Sniffing – why is it good for dogs?

Dogs love to sniff and it’s incredibly good for them.

Here comes the science…

According to the most recent research, mammalian brains have 7 emotional systems, SEEKING being one.  Sniffing activates the dog’s SEEKING emotional system.

SEEKING is “the basic impulse to search, investigate, and make sense of the environment” and promotes

  • curiosity
  • anticipation
  • looking forward to good things  

SEEKING is a very pleasurable emotion.  It releases feel-good chemicals; endorphin, oxytocin, serotonin, and dopamine, which, amongst other things, promote optimism.

The SEEKING system is the system that helps animals anticipate all types of rewards.  

The SEEKING system is incompatible with other emotional systems such as RAGE and FEAR, although the emotional state can change very, very quickly.

The SEEKING system is activated in children at Christmas time; anticipating all the presents they’re going to get.  The anticipation of Christmas is often more pleasurable than the presents themselves, just like sniffing out food can be more rewarding for dogs than eating the food.

Here are some games and activities to activate the SEEKING emotional system:

  • ‘Bimble’ walks
  • Scent work
  • Scatter feeding
  • Hide and seek
  • Treasure hunt
  • Training