Reprinted with permission from Sally Hummel, Rugby James. This article is original in content and not to be reproduced elsewhere in any form. Copyright May 31, 2016.
Lately, when I’ve been out and about, I’ve encountered dog owners who try to prevent their dogs from sniffing me, or seem embarrassed when they sniff too long, or get overly personal when they sniff.
Do you know that when puppies are born, they are blind and deaf at birth? Their eyes open at about ten days, and their ears at about fourteen days. So,think good and hard about that and what it means to our dogs. They are born with a good sense of smell, because when they are newborns, all they need for the first few days is to be able to find their mama for their food source.
Their interest in sniffing doesn’t wane just because they grow up to see dog food in a bowl or hear that kibble hit the stainless steel. Sniffing is a big deal to our dogs, and we need to understand that! All dogs like to sniff–not only hound breeds! It’s exciting to me to see new dog sports being developed, like “Nose Works,” which embraces a dog’s desire and skill in sniffing!
To your dogs, sniffing a new person is much like a handshake is to a human. It’s a polite way to meet and greet. As humans, we just need to understand and appreciate it for what it is: a means for your dog to gather information about us. When we stop them, or scold them for sniffing, it’s sending a very confusing message to our dogs. In his mind, he is being very polite, and he’s learning important information about that new person!
Let’s face it! Dogs are curious! They want to learn new things about their world and who is in it just like humans do. Sniffing is one way in which they can gather that information and learn. Preventing them from doing that can make them fearful of the things that they don’t understand and that can include humans and other dogs.
Now having said that, you do need to be very careful about letting your dog meet and greet people and dogs, to be sure that they are dog friendly and will be kind and understanding to your dog. You certainly don’t want to throw your dog under the bus just for the sake of letting him sniff if the conditions aren’t ideal. Be selective, and when it’s safe and possible, let him have a good sniff.
And sniffing goes for walks as well. When I’m out for a walk with Rugby somewhere that he can safely enjoy the outing , it’s fun for me to let him explore and sniff, as well as see and hear new things. It’s one of his primary senses, and he really enjoys the full experience of safely going someplace new, including those things that he can smell! Often, when we are sitting out on the patio at home, I will see him tip his head up and sniff something on the wind. He always looks so content, and pleased…and often very calm and relaxed at the same time.
So remember that a dog is a completely different species, and he’s only doing what comes naturally to him when he sniffs. Embrace what’s different with him, and enjoy watching him learn!
I’m really glad the Mama has bringed this subject up, on account of it’s a real important one! I fink Uprights misunderstand doggers wif this all the time, and it really hurts my lil dogger feelings.
First of all, Uprights gotsa understand that we is doggers! We isn’t Uprights! That means we doesn’t fink or behave the way that Uprights does, and that’s not a bad fing! Sumtimes Uprights gets doggers and calls them their “baby” what makes a dogger into sumping what they wasn’t ever borned to be. We was borned to be doggers!
Uprights gotsa understand that we is a whole different species altogether, and that means that we gots fings what we does that is unique and special just on account of who we is in our DNA. Lubbing and living wif a dogger means that Uprights gotsa accept us for being doggers and let us do doggie fings what makes sense to us.
Sniffing is sumping we likes a big much! I likesa sniff the ground and the air bof! I likesa learn new fings about what’s around me, and sniffing is a big way that I can do it.
When I meet sumpawdy for the first time, the first fing I likesa do is sniff them over. It’s the very first fing I does wif the Mama when she gets home every day after she has been training doggers. I likesa learn about the new dogger smells what she brings home wif her. Sumtimes, puppies pee on her so that’s a purty essciting smell for me! Mostly, it’s doggie drool or furs and dander and oils from the udder doggers what gets on her. She’s always really patient to stand still and let me check her out when she first gets home. And then she goes off and does her stuff and I helps herd her on her way! It’s a perfect way to satisfy my curiosity and help me learn about her day!
In 2007, a dog trainer found herself falling in love with her first rescue dog. That trainer was Sally Hummel and the dog would become Rugby James. The goal of her website is to provide education, support, community, encouragement, and hope. Difficult dogs are often “recycled from shelter to home to shelter to home, and back to shelter, until they are often put to sleep.” Sally would like to change this by sharing her own day to day life with a “neurotic” dog. She wants to help owners “stay committed to their pooch, and try to make life better for them.” Her site exists because she believes pet owners can live well with a difficult dog. Her own Rugby James is living proof of that!