The UK as the animal loving nation that is it known for has lead the way in animal welfare changes for the last century, so you would anticipate the statistics regarding animal welfare issues to have decreased with it?. However between 2013 and 2015 3000 people were convicted of animal cruelty but only 7 % of these received a custodial sentence. (RSPCA 2018) in 2018 the RSPCA rescued more than 102900 animals and investigated a total of 130700 cruelty complaints only 1678 of these cases resulted in prosecution. So have the changes in legislation helped pet welfare?
A BBC report
stated that in 2009 Battersea Dogs home euthanized a total of 2815 dogs 1931 of
these for behavioural and temperament issues. BBC (2010),
Are the laws
promoting awareness or are they part of the problem?
As The Animal Welfare Act 2006 now pushes the responsibility for duty of care,
more and more people are seeking the help of ‘professionals’ as the vast
majority of dog owners are aware that training and exercise are vital to ensure
a well balanced happy dog that can be integrated into society.
So why are there so many dogs that need help
with behaviour problems. The canine world is a confusing place, for dogs, owners
and people that work within it. Media ‘experts’ are all over our screens now,
each dishing out their own approach to solving problems. This is still an
unregulated field and there is no single professional governing body to ensure
certain standards are adhered to. In the hands of an inexperienced or misled professional
the very issues the dogs are displaying can become exaggerated to the point the
dog is surrendered and or put to sleep.
Under the Animal Welfare act this ‘professional’ does have an obligation to work within the guide lines of this law. So any walker, pet sitter, trainer or behaviourist that works with a dog has a responsibility for not only the dog, but also its actions whilst under their instruction! They also have a duty of care to ensure the dogs welfare needs are met and that it does not unnecessarilysuffer. While working with a fearful dog if the wrong approach is taken or the correct programme rushed the dog could very likely be subjected to unnecessary suffering in the form of stress or fear, and the ‘professional’ will be held responsible for it. This responsibility reaches further than just the basic needs of the dog. The Control of Dogs Order 1992, states a collar must be worn with adequate detail whilst the dog is in a public place if the dog has no owner details whilst in the custody of a another person then they will be accountable. As is the same under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 section 3 clearly states that a dangerously out of control dog in public place is a criminal offence and whomever is in charge of the dog at the time will be deemed accountable for its actions.
“BUT MY DOG WOULDN’T HURT ANYONE” I hear you say and you are probably correct however you need to understand what defines a dog as dangerously out of control. The Control of dogs order defines a dangerously out of control dog as:
that not just injures someone which you would expect but one that a person has grounds for
reasonable apprehension that it may do so. The implications of this are momentous,
if training or walking a reactive dog a member of the public comes to close and
the dog lunges barking at them even though they have not made contact with that
person and the situation has been controlled very quickly, The dog can still be
reported as it could be deemed to have caused the person a reasonable
apprehension that it may injure them. This could lead to the dog being seized. Even something
as everyday as a dog chasing, barking or jumping up at someone could lead to a
complaint. If the dog happened to break free and injure a member of the public
during a session this would mean the dog may never be returned home to it family
and could very likely be destroyed.
Safety and understanding of the implication of the law need to be the main priority for anyone working with dogs. Ability to interpret canine body language and continually managing the environment you are working within will reduce the risks and likelihood of any incident happening.
Professionals taking money for services from the public have a duty of care not only to ensure they abide by the law but they understand the implication if things go wrong and to also explain and assist you the owner as the same situation could quite easily happen. Did you know that your dog jumping up to say hello could get your lovable pup reported as a dangerous dog more importantly does the person you are paying know!
Dog on dog aggression is one of the most common behaviour problems that owners face, Dr Ian Dunbar states that the major reason why dogs become aggressive toward other dogs is that during their puppy-hood, dogs are often deprived of adequate socialisation with other good-natured dogs. As a result, many pups grow up with poor social skills, unable to ‘read’ other dogs and exchange subtle communication signals with them. So how can we ensure our dogs don’t end up one of these statistics? Socialisation clearly, but what does that mean? There are many misconceptions around this, one that I hear a great deal is ‘but we have other dogs’ having other dogs will not teach your puppy how to greet and play with dogs he has only just met! In fact, it could even make him worse. Do you greet your family in the same way you greet a stranger? All dogs just like us have their own individual characters, some need loads of exercise and love boisterous play others not so much, some like to play chase games some don’t want to play or even to say hello! Your pup needs to understand this and know how to interact with every dog.
