Why You Should Take Your Puppy on a Scent Walk

9 minute read By Lucy Hughes
Reviewed by: Pawrade Team
June 26, 2023

A brown dog sniffs lavender tulips backlit by the sun

“Not again! Come on! Let’s go!”

You tug at the leash in frustration as you have to stop once again on your puppy’s morning walk. You’re not having as much success as you want to when leash training your puppy. It seems like your puppy wants to stop and sniff absolutely everything!

Why not turn your frown upside down and introduce scent walks for your puppy? 

A scent or sniff walk with your puppy is an enriching and stimulating activity designed specifically for dogs to indulge in their extraordinary sense of smell. Unlike traditional walks focused on exercise, a scent walk prioritizes the exploration and investigation of scents that capture a dog's attention. 

Let’s dive deeper into the concept of a scent or sniff walk, exploring its benefits, how to conduct one, and why it is a fantastic way to enhance your dog's mental and physical well-being. Get ready to embark on a fragrant adventure and discover the wonders of the scent walk!

What Exactly Makes a Walk a Scent Walk?

You may think, “My puppy always wants to stop and sniff something. Doesn’t that qualify every walk as a scent walk if he attempts to smell every scent?” 

Just because your dog likes to smell everything does not make it a scent walk. Dogs are encouraged to follow their noses during a scent walk, sniffing and investigating the intriguing aromas that surround them. This unique experience allows dogs to engage their senses, engage their minds, and experience the world from a whole new olfactory perspective.

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Why Should I Let My Puppy Have a Sniff Walking Session?

Not only do we encourage all puppies to be allowed occasional sniff walks, but we have the science to back up our reasons.  

A dog's olfactory organs work by capturing odor molecules from the air, detecting them through specialized receptors, transmitting the signals to the brain, and finally interpreting and identifying scents. This incredible sense of smell allows dogs to track, search, and detect a wide range of substances with remarkable accuracy.

Your puppy’s olfactory organs are highly specialized and well-developed, allowing them to have an extraordinary sense of smell compared to humans. In fact, according to Ryan Llera, BSc, DVM and Lynn Buzhardt, DVM, dogs can smell anywhere from 1,000 to 10,000 times better than people and have more than 100 million sensory receptor sites in the nasal cavity compared to 6 million in people, and the area of the canine brain devoted to analyzing odors is about 40 times larger than the comparable part of the human brain. 

Dogs’ brains stay busy and engaged when going on scent walks and can help forge new neurological pathways. Allowing them to take in new smells helps them take in information and use their thoughts and processing for mental stimulation. 


What can a dog learn from smelling other dogs?

Scent walks help dogs recognize other dogs in the area. A smell from another dog, usually detected by urine or urine marking, gives a plethora of information to your puppy, such as: 

  • A friend or foe
  • If the dog is sick
  • What the dog has eaten 
  • If the dog is male or female 
  • If there are other animals in the home
  • How long the pup has known this dog
  • If the female dog is in heat or has given birth recently

How Do I Have a Successful Scent Walk With My Puppy?

Because a scent walk is still a walk, we have some tips for getting the most out of your dog walking experience. We’ll highlight a few benefits that are extra helpful for a scent walk. 

Boosts your physical health

While a scent walk is not the same as marching briskly around the neighborhood to get your heart rate going, a scent walk will count toward your daily step goal. In addition, fresh air and Vitamin D will help your body stay healthy. 

Helps your mental health

Meandering through nature or slowing down can really help you notice little things you might not see when rushing through a standard walk. It can also be a great way to pause from the hustle and bustle of everyday stressors in life. Who doesn’t need more fresh air in your life? 

Have a good attitude

It’s important to schedule a scent walk when you are ready to be fully present. Don’t be on your phone or introduce another distraction. You’ll need to pay attention to your surroundings and most of all – your puppy! Keep in mind that even if you’re in a bad mood, taking a scent walk with your puppy will inevitably lift your spirits. 

Check the schedule

As we mentioned, you don’t want to rush through your walk. Give yourself and your puppy plenty of time to meander and sniff around. Likewise, make sure you choose a time when your puppy is most active that fits into your daily puppy routine. If it is really hot where you live, choose the cool hours of the morning or evening to avoid the hot sun and keep your dog cool during summer months


Use the right leash

There are several leashes to walk your dog on the market, and some are better suited than others for a scent walk. You may want to choose a retractable leash depending on the size and behavior of your puppy, or use a long lead meant for meandering so your puppy isn’t dragging you around with a shorter leash.

