The Walking Dog on Scent

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I remember the first time I took a dog for a walk. I was only 4 or 5 years old. We had hiked up a popular hill near the town i was born. When i say “we”, I meant my family; and by “we hiked”, I mean my parents and sisters walked and I most probably was mainly carried on my dads shoulders during the steep bits!

The best thing about a hike is a sit down in a hut for a Swiss Coffee or a lemonade and a “Nussgipfel” (a puffpastry treat with almond filling). It was there, where it was the first time I was allowed to take a little Dachshound for a walk around the hut.

Looking back, it might not have been that great of an experience for the dog. On a short leash and collar being “lead” around the small hut by a 5 year old.

In those days that was what a walk was. A dog being taken for an outing on a short leash and collar. In many instances the collar was not a leather one but a chain chocker. It was the days of “Alpha” this and “Alpha” that with a bit of “Rolling”.

Times have changed though. A lot more in depth research has pointed to the fact that even in wolf packs it is not about power and status but about a breeding pair of wolves bringing up their young with help of their siblings – a family

Therefore, one would think we have moved on from using the linear hirachy theory on our dogs? We haven’t.

Every day I see owners pulling and pushing their dogs around on a walk and make them sit in “submission”. A walk that should really be for the dog to enjoy; a walk where the dog can experience the world through their eyes – or should I point out – through their amazing noses!

How amazing the dogs noses are deserves a post alone, so stay tuned for that. But lets just say, with our petty 5 million scent receptors, our noses are amateurs compared to the nose of a dog with 250 million + receptors.

So if we imagine how a healthy human eye sees colour and how what we see can please and excite us imagine how scent excites and pleases a dog. A canines olfactory system is also bigger relative to ours and our brain. When a dog smells he doesnt just detect a scent he can see the past, the present and future. How?

The past: who or what has been here

The present: who or what is here

The future: who or what is coming

When your dog sniffs that poo or pee of another dog, which humans think is so discusting, the dog can smell not just the “who” but the sex, health, emotional state, etc the other dog was in when it pooed or peed. That alone takes brain power to do.

If you ever followed your dog off leash, sniffing, imagine the amount of brain used to understand and debunk each of these scents the dog sniffs on.

You will also have observed that your dog didn’t sniff along in straight lines, he was walking sometimes probably even racing with his nose close to the ground all over the place. Sometimes he may stop raising his nose sniffing the air….

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So why do we still walk our dogs heel, on a chocker and short leash?

Because it makes us look in control!

Some dogs can’t be off leash as they have high prey drive. I have 3 of these hounds. If I would let them off they’d be gone. No!, not because they are disobedient but because they’d be off hunting that prey. So I walk them on a harness and long leash and follow them. We always end up finding something. Lately a lot of illegally dumped rubbish or dead animal carcasses.  The thing is, when we return home the dogs are relaxed and ready to chill. This behaviour hasn’t come about suddenly. It took a while with each dog I added to our canine family, wether as a permanent member or foster dog and no matter of breed. The difference is, you will not catch me throwing a tennis ball. But I might teach the dog to retrieve a lost tennis ball or other item; or let him search treats or track a person or sausage. The difference is: when the dog uses his nose he uses his brain constructively. He concentrates on the scents and what they are about. This is especially good for fearful dogs. Why? Because if a fearful being concentrates on something else than the fear it is able to function. I am sure you have experienced that before!

So why don’t I play fetch?

When the dog chases that ball, he reacts instinctively which means he is filled with adrenalin and that takes a while to leave the dogs body. Because he is on “hunting-mode” his brain will have shut off everything NOT needed to proceed to a successful outcome. This means your dog has tunnel-vision and cannot hear you.

So next time you return home and get frustrated your dog is not ready to chill, ask yourself “why”.

And take that chocker and short leash, put it in the rubbish, buy a long leash (at least 3 m) and a H-shaped harness to keep neck and shoulders free from pressure and start following your dog on a smiffing adventure

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Enjoy!

Bono & The Hounds

The Sniffer-Zone

There is nothing dogs like more than sniffing around their environment…. well apart from snoozing on the couch.

Before the big earthquakes in 2010 & 2011 you would have found me and the dog (only had one at the time called: Sam) somewhere up the Porthills or down Spencers Beach. Since then, the Christchurch surroundings have changed distinctively and sometimes I get lost.

However, the dogs and other animals have deffinately gained from those “rocking” events.

Today I ended up missing a turn-off to a residential “red zone” area near Travis Wetland. I ended up on the other side of the Wetlands in lush green and yellow fields. The resent rainfall had turned many of the previous residential sections into natural ponds again; after a long dry spell. The ducks, gease, pukekos’, and other wildlife including rabbits where bathing in the warmth of the sun when I arrived with my hounds. The birdlife soon chattered their displeasure at our invasion of their tranquility; the rabbits so much so that their “flight or fight” instinct took over and sent them in a nearby hole.

That created some excitement!…

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Not to worry! All hounds and rabbits are well and alife.

We soon got back to doing what we were there to do: “SNIFFING”

What the earthquakes took from us humans in form of houses and lifes, nature returned with life. Christchurchs’ residential red zone has, unknowingly to many, become the biggest “schnuffel-garden” at least New Zealand wide and of course with an uninterrupted lovely view of the Porthills.

Succomb with peaceful emotions of the surrounding beauty one is also slightly overcome by a hint of melancholy, realizing you are actually walking where someones backyard was… where people built memories in the save heaven of their home and garden. That, which now had become the Sniffer-Zone enjoyed by so many canines.

The hounds and I dearly hope that doesn’t change!

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Reviews page now active

A very intense day working on the website and the new SpeakingDog Blog

I now added a page to this Blog where clients can leave their reviews as it is not possible within the web-hosting of the SpeakingDog Webpage

You can click on the “Review SpeakingDog” in the Menu and leave a review in the comment box

Enjoy

Regards

Bono & The Hounds

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