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Adventure Inspiration

How to Follow Your (Dog's) Nose

Break away from the linear. Explore outside the lines. Let those invisible trails of whiffs and sniffs lead you to new discoveries. With dogs as our guides, the secret's out: if it's the joy and freedom of adventure you're after, chances are it's right under your nose.

We know life and adventure are just better with a dog by your side. They’re eager to tag along, optimistic about whatever adventure the day might bring as they follow your lead.

But what if we flipped the script and let our dogs take the lead? 

What might we discover by embracing our dog's perspective and following their nose? You just might unlock a new world and deepen your connection with each other. And, you’d be surprised at the power of a dog's nose, the health benefits of letting them sniff, and how seeing a familiar trail through their eyes can transform our outdoor experiences.

Woman and dog hiking together on a high alpine trail

Super Sniffers: The Power of a Dog's Nose

For our canine companions, their sense of smell is their superpower. A dog's nose is an incredible tool, capable of detecting scents at levels thousands of times lower than what we can perceive. Their olfactory system is intricately designed, with up to 300 million scent receptors compared to our mere 6 million. 

When you pair a power tool like that with their natural curiosity, prepare to experience the trail from an entirely different perspective.

Good Smells: The Health Benefits of Letting a Dog Sniff

It’s not just that dogs are really good at sniffing – sniffing also happens to be really good for dogs. When dogs have the freedom to engage in a sniffing frenzy on the trail, it’s doing more than indulging their natural behavior; it’s helping them naturally access several health benefits:

Mental Stimulation: Sniffing engages a dog's brain, providing mental stimulation and keeping them mentally sharp. It challenges their cognitive abilities and keeps them engaged with their environment.
Stress Relief: Allowing dogs to explore and sniff can be calming and reduce stress levels. It gives them an outlet to release pent-up energy and provides a sense of fulfillment.
Environmental Enrichment: Sniffing allows dogs to gather information about their surroundings, enriching their understanding of the world. It provides them with mental and sensory enrichment, contributing to their overall well-being.
Two people hiking off trail in the forest with their dog, and dog is sniffing the air

Ready to Follow Your Dog's Nose? 

Clear your schedule, head to a trail, and here we go.
  • Give Them the Leash: Loosen the grip on the leash and let your dog lead the way. Allow them to move and explore freely toward their curiosity. Be present, observe, and let them guide the way (when it’s safe to do so – keep a keen eye to their surroundings in case you need to redirect them).
  • Embrace Their Pace: Dogs navigate the world through scent, and they need time to fully process and investigate the smells around them. Sometime that’s a slower, lingering pace, sometimes it’s an invisible trail they excitedly trace with their nose. Whatever it is, let your dog sniff to their heart's content. It's their way of gathering information and understanding their surroundings.
  • Be Flexible: Allow your dog to choose the path they want to take. Sometimes it may mean veering off or venturing into uncharted territory. Embrace the adventure and trust their instincts.

Dog wearing a fleece jacket and boots running with their person following behind them on a mountain bike

Now that you’re in “nose mode”, see what happens as you start to notice what they notice. A familiar trail becomes new as their curiosity leads you to discover hidden gems – was that bear-shaped rock always there? What is so fascinating about this particular leaf?

Dogs are masters at finding hidden treasures in the form of interesting scents. As you shadow them, you may stumble upon things like side trails, wildlife, and unique natural features you’ve likely overlooked before. And the practice is just as beneficial for humans as it is the dog.

  • Heightened Awareness: When you let go of a predetermined path and try on your dog's perspective, you become more attuned to your surroundings. Tune in to the subtle changes in the environment, the rustling of leaves, the passing breeze.
  • Mindfulness in Nature: Following our dog's nose encourages being present in the moment. It offers a chance to escape the distractions of everyday life and be fully immersed in whatever world your dog’s nose is showing you.
  • Strengthened Bond: By allowing your dog to lead and embracing their unique perspective, we deepen our bond with them. You get to learn more about what excites them and piques their curiosity. You foster a stronger connection and share in the adventure in a new way.

Two women hiking with their dog while their dog sniffs the trail

It’s remarkable that your dog’s nose really becomes the catalyst for a new kind of adventure—one that taps into their innate abilities and gives them the freedom to indulge in the art of sniffing.

The next time you head out for a hike or walk, let go and let sniff – have your dog lead the way to new endeavors and a deeper connection with your sidekick.