Regular contact with playmates is necessary for dogs to develop social confidence. Sign up to a puppy class or find a small day centre that offers puppy mornings, your local vets may even have puppy parties. All interaction needs to be supervised to ensure they are positive socialisation experiences.
MANTRAILING MYTHS You need to be very fit for this.
You need to own a working type dog.
It is not suitable for pets
I wont fit in
My dog is too nervous to take part
All the above are false, One of the best trailing dogs I have seen is a Chihuahua called Flynn, (I think I have fallen in love with him)!! Most dogs can join in, any age and breed. We can make the trails suitable to you and your dog, for the adventurous we will aim towards woodland and cross country trails. For the less adventurous shorter trails on paths, grass areas and sometimes pubs!
If you think you are you ready for a fun new dog sport, but still unsure of signing up. Why not try an introduction day? 2 to 3 hours in a fab location, It will give you the chance to see how we work and whether this is for you.
WHAT IS MANTRAILING?
‘Mantrailing’ is the search for a specific person know as a runner (dont worry you dont have to run) by you and your dog. The dog is given the scent of the runner from a piece of their clothing (normally gloves or scarf) this if where we rely on the dogs amazing sense of smell and their instinctive behaviour to follow the direction the ‘runner’ went and eventually find them.
My dog cant do that Ill look like a fool
All dogs can. Some just take longer to learn the basics.
DO I NEED LOADS OF EXPENSIVE EQUIPMENT?
We supply all that you require for the introduction session. As you move on through the levels, we can advise on dog equipment which is generally just a suitable harness and long lead (5 meters).
What personal equipment do
Outdoor clothing, good outdoor footwear and possibly waterproofs for our lovely British weather!
Why trail with your dog?
1.Strengthens the bond and trust between you and your dog by working together to solve the problem.
2. Can help nervous dogs become more confident
3.Builds self-assurance, self-motivation, independence because they have to think for themselves.
4. Reduces stress and anxiety by the release of happy hormones.
5. Even if your dog has no recall it can still take part.
6. All breeds can join in
7 Teaches you to read your dogs body language
We work after the Kocher Method and only ever use positive reinforcement, Rewarding teamwork and a knowledgeable Instructor is waiting to take you on your incredible journey.
Please check out our facebook page for upcoming events
Jill Breitner gives her point of view on large dog daycare centres
I’ve been mentoring a dear friend who had just gotten a job at a doggie day care facility and she was very excited to put into practice all that she had learned. After only a few days, I got a call from her that was very unsettling. What she thought was going to be so much fun, watching dogs play and interacting with them, turned out to be far from fun.
Doggie day care is a thing! It’s a thing that got started because of people being too busy to care for their own dogs. Out of guilt, people are swooned by fancy and often false advertising, offering the perfect alternative to leaving dogs home alone all day. There are hundreds of doggie day care facilities in America. This makes me very sad.
Too many dogs in too small a place. I don’t see any dogs playing, do you?
Now, think about this, for a moment. Doggie day care is actually an oxymoron. Dogs come to play, yet much of their so-called play time, is squelched by the ‘yard attendant’. Do you know what the attendants job is? Remember, them in elementary school? It’s their job to stop the play if it’s going overboard. Why would this be necessary? Well, the truth is that dogs don’t play in large groups. It’s not the nature of what it is to be a dog. Yes, they are lovers of play but not with more than 3-5 dogs at a time and that’s being generous. It’s also not in their nature to be in large groups of dogs for hours on end. Some day care facilities have dogs who come for 12 hrs at a stretch and some come every day. This must be so exhausting for these dogs. I don’t know about you, but this is madness to me. These imitation play yards, (often way to small for the amount of dogs playing in them) with fake floor surfaces and plastic toys, is not a healthy environment for dogs and many are suffering because of it. While dogs are social by nature, they are not meant to be in large play groups with other dogs for hours on end, in an environment that tries to mimic fun. It’s just not intrinsic to who dogs are.
