Sniffing is a big deal to me because it’s a huge deal for my dogs. When we adopted Luna in early 2017, I was excited to walk her. I hadn’t owned a dog in nearly ten years, and my lifestyle had changed a lot since I had moved from a rural area to the city. Daily, I saw people running with their dogs or people walking with their dogs in a nice heeling position. I really wanted this for Luna too. I thought those dogs were having fun, but it turns out, most dogs have other ideas of fun.
Luna and I quickly started taking our daily walks from the city to the forest. I found it invoked greater peace for myself and for Luna, and besides, if you live in town, why would you really want to walk in town? One thing I noticed was that Luna loved sniffing, and since I was usually huffing and puffing up a hill, I didn’t mind that she would stop. Once she advanced to being able to walk off leash, which came after a lot of recall training, she continued at a similar pace, walking and sniffing, stopping and going.
When Leda came to us in late 2017, we continued these walks, but I really started thinking about how running when she was older and was able to run would get her endless energy down. I started watching when I would see people running their dogs, especially if they were running two dogs. I immediately came to the conclusion that Luna and Leda would be so happy if I could run with them. One day while doing dishes, I changed my mind. As I looked out the window, and man and his dog were running, and his dog was trying to poop while trying to keep up with his owner. After that, I had no intention of ever running them.
Instead, we continued on our daily walks, I noticed that once Leda was allowed to move around freely and had her time to sniff, that it would calm her, and when she started having some mental health issues, we increased the number of walks we did a week and the amount of time we spent out. Her issues disappeared.
Since doing these walks, I’ve read the science behind them. Sniffing lowers a dog’s pulse. Allowing them to interact with their environment lets them choose how, when, and why to move. Luna and Leda aren’t pushed to walk a certain distance. Some days, we walk three or four miles, but on others, we may only walk two. We walk as much as they want to, and I do the same with my clients’ dogs when they need to decompress. I let them sniff and go as they choose.
Some trainers have mentioned that walking them every day would make them super athletes that would need more and more exercise daily to be fulfilled. I’d argue that daily city walks with little or no variance in course and not letting them sniff does this, but decompression walks do not. After over three years of nearly daily decompression walks, I can confirm that Luna and Leda don’t need longer walks. In fact, the length of our walks haven’t changed, and they’re as fulfilled as they ever have been.