stop and sniff walk will stimulate their mind, boost emotional wellbeing and keep them busy for ages

3. Be consistent try not to make dramatic changes to the dogs environment from a scent perspective. Always changing washing detergent or the room spray you use will add a little bit of extra stress into your dog's world. Also if you groom your dog try and find products that are designed to be kind to dog's powerful sense of smell like DotDotPet's Shampoos as a lot of bath time zoomies and stress is caused by shampoo fragrances overwhelming your dog's super sense. It is like us getting Chlorine in our eyes. 

Remember your dog understands the world and knows you due to their nose so do all you can to celebrate this amazing ability

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