Dogs’ noses are designed to grant them access to an entire world we cannot see or smell. And maybe herein lies the secret to polite leash walking. Maybe walking a dog is not about attention and checking in and a trained heel position. Maybe it is not about carrying tasty treats a dog finds irresistible.
All of these things are helpful and good but none are the magical solution, the silver bullet we all long for. Perhaps the walk is really about honoring the nose. Having the patience and finding the time to allow a dog those extra sniffs in the long grass. Taking a deep calming breath as he strains to the very end of the leash, nose quivering, soaking in every bit of scent from a few strands of grass. The same strands of grass we would have gladly walked past captivate him as he inhales the scent of previous journeys and creatures that have traveled the same path.
Dogs’ noses work very differently than ours and an animation found on TED-ED by Alexandra Horowitz provides a fabulous demonstration: http://ed.ted.com/lessons/how-do-dogs-see-with-their-noses-alexandra-horowitz
The moistness of dogs’ noses is not an accident but by design. It helps to capture the various scents traveling on the breeze. And dogs don’t exhale through the same path they take scent in, as we do. Rather, they exhale through slits on the side of their nose.
Maybe the secret to polite leash walking is finding a way to honor our differences and the dog’s nose, including a section of our walk that allows our dogs to be dogs, sniffing as much as they like, for as long as they like. And maybe that’s why podcasts and smartphones were really invented, to give us something interesting to do while our dogs sniff out their own TV show.