Dogs need and thrive in play but they also need rest. Most facilities don’t have a required rest time, only removing dogs who have become overly aroused, for a time out. This means that dogs have to try to rest on a nearby bed which are often placed in corners of the yard/room. However, there’s too much noise and mayhem, to get the necessary rest that they need. If they finally get settled in for a nap, another dog zooms by them or jumps over them, making getting any rest, impossible. It takes the phrase ‘no rest for the weary’ to a whole other level.
This study found that dogs in shelters who don’t get the rest they need, become anxious, aggressive, fearful, frustrated and all of this anxiety may lead to the inability to cope in stressful situations. For me, doggie day care facilities are much like shelters and our dogs welfare truly needs to be seriously considered. There is too much stimulation, too many dogs, not enough space, creating an environment that is so chaotic for many dogs, leading to problems emotionally, manifesting behaviorally and this is not OK in my book.
If you must take your dog to a doggie day care, here are some things to look out for and questions to ask.
Flooding is how many dogs feel at doggie day care. Graphic by 4Paws University
How many dogs do you take at a time?
If the answer is, our limit is 40 dogs and the space is the size of your garage, RUN. Would you like to go to a party with 40 rowdy friends (even if you love them) and not get a break for hours? Then don’t make your dog do it.
Do you interview perspective doggie clients? If so, which dog is used for the interview?
I have been to many facilities where they use a really sweet doggie client for the interview. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t want my sweet dog subjected to a dog that no one knows, with the possibility of said dog attacking my dog. I know it seems crazy, right, but it’s happening all the time at most facilities. The staff should use their own, known dog for the newcomer interview process. I hate to say this but there are still many more facilities who don’t even have an interview process, just throw the dogs in to sink or swim. This is called flooding (graphic above) and is quite frightening to dogs.
What are your qualifications? Is your staff trained and if so, in what?
There is a wonderful doggie day care certification program offered by The Dog Gurus, that teaches day care facilities about safe dog play, how to read dog body language, enrichment, design and more. If they aren’t certified, ask why or simply, move on. If their website says things like: staff is ‘trained‘, ‘professionally trained‘ or ‘fully trained‘; ask them what this means. Trained in what? If they are trained or certified by a day care educational program, it will be proudly presented on their website as well as in the facility, itself. If not, they are most likely bluffing, hoping you won’t ask questions. In the end, it’s your dog who suffers.
What do you do to mitigate disease?
Have they had Kennel Cough, Parvo, Giardia, etc. at their facility? If so, how long ago? Did they close the facility or keep it open. What is their protocol if they have an infectious disease come through their facility?
What do they use to clean the facility?
Let’s face it, having a lot of dogs pooping and peeing in a small area is clearly a health hazard and it’s going to stink. That alone would keep me from bringing my dog. This may not even occur to many of you but it’s important to consider? If they are using bleach every day and your dogs are rolling around on it all day long, it can effect your dog? Bleach is toxic to breathe, to lay on, to play on, to swallow. I wouldn’t want my dog anywhere near a place like this. There are some, however, that use non-toxic productsfor cleaning but they are few and far between and why it’s good to ask.
Do the dogs get a time out? If so, how?
How long is the time out? Where are they kept during time out? Are they put in time out because they were overly aroused or because this is normal procedure because they know that rest is important and necessary? Are they in a crate happily chewing on an enrichment toy, until they fall asleep or are they in a kennel where they can’t see out, with no enrichment toys, listening to and joining in with all the other frustrated, barking dogs?
Do you separate dogs by size, play style and age or are they all lumped together in one big space?
How many play areas do they have and how many dogs in each area? I’ve seen many where big dogs are in the same area as small dogs or calmer ones are with wilder ones. This is very stressful for any dog and quite dangerous for some.
What are you doing for enrichment?
Most day care facilities don’t do enough when it comes to enrichment. They rely on the dogs to play with each other and this is one of the biggest mistakes. While some may have some kind of climbing structure or a pool for those warm days, don’t be fooled into thinking this is enough. It’s not and why the ‘yard guards’ have to intervene the play, all too often. Enrichment is more about smaller groups and one on one games and skills where the ‘yard guards’ actually engage the dogs. Leaving dogs to run amuck is over stimulating for most dogs, causing anxiety. How fun and safe is doggie day care, now?
What do you do to keep dogs from barking all the time?
