The Trifecta of Calm: Sniffing, Licking, and Chewing | Pupford
October 31st, 2023
Filed under Pet Parenting
When we have a hyperactive pup or a dog that just can’t seem to get enough energy out, we typically think they need more exercise, right?
Well, not necessarily. While daily exercise is vital to our pup’s health, it is not enough to keep them fulfilled or relaxed.
In this article, we are going to discuss the benefits of mental enrichment, specifically: sniffing, licking, and chewing. Also known as, the Trifecta of Calm.
Here’s what we will cover:
- Introduction of Mental Enrichment
- The Trifecta of Calm
INTRODUCTION OF MENTAL ENRICHMENT
Mental enrichment is a way for us to provide outlets for natural behaviors for our dogs. This could mean foraging for food, providing dogs with a high prey drive something to chase, allowing them opportunities for social interactions, etc.
Opportunities for mental enrichment are naturally fulfilling, increase their overall well-being, and can even tire them out more so than physical exercise.
In this blog post, we are going to focus on three types of Mental Enrichment: Sniffing, Licking, and Chewing. Also known as the Trifecta of Calm.
THE TRIFECTA OF CALM FOR DOGS
We all know that some days are just too busy to provide our dogs with training sessions, hikes, play dates, and all the other wonderful things we love to do to meet our dog's needs.
By providing your dog with outlets for sniffing, licking, and chewing you can reduce stress, curb problem behaviors, and have a more fulfilled (and calm) pup, even on those busy days! Now, we will discuss the benefits of each behavior, as well as some examples of each that you can implement into your daily routine. Let’s dive in!
For dogs, smell is their primary sense.
Smelling is how they learn about their environment, detect pheromones, greet other animals or people, and find food sources.
Did you know that dogs can have over ? Humans only have 5-6 million scent receptors. That is pretty incredible. Imagine all the things they can detect using just their nose! No wonder our dogs can always tell where we hide the good treats 😉
When dogs sniff, the odor molecules in the air send signals to their brain, specifically the limbic system which controls emotional regulation. The act of sniffing releases feel-good hormones like endorphins, serotonin, and dopamine. These hormones help to reduce stress, decrease anxiety, and improve overall well-being.
Trainer Tip: If you are taking your dog to a new place that might be overwhelming, let them walk around and sniff first! This will be naturally soothing for them and help them learn about the environment which can increase confidence.
So how do we provide our dogs with daily opportunities to sniff? Here are a few ideas:
1. SNIFFARI (SNIFF WALKS)
A sniff walk, also known as a ‘Sniffari’ is a walk where the main focus is to allow your dog to sniff and wander at their own pace. Think of this like taking a scroll through social media or reading a newspaper.
I know it can be frustrating when your dog wants to stop to smell every tree, bush, and leaf you pass on your walk, but just remember that a five-minute walk for sniffing may actually be more fulfilling and tiring for them than a 10-minute run.
2. SNUFFLE MATS
Trainer Tip: Utilize nature’s ‘snuffle mat’: the grass or snow! You can simply toss some treats in the grass or snow and let your dog get to work. This is a great way to encourage sniffing on walks or as a redirection from distractions.
3. PUZZLE TOYS
Just make sure you give your dog a puzzle toy that is appropriate for their skill level, the last thing we want to do is create frustration. There are a variety of puzzle toy options based on your dog’s preference and skill level.
4. HIDE AND SEEK
You can work your dog’s nose by hiding treats around the house and teaching them to ‘Find It’. This is a great activity for all breeds, but hounds will likely find it extra appealing.
Simply hide some treats around the house or backyard and let your dog hunt them out. You can start with hiding places that are fairly easy and slowly increase the difficulty over time.
Our are perfect for this! They are nice and smelly (great for sniffing out), freeze-dried (that means no residue on furniture or fabrics), and they are only 1kcal (no worries about overindulgence).
5. NOSE WORK CLASSES AND DOG SPORTS
If your dog really has a passion for sniffing, nose work and may be the perfect activity for them. These sports can be a great way to bond with your dog too! You can look into sports like Scent Work, Barn Hunt, Tracking, and EarthDog.
Licking is a soothing behavior for dogs. When they lick themselves, objects, or even you, it releases feel-good hormones like endorphins, serotonin, and dopamine that help them to feel calm and relaxed.
The repetitive motion of licking is also naturally relaxing to dogs and can relieve anxiety, similar to how you may feel relaxed doing a repetitive activity like knitting.
Because licking is a way for dogs to naturally reduce anxiety, dogs suffering from excess stress or anxiety may obsessively lick themselves or objects which could lead to medical concerns.
If you feel your dog is excessively overgrooming or licking obsessively, reach out to your veterinarian to rule out underlying medical concerns.
Here are some of my go-to ways to incorporate licking enrichment activities into my dog’s routine:
1. LICK MATS
2. MUFFIN TIN
You can use muffin tins for a variety of mental enrichment activities, and one of them is for licking! Simply place some treats in the tin and top with a little bit of water or bone broth. Freeze it and serve as the perfect licking treat. I especially love to do this in summertime as a way to keep my pups cool.
While young puppies might engage in chewing because they are teething, chewing is also a natural behavior for adult dogs as well.
The act of chewing releases endorphins which help to improve mood, decrease pain and reduce anxiety.
Chewing engages not only the limbic system in the brain but also the prefrontal cortex which is responsible for decision making and . The mental stimulation from chewing aids in cognitive development and overall well-being.
Chewing is also great for oral hygiene. The act of chewing helps to reduce the build-up of plaque and tartar on teeth, it also increases saliva production which means less bacteria and better-smelling breath. Improved dental health can lead to an overall healthier life for your pup and who doesn’t want that?
So not only is chewing good for our dog’s mental and physical health, but by providing our dogs outlets for daily chewing we can also prevent problem behaviors like destructive chewing in the home.
1. LONG-LASTING CHEWS
Long-lasting chews are the perfect way to provide your dog with an outlet for chewing and keep them entertained. Here are a few of our favorites:
Whatever long-lasting chew you choose, just make sure it is the appropriate size and durability for your dog. You can check out the rest of our !
2. DURABLE TOYS
For all those toy-loving dogs, be sure to pick toys that can withstand chewing and are designed to be durable and long-lasting. While chewing is important, the last thing we want is for our dog to swallow pieces of a toy.
While sniffing, licking, and chewing all seem like simple behaviors, they can have a significant impact on your dog’s overall behavior, health, and well-being. We hope this inspires you to utilize the Trifecta of Calm in your dog’s daily routine!