Why Does My Dog Smell Everything On a Walk

Dogs smelling during a walk

As many owners are aware dogs have an amazing sense of smell and more often than not you will find your dog smelling everything they come across on a walk. So why do dogs smell everything on a walk?

Dogs smell everything on a walk because that is their primary sense and it is what allows them to make sense of the world around them. As humans we predominantly use our sight to make sense of the world, with any additional understanding coming from our hearing. 

A dog’s sense of smell is amazing, a superpower if you will. The ways in which they use their nose to figure things out is second to none. in this article, we delve into the reasons why dogs sniff everything on a walk.

Why Do Dogs Sniff During Walks

If you’re new to walking your dog you will soon realize that patience is something you need when walking a dog. Dogs in most circumstances won’t complete their walk from start to finish without stopping. The number one thing that comes with walking your dog is sniffing and it’s important for owners to realize how vital sniffing is to there dog.

The reason why dogs sniff during walks is simply because they can and what many owners forget is that your dog can figure out a lot more from smell than you can. From a single area your dog could identify who was there, how many people, what they were eating, and even how they were feeling. Yes, I know your thinking that’s impossible but a dog’s sense of smell is so powerful that even the chemicals we produce when we are happy or sad can be picked up by a dog’s scent.

So now put yourself in your dog’s shoes…or paws. If you had a super gift like theirs wouldn’t you use it too? Just imagine if you could go on a walk and see holograms of everything that went before you. no matter how uninteresting they were you would probably still look at these holograms as it’s our nature to be a bit nosy…excuse the pun.

What Do Dogs Smell On Walks

So what exactly is it that dogs can smell on walks. well as mentioned before, dogs can smell a whole lot more than people realize. During a walk the most pungent smells will probably come out quite obviously to your dog, but with a little more investigation they can identify more information on the suspect who left the smell. Dogs also have a scent memory which allows them to memorize other dogs smells, according to “VCA Hospital” this would be used to identify what they are up against, for example, an alpha dog or more dominant opponent. We probably will never know exactly a dogs thought process when using their scent memory. Do they speak through scents, there is probably some sort of communication but how deep does that go. Dogs will smell anything they can on a walk but what they are actually doing in their heads is the important factor in determining what a dog is smelling.

Sometimes dogs get a bit engulfed in a scent spending more time assessing what the scent could be. From personal experience i have seen my dog sniff around on the ground following the scent a few feet and then raising his nose into the air and thoroughly sniffing the air. To me, this is firstly an identification system which leads into him locating the current whereabouts of the smell. This would be highly likely as dogs can also smell far distances providing the scent particles have scattered from the source towards the dog.

Another common area in which dogs tend to smell during walks is grass. If you imagine grass can be an excellent way of catching smells. As animals and humans walk through long grassy areas they deposit scent particles all over the strands of grass, leaving them behind for your dog. I often find my dog wanting to roll around in long grass either depositing his own smell or disguising it with the smells from the grass.

Is It Good For Dogs To Sniff

We all know dogs love to smell but is it good for dogs to sniff all the time. Well, the answer is simply yes. Dogs are animals that naturally use their nose for understanding the world around them. This would be like saying to a human being “do you think its good for you to be able to see” well the answer is yes as we need our sight as it’s our predominant way of understanding the world. This is not just in relation to navigating the world without bumping into something but when talking to another person we take in a whole load of information based around the emotions we see on their face.

Sniffing is not only a natural activity for a dog to do but it also provides so much more. Sniffing can give your dog both mental and physical stimulation allowing them to hunt down a smell using there mind to connect the clues. Giving your dog this stimulation will make them more content at home and on walks, behavior always improves when your dog has enough mental and physical stimulation in their lives.

Should I Let My Dog Smell Everything On Walks

As previously mentioned dogs gain lots of mental and physical stimulation from picking up scents and i would highly encourage letting your dog smell on a walk. The other side to this is that dogs generally don’t have much restrain when it comes to smelling. They are not like cats where you could but something bad down from them and they wouldn’t eat it. Dogs prefer to eat first think later and this goes for walks too. It’s good to allow your dog to smell everything on a walk but be sure they don’t want to eat what they are smelling as it could be poisonous.

How Long Should I Let My Dog Sniff On Walks

I would say that giving your dog a good amount of time to sniff on a walk can help them be much more content during everyday life. Speaking from personal experience my dog has walks where he ends up sniffing everything, as a way of saying “I don’t want to go home yet”. At the end of the day, it’s up to you whether you allow your dog to sniff something fro ages and ages but remember if the smell is good enough they will sniff all day if they could. All them enough time to understand the smell, most likely another dog has just peed there and your dog just wants to return the favor.

Scent walks are becoming more common across the world where owners are taking the focus off getting the walk done and encouraging more freedom. Obviously letting your dog off the lead will allow them more time to sniff everything on a walk but if you are walking on the lead then consideration for allowing your dog to sniff can be really beneficial. For additional information on how long a dog can smell for check out our article “How Long Can A Dog Follow A Scent”.

