Why you should let your dog sniff as many lamp posts as they want?
While such behaviour may be frustrating for owners and dog-walkers, experts say you shouldn’t yank your curious pet away.
Article by Joe Pinkstone
26 March 2023
Dogs should be allowed to sniff as many lamp posts as they want when out on a walk and not be yanked onwards by bored owners, a canine expert has said.
Walks are often perceived by owners as being solely for exercise and to keep a dog physically fit but veterinarians say they also play a vital role in mental stimulation.
Some dogs, especially as they get older, walk with less vigour and for shorter periods of time, preferring to plod slowly and investigate the scents around them.
This should be embraced by owners, even if it is frustrating, counter-intuitive and boring for the walker, veterinarians believe.
In a talk on how to adapt to living with a geriatric dog at BSAVA Congress 2023, experts spoke about the value of ensuring a dog was still fulfilled, active and stimulated even as its body slows down or it develops age-related health issues, like osteoarthritis.
‘Sniffing is really, really important’
“I think you have to make a mental switch when you’ve got a dog with osteoarthritis; instead of it being you and your mate going out for a really nice walk wherever you want, there has to be some walks that are for the dog,” Zoe Belshaw, a veterinary surgeon working on the BSAVA Old Age Pets project, said.
“As most dogs age, they become increasingly motivated to sniff, irrespective of whether or not that’s what they wanted to do before. I think it’s a massively important part of their quality of life, being able to sniff.
“[Older] dogs don’t need to be marching for the whole ten minutes of a walk.
“If you have ten minutes and they go ten metres but spend nine and a half minutes sniffing a lamp post; for that dog that is probably so much better than you trying to drag it around a circular walk around the block.
“Sniffing is really, really important. You just have to reframe what the point of that walk is so that you don’t get driven berserk by the fact that you’ve been standing by a lamp post for nine and a half minutes.
“Vets should tell owners to get a podcast or do something that makes the time go by to make it not frustrating for them because you see so many dogs being yanked because the owner thinks either the walk is for the dog and it needs to move, or because they themselves are so fed up of the sniffing – but embracing the “sniffari” is really important.”
Other adaptations people can make to ensure life is as easy as possible for an ageing dog include putting down soft, grippy mats to stop them falling over; playing in different ways; feeding them in an innovative manner; and not changing their home environment.