I don’t think there is anything that gives me more pleasure (family aside) than spending time just hanging with my dogs. Whether it’s taking them for a walk around the neighbourhood, driving to a park where they can run off leash, having them lie under my desk or beside me on the couch, as long as they are close by, I feel relaxed. I even go to Tim’s drive through for coffee when I don’t really want one, just so they can get out of the house, if I’m feeling too lazy for a walk.
When I take them for walks, I pay attention to where they are, what they are sniffing, what they are looking at. I talk to them. I ask them which way they want to go when they put on the brakes and look at me expectantly. Some days they just don’t want to turn left.
You know what? That’s okay with me. I love the trusting relationship I have with both my boys. I like to think they know I have their backs. If they want to turn right instead of left, does that mean they are being "dominant"? Does it mean I have no control or they are spoiled?
I don’t think so. I am without a doubt the “Grand Pooh-Bah” in our relationship, and they know it. Have I achieved that status via confrontational, forceful methods? Nope.
Humans tune out so much in life. We have no choice. It would be overwhelming for us to take note of the minutia of daily life, including all the smells that surround us. Having said that, there are some smells I pay attention to: coffee in the morning, vanilla, fresh cut grass, dirty dogs, burning wood, to name a few. There are far more I don’t attend to.
Dogs live their lives via their noses. I get tremendous pleasure watching them follow scents.
As Dr. Alexandra Horowitz says in her book “The Inside of A Dog”, smells can tell the dog about the past, present and future. Sniffing allows them to know who was there, what is current and, through the breeze, what’s coming up. After learning that, I started looking at my dogs’ sniffing in a very different light.
I have a very tough time moving along when I know my guys are taking note of all that information. Especially after a rain, when smells seem so much more fresh and intense.
Have you ever truly watched your dog scenting something? It’s fascinating. Dogs’ noses are constructed in a way that allows them to “savour” the air. Dr. Horowitz writes, “Human noses have about six million sensory receptor sites, beagle noses, over three hundred million.” Is it any wonder our dogs have their noses to the ground so often? Can you imagine having the ability to smell in such detail?
I have watched my Westie sniff individual blades of grass. It amazes me how much time he can spend on one blade. I am mesmerized by it.
Many people find sniffing irritating and a time waster – “Hurry up, there is nothing there” I often hear as I pass by others.
I see so many people talking on cell phones while walking their dogs. I also see dogs being dragged along, ignored, and not allowed to sniff. I find that extremely sad.
I don’t think of walking my dogs as a chore. I think people who have that attitude are missing a special part of being with their dog. It’s very obvious to me who thinks of walking as work to be done and who truly enjoys the time they are spending with their dog.
Don’t get me wrong. There are days I don’t feel like walking or I am late for an appointment and just don’t have time to let them sniff at leisure. Not all of our walks are rainbows and candy. The difference is, those times are rare and I am acutely aware of it.