Choose the best harness

Just like with leashes, choosing the best dog harness can be overwhelming, but you can look for certain features that will help on this type of walk. A body harness with a back clip redistributes body weight throughout the chest, shoulders, and back, while a harness with little pockets can carry essential, lightweight supplies for a longer scent walk experience. 

Follow local leash laws 

Practice dog owner courtesy wherever you go. Most municipalities and public spaces have leash laws. If you see another dog or person approaching, make your long lead shorter and keep your puppy close to you. Not all dogs are friendly with others, and you wouldn’t want to set off a reactive dog and cause a scene. 

In addition, not all people are “dog people” and may not appreciate a puppy bounding up to them. Everyone has their reasons that you should respect instead of insisting your puppy is “friendly,” so be a responsible dog owner wherever you go. 

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Should Every Walk Be a Scent Walk? 

It’s great to let your puppy explore the world around them, but there are cautionary reasons to avoid turning every walk into a scent walk

Training setbacks

Walking your puppy is a great way to reinforce commands you’re trying to teach your puppy good manners such as Sit, Heel, Down, Wait, and Come. These commands are a few that work well while attached to a leash with many other distractions around other than just scents. 

If you make every walk a scent walk, you could be adding roadblocks to your progress. Be sure to mix up the types of walks you do. 

Time constrictions

During busy mornings, you have so much to do, even if you do not leave home like for a job or school. The first thing you need to do with your puppy in the morning is take him or her out to eliminate. They’ve held it for hours, and you owe it to both physical and training needs to let them use their grassy facilities. 

You may not have 30 minutes to leisurely allow your puppy to sniff here, there, and everywhere, which is fine. Your puppy will know you mean business as you do your best to keep your puppy focused on the task at hand. 

Physical vs. mental exercise

While all puppies need plenty of opportunities for both physical and mental exercise, you don’t always have to find opportunities that combine both at the same time. 

All dog breeds will need the appropriate amount of physical exercise to keep their muscles, joints, heart, and other organs healthy. Taking your puppy on brisk, purposeful walks for physical exercise will decrease the chance of obesity in dogs, which can cause devastating effects as your puppy grows older (and hopefully not wider). 

However, a scent walk is not necessarily meant to be a walk for exercise because they are not maintaining a certain level of steady movement and elevated heart rate. They may have bursts of running where they sniff in different places, but it’s not enough of a consistent movement to be considered steady exercise. Rather, a scent walk is meant to be more of a mentally engaging experience. 

What exactly is your puppy sniffing?

Whether you’re on a busy city sidewalk, out in nature, or around your neighborhood, there are plenty of opportunities for your puppy to get into something absolutely vile. We’re using strong language because if it’s ever happened to you, “vile” is the exact word you’d use, too! 

A beautiful wildflower or even a peed-on fire hydrant is definitely not the same as a dead animal, a pile of animal waste, garbage run-off from a dumpster, the aftermath of a night of clubbing on the sidewalk, or a stagnant pool of water. All of these nasty findings can contain lethal bacteria or deadly parasites that can wreak havoc on a dog’s well-being. 

If you aren’t paying attention and your dog rolls around in filth, now you have to figure out how to clean your stinky puppy, and you’ll start having a scene straight out of a sitcom! You’ll have to take the time to thoroughly and properly clean them before they enter your home or cause more mess inside as you try to wrangle them into the bathtub. 

A sniff walk is not an off-leash free-for-all

Some owners think a sniff “walk” means allowing your puppy to explore off-leash. No – a walk involves some sort of attachment of your puppy to you. Breeds with high prey drives will take off when they catch a scent and could actually follow it for miles, turning up far away in unexpected places from home. Some puppies haven’t learned a solid recall, especially when there’s an enticing scent to follow. Always keep your puppy on a leash during a scent walk. 

Take a Pawrade Puppy on a Scent Walk

Now that you know of the importance scent walks can bring, you’re missing one crucial component – a puppy! At Pawrade, we know the importance of a well-rounded, healthy puppy to bring home to call your very own best friend. Discover the perfect pooch among our puppies for sale. We hope to hear from you soon and receive pictures of your pup on a scent walk! 


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Lucy Hughes

Lucy Hughes has been teaching and writing professionally for half her life. She has a passion for helping people choose a puppy and lead an exciting life with their new furry companion. She enjoys spending quality time with her family and her beloved Golden Retriever, Bowie.

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