The Best Exercise For a Dog is Using Its Nose

Maggie, Skip, Jim and I are just back from a lovely hour-long walk this morning. All four of us were serenaded by the songs of a newly-arrived migrating birds, including Yellow and Palm Warblers.                                              Bird photos from Wikipedia, such a great resource.Jim and I gloried in the sights of these gorgeous birds, the French-blue sky after a day of rain, and baby leaf buds springing forth, full of life and promise and hope.While we walked and looked, the dogs walked and sniffed. And sniffed and sniffed and sniffed and sniffed. Yes, they got some physical exercise–especially good for Skip now that he can take longer walks along with his physical therapy exercises. But mostly what they got was brain food, and I can’t think of anything more important for a domestic dog than that. There’s a lot going on between those adorable ears, and we neglect it at our peril. Using their noses engages a dog’s brain in vital ways, and can prevent a raft of behavioral problems.  Lots of interesting sniffing has been critical to keeping a just-turned, three-year old freight train of a Border Collie sane during his extreme physical restrictions. (Not to mention my sanity. Just saying.)I was reminded of a post I wrote in 2016 titled Take Your Dog on a Sniff, and I thought today would be a good day to repeat it. There are so many people with new dogs out there, along with so many people with dogs/kids/jobs/life/pandemics taking up massive amounts of our time and energy.  The best way I know to tire out a dog out in a healthy way is not to get it physical exercise, but to give it mental exercise. Tricks are one way to do that, but letting a dog use its nose-brain connection is another. You can do that by playing scent games, or going on walks (especially in new places), and the pay off is huge. Skip and Maggie came back to chew on stuffed Kongs, and are now sleeping at my feet while I write.Here’s the post from 2016, Take Your Dog on a Sniff:Recently I watched someone walking his dog close to my office in Black Earth. Every ten feet or so the dog tried to stop to sniff the ground, and every time she did, the man at the other end of the leash pulled her forward so that he could continue walking. Ah, the canine-primate disconnect, which never fails to appear if we just pay attention. I wrote an entire book about this, The Other End of the Leash, and yet I’m still discovering ways in which we
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