I visited a doggie day care facility that held up to 100 dogs, 50 in two separate large outdoor play yards. It was eerily quiet. As I was getting the tour, I noticed shock collars sitting on the counter in the kitchen area. That was all I needed. No, I didn’t finish the tour. If it’s quiet, ask how they are managing the dogs to keep them quiet. If it’s loud and nothing is being done, you should then ask yourself, if your dog would be happy in that kind of noisy environment. If your dog isn’t a barker, he just might become one, in an environment like this. Can you even hear yourself talk while going on a tour? Imagine how your dog would feel.
How many dog bites have you had since you opened? How do you handle a dog fight?
You may not get an honest answer but you can read between the lines. If they hesitate in answering or answer too fast, these are red flags. Watch their body language. Are they searching for the right answer? If they answer yes, ask how they handled it? I don’t know of one facility that can attest to not having a dog fight and or a bite, severe or mild. I do know many where bites go unnoticed because people find the wound on their dog with no mention of it from the staff at the facility. Remember, most staff are not trained and why dog fights happen.
How do you handle emergencies?
If a dog is bitten by another dog, what is their procedure? Will they pay for the medical expenses? Will they call you right away, so you can bring the dog to your vet or ask for your permission to use theirs? Which veterinarian do they use?
How do you handle stress with dogs in your care? Would you recognize it?
This is a very big one. If the staff hasn’t been trained in body language, then they wouldn’t know what to look for. They wouldn’t know the signs of stress, so your dog may be stressed all day and finally hit his limit and go after another dog. Your dog is at risk of being bitten or biting another dog. The graphic above shows some signs of stress and dogs manifest stress behaviorally by humping, bullying, hiding, shaking, running away, etc. and physiologically by vomiting, drooling, diarrhea, not taking treats, eating, etc. These are symptoms that when go unnoticed or ignored may lead to big problems and unfortunately this is more common than you want to know.
Do you do boarding? If so, is there someone there overnight?
A dog who is boarded in a day care facility is a dog who often becomes stressed and overly aroused. They are alone all night after a day of non-stop (no rest) play, only to have to do it again, the next day. This dog who may have passed the interview at one time, is now at risk, to himself and to others. Being away from home is not a party for most dogs. It’s stressful and stress leads to problems. Long term boarding, especially at a doggie day care is akin to a shelter environment. I would go out on a limb and say if studies were done on fights in day care it’s because of boarding dogs, who’s stress level is increased. If no one is there at night, and there’s an emergency; fire, earthquake, or your dog gets sick, no one will know until the morning. If they close at 7 pm and don’t reopen until 7 am, your dog is alone for 12 hours and may have to go potty after 7 pm. Think about your dogs schedule and how you can best meet his needs before considering day care and boarding. You always have options. Pet sitters coming into your home is the best, first choice.
Grouped by size with great enrichment toys.
Now, with all this said, I must add that there are a few and I mean a few, really great doggie day care facilities. They are small, keep the amount of dogs playing together in small groups, separated by age, size and play style and they rotate groups, so there are never too many dogs playing at one time. This also allows for rest during the time another group is in the yard and it also allows for individual or small group enrichment between dog and properly trained staff. Their staff is truly and properly trained in body language, enrichment, training and dog play. I can’t praise these facilities enough. I applaud their effort. It really is about the dog; not their pocketbook!
Nothing in our world today, is easy. Making healthy choices for our dogs is about educating ourselves. In doing so, we are able to keep them safe, happy and thriving.
About the author: Jill Breitner, is a professional dog trainer, award winning author, writing articles for Dogster, The Whole Dog Journal, Animal Wellness and her own blog. She is also a dog body language expert, loving and living her life on the west coast of the USA. She is the author of Dog Decoder, a smartphone app about dog body language recommended and used by veterinarians, shelters, trainers, educators and guardians worldwide. It’s available in iTunes and Google play. Jill, is Fear Free Certified and has been teaching gentle handling/basic husbandry skills to clients dogs for 40 years. She helps you to be your pets advocate for a happier and stress free life. She also does online dog training, worldwide. Join Jill on her Dog Decoder Facebook page
If you think they are dehydrated meat, or some type of dried skin, you may to want to read on!
They are by far one of the most popular chews for dog all around the world, so how can they be dangerous, you ask?
