Dog owners, are you guilty of this crime against caninity?

Let your dogs sniff – a heartfelt plea to dog owners!

Our darling poodle Maisie wasn’t so much a lockdown puppy as a post-menopausal cri de coeur. My husband always put his foot down when it came to a family dog, saying that our four children provided more chaos than he could manage already. But when our older two boys left home and the younger twins became teens, I had to be firm with him.

‘There’s a house for sale across the road, feel free to buy it, and you can pop back over here any time. I am buying a puppy.’

Two years in, Paul loves Maisie. Of course he does, she’s a very fluffy bundle of black fun and he’s only human. Maisie looks like a long-legged lamb, and comes just up to our knees. She does not smell and she’s non-shedding, unlike Paul himself whose long white hairs gets everywhere.

picture of poodle for dogs sniff article
Poodles really are the friendliest dogs

Before we moved to the Central West and long before we got Maisie, I used to walk with an erstwhile friend, Lizzie, around our Sydney suburb. She would walk very fast with her dog trotting dutifully beside her. Occasionally, another friend, Jodie, would join us.

‘Please don’t ask Jodie to walk with us again,’ Lizzie said one day. ‘She lets her dog stop and sniff.’

Jen did indeed stop and start as she walked, whilst her dog sniffed trees, lamp posts and other olfactory delights. Back then, mutt-less myself, I knew who I preferred walking with. Speedy walking was never my style and I might as well have been on a lead myself as I trotted along. Some friendships were not meant to last.

Dogs Sniff! It’s Their Social Media

And now, I realise very clearly, not allowing a dog to sniff is a crime against caninity. Dogs need to sniff. It’s their morning TV news, their TikTok and Facebook and Instagram, all rolled into one.

So now my wee canine pal and I walk, with plenty of stops to nose around and snuffle. Whilst Maisy enjoys most the dubious delights of other doggy scents markers, and sometimes their piles of poo, I literally do stop to smell the roses, and the lavender and the jasmine and the smoky scent of backyard barbeques.

We walk around the streets, changing route so that we can both smell new things every day. Ours is a quiet area, with not too many cars on the roads or pedestrians on the pavements. I bought a 5-metre retractable lead which we use most days, with Maisie running along in front, stopping to sniff. I often follow her to see what has got her nose twitching.

Using The Senses On Mental Health Walks

The best mental health walks for me do not involve headphones. I know my nose is nothing like as powerful or entertaining as Maisie’s, so I tune in my other senses too. There are screeching cockatoos and croaking frogs, the thundery thump of Maisie’s paws as she races past me. I watch the blue and red flashes of crimson rosellas and the subtle greens of superb parrots as they flit among the gum trees. At the creek I throw sticks for Maisie and love to watch her signature high paws swimming style. The muffled flap of her woolly ears as she shakes the water of is a sound unique to her and the scattering drops of water feel cool on my face

Watching Maisie explore off the lead is a buzz for the brain. She runs across the oval, body low in a streak of speed, with the odd little leap just for fun. In taller grass she rises and falls as she bounds along, a little canine rocking horse in the bush. Dopamine and serotonin fizz and froth in my brain (and hers no doubt) I watch her burrow through the undergrowth, nose down as she follows the scents of the animals that live there.

‘But walking slowly isn’t a great workout for you, is it?’ says one friend, not a dog owner.

It’s true that a wandering walk does not lift the heart rate as much as a brisk one, nor work the legs as hard.

‘It’s better than lying on the sofa watching Netflix though,’ I reply, another favourite activity of my mutt’s and mine.

The slow walk is for my mental health more than physical health. We do occasionally puff our way up steps, me trying to get Maisie to pull me up. And very occasionally I will run alongside her when she’s off the lead. But my huffy puffy exercise comes at the gym, and involves weights, a necessity at my age.

And there’s the pool too, where laps can be done fast or slow, a workout for mind, body and soul. If only Maisie could swim at the pool too, but the manager seems unenthusiastic about my suggestions.

Another friend never lets her dogs off the leash in the bushy parks in case she is bitten by a snake. But I say life is short and it’s better to enjoy a lot of fun with some danger mixed in than to live a safer life.

I had the same attitude with the kids; let them climb trees, jump off bridges, leaps from rocks, play in waterfalls and in the bush behind the house. This was great for their confidence and resilience, also a terrific way to wear them out so they slept well.

Those teenagers still sleep well, especially on weekend mornings. They are missing out on the wild life these days, but my wee dog and I are still out there, noses down, tails up, living the life unleashed.

Maisie poddle and Seana Smith dog sniffing on walks story
Winter walks with Maisie and she can sniff to her hearts content

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