Why Do Dogs Sniff The Ground

So despite dogs being able to smell through the air and onto different surfaces like trees and gates, they are predominantly nose to the ground. This is because the majority of the information has been left behind, falling onto the ground by passers-by. The smells on other surfaces are just as important but your dog knows these don’t move and it’s even possible that your dog has smelt the surfaces from distance. Smells on the ground are like footprints, a trail. If you imagine you were trying to follow someone with big walking boots, then you would follow the footprints on the ground that look like big walking boots. This is the same thinking as your dog has, all they are doing is follow a particular scent particle along the ground as you move forward with your walk.

Why Do Dogs Love Things That Smell Bad

Dogs love smell, that much is obvious, however, why do they love to sniff such bad smells. The reasons for this may be two-fold. Firstly dogs don’t identify smells the same way we do, they naturally love stinky smells. However, something smelling bad (or with dislike) is a matter of opinion. When looking at humans there are particular smells that some people love, petrol for example, where other people cough and wheeze at the very scent of it.

Smells to dogs are based on opinion but more functionality. The smell of something could indicate that it will taste really nice, or that they should pee on it, or even something good for disguising their scent. As I’ve had dogs for many years I know when my dog is thinking of rolling on something. If they were to come across a rotting carcass then rolling on it would be a definite yes. This is a natural instinct allowing them to cover their scent, which is why the stickier the smell the better fro covering them. It may seem that they love bad smells but they are probably more concerned that it smells strong enough to disguise their own scent, the rolling element does make it look like they love every second of it.

Dog Breeds that Sniff a Lot

You may be thinking well my last dog didn’t sniff as much as my current dog during walks so what is the difference. It’s true that all dogs love to sniff it’s just what they do but there are dogs that sniff more than others and this all depends on the breed of dog. Below are some breeds that notoriously sniff a lot.


OK, so we have to start with the king of the sniffers. The Bloodhound has earned its name being used in many phrases. despite all dogs being amazing at sniffing out a scent, according to Dogtime Bloodhounds have around 300million scent receptors more than any other breed, making them one of the most prolific scent dogs. Bloodhounds also use their ears to sweep up the scent from the ground. check out our article on “Dogs With Big Ears” for more info on how these incredible dogs use their ears fro smelling.


Not only is this dog one of the top smelling dogs but a breed that uses their nose almost all the time. Owners of beagles will know that when going for walks a beagle will have their nose to the ground for the majority of the walk, possibly lifting it up to smell the air. Beagles are naturally bred to track and retrieve game so following a trail is one of their most favorite activities. You must be aware of your beagle at all times as they do have a tendency to disappear after a scent and this could take them miles if it is a particularly good one.

Basset Hound

Basset Hounds are built for smell, their natural physical appearance benefits them a lot. Much like the Bloodhound the Basset Hound has long ears that drag on the ground, this sweeps up all the scent particles and allows them to get as much of a smell as possible. The fact that Basset Hounds are very low to the ground makes it easier for them to gather smells. These physical features along with their incredible smell gives them an amazing ability.


Pointers have been used for generations for hunting birds and other wildlife. They are natural-born game retrievers which love the chase. Hunters always admired them for their athletic ability and their nose, meaning they could go on hunting trips all day with and not worry about tiring them out. Pointers are also a very nose to the ground type of dog and one which will constantly sniff during walks.

These are only some of the breeds that are known for their scent abilities. There are many more and they do tend to share very similar features. Of course, the actual ability to smell is one such trait that is important when sniffing. Other features include long ears which many scent dogs have, along with a tendency to get their nose close to the ground. The idea that hunting dogs are the best scent dogs is obvious for many reasons. Firstly the natural abilities that have been mentioned previously, but also the fact that these dogs have been chosen for hunting and bred over many years to refine their skills.

Is Your Dog Constantly Sniffing The Ground

As you have probably learnt from reading this post. Your dog’s nose is an amazing device naturally made to be functional. Dogs are meant to sniff and you should to the best of your ability allow your dog to sniff. It can become quite tiresome when your dog is constantly sniffing the ground. Its OK if you need to hurry them up, it’s just important that each day they get enough mental stimulation and sniffing gives them it in abundance.

Sometimes it’s a good idea to try taking them on a scent trail, which is a walk where you let them sniff to their heart’s content. By doing this you wont be negating them of sniffing if you want to hurry them up on occasion. During a walk where you attempt to hurry your dog up be sure to offer them lots of praise when they move on from a smell rather than pulling them in the direction your want to go. Its important in all aspects of your relationship that your dog never see’s you as a party pooper, this can cause them to act out more in the future.


So there you have it. Next time you are out and about with your furry friend you will know exactly why they love to sniff during a walk. Remember that walking your dog is a wonderful thing for both mind and body but it’s not just about you its about your dog too. If you enjoyed these post then check out our homepage for more great articles on getting outside with your dog.

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Dean Lissaman

As a child I grew up around dogs and have loved them ever since. I now have a beloved Golden Retriever who enjoys exploring the outside world. Being an outdoor enthusiast has inspired me to create the ultimate resource on relating both dogs and the outdoors. For more information on me check out my about page.

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