We have all seen the stories on social media of dogs requiring surgery after swallowing them, but my dog always chews them, so that ok isnt it? Short answer NO
They are not the by-product of the beef industry and neither are they dehydrated meat. So what are they?
STEP 1: Normally, cattle hides are shipped from slaughterhouses to tanneries for processing. These hides are then treated with a chemical bath to help “preserve” the product during transport to help prevent spoilage.
(No one wants to purchase a black, spoiled rawhide stick!)
Once at the tannery: the hides are soaked and treated with either an ash-lye solution or a highly toxic recipe of sodium sulphide liming. This process will help strip the hair and fat that maybe attached to the hides themselves.
(No, no one wants to see a hairy hide…)
Next on this glorious journey, these hides are then treated with chemicals that help “puff” the hide, making it easier to split into layers.
The outer layer of the hide is used for goods like car seats, clothing, shoes, purses, etc. But, it’s the inner layer that is needed to make the rawhide. (Oh and other things like gelatin, cosmetics, and glue as well!)
STEP 2: Now that we have the inner layer of the hide, it’s time to go to the post-tannery stage! Hides are washed and whitened using a solution of hydrogen peroxide and/or bleach; this will also help remove the smell of the rotten or putrid leather. Bonus! (Research also shows that other chemicals maybe used here to help the whitening process if the bleach isn’t strong enough.)
STEP 3: Now it’s time to make these whitened sheets of this “leathery by-product” look delicious! So, here is where the artistic painting process comes in.
“Basted, smoked, and decoratively tinted products might be any color (or odor) underneath the coating of (often artificial) dyes and flavors. They can even be painted with a coating of titanium oxide to make them appear white and pretty on the pet store shelves.” – whole-dog-journal.com
“…the Material Safety Data Sheet reveals a toxic confection containing the carcinogen FD&C Red 40, along with preservatives like sodium benzoate. But tracking the effects of chemical exposure is nearly impossible when it’s a matter of slow, low-dose poisoning.”– thebark.com
Ok, now that these hides have been painted, it’s time for the final process.
STEP 4: Getting it to last forever!
Because they are not consider to be food, it’s a free for all when it comes to the manufacturers of these leather strips, and the products they may want to add to these chews, to get them to last forever. Any sort of glue can be added here to get these bad boys to never come apart.
When tested: Lead, arsenic, mercury, chromium salts, formaldehyde, and other toxic chemicals have been detected in raw hides. So it’s safe to say that any sort of glues can be used as well!
Finally, it’s time to package and attach all the glorious marketing labels to the product.
Check out the fine print warning that’s attached with some of these rawhides: “Choking or blockages. If your dog swallows large pieces of rawhide, the rawhide can get stuck in the esophagus or other parts of the digestive tract. Sometimes, abdominal surgery is needed to remove them from the stomach or intestines. If it isn’t resolved, a blockage can lead to death.“
(Oh, how lovely…)
And there it is! It’s now ready to be shipped to store shelves where it can be purchased for our loving animal companions.
How do proactive veterinarians feel about these chews?
Here is world-renowned veterinarian Dr. Karen Becker’s take on the matter:
“The name ‘rawhide’ is technically incorrect. A more accurate name would be processed-hide, because the skin isn’t raw at all. But the term “rawhide” has stuck.
Rawhide chews start out hard, but as your dog works the chew it becomes softer, and eventually he can unknot the knots on each end and the chew takes on the consistency of a slimy piece of taffy or bubble gum. And by that time your dog cannot stop working it — it becomes almost addictive.
At this point, there’s no longer any dental benefit to the chew because it has turned soft and gooey, and, in fact, it has become a choking and intestinal obstruction hazard.“
P.S. Ready for the jaw dropper?
An investigation by Humane Society International stated in their report, “In a particularly grisly twist, the skins of brutally slaughtered dogs in Thailand are mixed with other bits of skin to produce rawhide chew toys for pet dogs. Manufacturers told investigators that these chew toys are regularly exported to and sold in U.S. stores.” – dogingtonpost.com
Rodney Habib Pet Health Site
“An educated, informed and well-researched community of pet owners can only put more pressure on the pet food industry to be better! When pet owners know better, they will only do better!” Dog food and treats are a mind field, please keep your dogs safe.
I would love to take credit for all of this but I cant, I also cant find you actually wrote some of it.
1. It is low impact which is suitable for puppies and dogs of all ages
2. Dogs are on lead, so no embarrassing incidents
3. It’s easy to practice at home, Not much equipment needed
4. Always in small groups.
5. Dogs are worked one at a time so no issues for those that are dog nervous
6. We train in new places every week
7. It’s a great way to build confidence in nervous dogs
8. It helps calm overexcited dogs as they need to concentrate more
9. Fantastic way to build the bond and understanding between dog and handler
Have you heard of Mantrailing before?
Do you think it is only for really sporty dogs and super fit owners?
So here is the truth behind Mantrailing:
It is an exciting new trailing sport where your dog learns to track missing/hidden people based on their unique smell!
Any dog can do this, from small to massive, from young to old, and any breed too!
Even reactive dogs, as we only work one dog at a time and specifically choose the person they are finding to match the dogs personality, it can help improve their confidence immensely.
But I’m not fit enough to do that! We match the length and type of trail to meet your requirements. Trust me I’m no athlete!
My dog has rubbish recall! No worries all dogs are worked on leads so they are under control at all times.
We teach you to work as a team with your dog and help you understand body language and how dogs see our world.
Once you have the basics you can progress through more exciting trails in differing environments, and join in with competitions and fun days or for the more competitive work towards your level 1 certificate!
When it is not your turn to trail you have the opportunity to watch other teams at work which is extremely beneficial for progressing on your journey and understanding of dogs track scent, and the effects of the environment on the trail, after all you are learning too. it is low impact and highly addictive sport that requires concentration from the dog and therefore really helps build focus and can give nervous dogs the chance to build some real self confidence!
So come join us on this highly addictive adventure! Start soon and you may have time to join in the Halloween ghost hunt!!
Have you ever greeted a stranger with a full-on bear hug and maybe a knuckle rub to the head? I hope not!! What would you do if this happened to you?
If your dog’s personality cannot cope with this type of greeting you need to help them. After all if someone greeted your child by hugging them I’m sure they would receive a hostile response from you. Your dog doesn’t need to say hello to everyone.
Meeting face to face is not a natural behavior for dogs, this is the way humans meet each other. Meetings between dogs should be side on with each other.
Never allow your dog to run up to a dog unless the owner has said it’s ok, and even then remember that things can quickly change between dogs.
The Three-Second Rule:
Three seconds is the maximum amount of time the first meeting should last between dogs. This is more than enough time for the dog’s nose to have taken in and processed an immense amount of information. Never pull your dog away as we don’t want either dog thinking there is anything negative about the meeting. A simple ‘this way’ or ‘come on’ maybe showing their ball if they have one.
Many owners make the mistake of waiting that bit longer to see if they ‘get on’ or misreading a ‘freeze’ or other subtle body gestures that mean “I don’t like you furball, leave me alone”!
If you want the dogs to get on. Maybe a walk with friends etc. Wait until they are ignoring each other and then bring them back together for a few more seconds. then repeat again. Watch out for body language when they approach each other to guide you on how your dog is feeling. Body language equivalent
DOG HUMAN EQUIVALENT
Play Bow – Hello would you like to join me for a cup of tea?
Fluid movement – Your pretty I like you
Stiff tails – Have I seen you on crime watch?
Wagging tail – This could go either way. I’m really not sure
Head or paw on the shoulder – Epic Wedgie
Snarl – I want to punch you in the face!
Tail between legs – That bloke scares the bejeezus out of me
Roll onto back – OMG its Fred West
Showing of teeth – Take one step closer and I rain hell on you
Tail wagging can indicate both happy and aggravated, think of an angry cat. A dog can do the same sometimes, you need to look for the rhythm and position of the tail
There are many more body language signals these are just a few, Sign up for one of our courses and we will help you on your journey to speak dog.
I peek out the front door to check on my
dog, who is sunning himself in his favourite spot in the sun. He is lying on an
old moving trolley, since repurposed to give him a boost up to the sunrays,
which don’t reach the ground at this time of morning. As I stick my head out
the door, he lifts his nose, and I can see his nostrils gently flare in and out
as he recognizes I am close. He does not see me with his eyes, as they are
squinted shut due to the sun, but he sees me with his nose.
There are many more examples of my dog
using his nose to see. When I return from the shops, and we greet
enthusiastically, my human tendency is to reach out and touch to say hello, but
he ducks away, preferring to sniff my hands first to see where I have been. (If
you have not already read about the human as opposed to canine perspective of
greeting, it is worth reading ‘How
do you greet a dog politely’). When I return from volunteering at
the dog shelter, he sniffs my shoes and clothes carefully. I get the full pat
down with the nose. If I offer him something, whether it is an object or food,
he does not use his eyes to examine the item further; he sniffs it.
On one occasion, when out on a walk with my
dog, he stopped, hesitant to go further. I surveyed the pavement ahead. It
seemed clear. I thought he was being overly sensitive and encouraged him to
continue. As we passed the parked cars ahead, hiding behind the wheel of the
last car was a cat. I felt very foolish. My dog was right – there was something
ahead! He had seen it with his nose. I should have listened. Being human, I had
immediately dismissed what I could not see with my eyes. On another occasion,
he started sniffing the ground very attentively, seemingly following a trail
back and forth, as he narrowed in on the direction of the scent trail. Looking
ahead to see what had taken his interest, it was easy for me to quickly spot a
scattering of nacho chips that had been discarded on the pavement. This time my
eyesight won out against my dog’s nose, and I was able to divert him away.
with these simple observations, it is apparent how often my dog uses his nose
and scent to make sense of and navigate his environment.
It is understandable why the use of
olfaction may be the predominant sense for dogs. It is estimated that dogs have
300 million olfactory receptor cells; in comparison humans have about 5
million. Dogs have the ability of smelling with each nostril on an individual
basis, allowing them to distinguish the direction of the scent. The slits on
the side of the nose allow for the old air to exit at the same time as the dog
is breathing in new air through the nostrils, allowing the dog to take in scent
continuously. The air is separated and passes through an area at the back of
the nose that has a labyrinth of scroll-like bony structures called turbinates.
The air is filtered through the turbinates for olfaction, while some of the air
follows a separate route down the pharynx for respiration. The air that humans
take in for respiration and scent is not separated, going in and out with the
air that we smell. Additionally, dogs have a secondary olfactory organ called
organ that allows dogs to detect pheromones and non-volatile
chemicals. There are times where you can spot the dog using his vomeronasal
organ, as he will display a tonguing
response. The dog may chatter his teeth or drool a bit at the mouth
as he deciphers the components of the scent. To interpret all this information,
a larger percentage of the dog’s brain is used to process scent, with the
olfactory bulb taking up more area of the brain than it does in humans. The dog
can detect smells at concentrations of 100 million times less than our noses
In Alexandra Horowitz’s book, ‘Being a Dog: Following the Dog Into a World
of Smell’, she gives an example of scientific research to test scent
thresholds of detection dogs. One of the tests was how diluted an odour could
become before the dog would struggle to detect the odour. The scent of amyl
acetate (smell of banana) had to be distinguished from non amyl acetate canisters.
The dog kept finding the scent until it was diluted to the equivalent of a
couple of drops of amyl acetate to one trillion drops of water.
is estimated that dogs have 300 million olfactory receptor cells; in comparison
humans have about 5 million.
Imagine visiting an art gallery if every time you attempted to look at a
painting, you were forced to move along and had your eyes covered, missing the
chance to get a glimpse of the painting. How frustrating an experience would
that be? As humans, we do not have the same level of perception and therefore
discount dogs’ levels of sensory perception far too many times, especially when
giving them opportunities to interact with the environment. Too often I have
seen guardians impatiently yanking their dogs away if the dog stops to sniff
even for a moment. I have observed dogs that are walked obediently to heel and
not permitted to stray to sniff, dogs walked with equipment that does not allow
them to dip their noses down or move their heads or bodies with ease, or walks
that are carefully curated from a human perspective, where the walk is a quick
march for exercise purposes and stopping is not tolerated. The mental
stimulation from sniffing and exploring can be just as tiring as physical
If my dog responds to an environment in a
manner in which he is comfortable to investigate it – in an in-depth manner
with calm sniffing – this indicates that the walk is going well and the
environment is suitable for him. If my dog is pulling, moving erratically and choosing
not to engage with the environment by sniffing, this is a telltale sign that he
is not coping for some reason. So sniffing calmly and engaging with the
environment can give clues as to the internal state of your dog. A good walk
for my dog would be one in which he meanders with a calm, loose, slow-moving
body, taking his time to stop at various spots to sniff and investigate. To do
so, the leash needs to be long enough for him to move comfortably, and the
equipment he is wearing should not hinder him from being able to reach the
ground with his nose easily. The choice of walk should be individual for each
dog; certain environments or times or the duration of a walk can be too
stimulating for some dogs. A dog may not have the appropriate skill level or
coping skills for a particular environment, or the dog’s stress level may be
too high to cope with a particular walk.
your dog engages with the environment by sniffing, and in which context he does
so, can give vital clues as to how comfortable your dog is feeling and if he is
coping within an environment.
There is another important reason to pay
attention to your dog’s sniffing. On certain occasions, sniffing plays
a part in how dogs communicate. If you have not already read the dog body
language article about sniffing,
you can read about it here.
The dog may stop to sniff as a calming
signal or negotiation. For example, a dog may use sniffing the
ground at a distance in the beginning stages of approaching another dog. A slow
non-direct approach is polite, and it gives each party the opportunity to
negotiate at a distance. In another context, sniffing could be used as a way to
defuse a situation; one dog may walk away sniffing the ground, encouraging the
other dog to mirror him, defusing the interaction.
Depending on context, sniffing the ground
could also be displacement
behaviour or a stress response. If the dog is unsure of something
ahead, he may slow and start sniffing the ground, showing he may be feeling
conflicted. It is vital to allow your dog to express himself and to observe
your dog’s body language so you can offer support in such situations.
The body language that occurs when a dog
starts sniffing due
to displacement can
be subtle. It is crucial to observe changes in the environment, noting the
dog’s whole body and body posture, as well as movement and body language
signals. For instance, a dog may see something ahead, pause, and then subtly
curve his body away from the object that is causing discomfort. He may then do
some displacement sniffing. It is worth observing how he sniffs; some
displacement sniffing may seem less focused than when a dog is actively
investigating a scent. In other instances, it can seem out of place, as the dog
suddenly finds a spot to sniff intently. The dog may use the moment of sniffing
as a surreptitious way of surveying the environment, so it is important to
observe where the gaze of the eyes falls. The dog may also move his ears,
perhaps to the side slightly, in order to use his other senses to gather
further information. One should pay attention to the subtleties.
Scent is the predominant way in which dogs
make sense of their world. Sniffing is vital to the way dogs gather information
and interact with their environment. At times, depending on the context, a dog
is not just sniffing a scent; he is communicating. What he is communicating can
vary according to the circumstances, so it is worth paying attention in order
to be a supportive partner. Allowing your dog to interact fully with his
environment and express himself with ease ensures a stronger, mutually connected
relationship between dog guardian and dog.
Just 1 more reason to take up Trailing or Tracking with your dog.
A few years ago, it was easier for dogs “to just be dogs”. Did you ever get told as a child “let sleeping dogs lie”! If you think about this for a moment does this mean we had more respect for dogs just being ‘dogs’? Fast forward a decade and huge advances in the science behind learning and now we have almost unreasonably high expectations of them, the quest for “the perfect dog”. We’re expecting our dogs to act less dog, and more human, Why? The more time and dogs I work with, the more I’ve come to realise that there’s no such thing as a “perfect dog”. Each owner has a different idea of how their dog should be, just as each mother has a different expectation of their child! and as so they are all perfect for their owners! It’s our understanding of innate behaviours that is unrealistic. When a dog does something that is not liked by its owner it’s not because they are showing off, or trying to teach them a lesson, it’s because in their doggy brain it’s the right thing to do at the moment, there is little more planning than that… That’s not to say that if your dog has reactions that are making your life a little difficult, we just have to accept them there are ways to work with them to make things easier for you and your dog. The message I have is Love your dog and have fun, Don’t worry about what other people think in all honesty we all have little problems with our dogs. If you have a “difficult” dog, it can often seem like the whole world is judging you, but in reality, most people are too concerned with their own dog is doing to even notice! Just because their dog isn’t barking and recalls to their first command, does not mean they haven’t howled at the wind all night or eaten three sofas in the last 6 months.