Expert Advice

Let Dogs be Dogs

Like many dog owners, my husband and I greatly enjoy taking our two dogs for daily walks to stretch our legs and spend time together. But being the nature enthusiasts we are, we much prefer nature trails to neighborhood sidewalks and try to schedule visits to the beach, park, or mountains as often as possible. We love being able to escape the busy roads and noisy neighborhoods and let our furry friends run free and explore. Who doesn’t, right?

I know what you might be thinking though. Yes, yes… dogs do love to lay in the dirt, jump in the water, play in the mud and find something foul to roll in. Despite the increased chances of having to give your adventure buddy a b-a-t-h, our motto as both pet owners and pet care professionals has always been to just let dogs be dogs. Here’s why we feel this is so important and some quick tips to help keep your furry friend clean after a romp at the beach or on the trail.

Photo credit: @heather.grows.wild / @sparrow.the.bullmastiff

A dog’s sense of smell is as vital to them as our sense of seeing. Could you imagine going for a walk and being told you could only look down at your feet the entire time? How boring would that be! We humans rely heavily on our vision to observe and understand our world. We often find so much pleasure in seeing our world that we almost always have our camera or phones handy to snap pictures of the beauty around us. And we usually can’t wait to get home and share the pictures with our friends and family via social media. Hashtag awesome!

In so many ways, this is very similar to a dog’s relationship with smells. They sniff out their surroundings to understand the world around them. I find the science behind this fascinating. Researchers have discovered that dogs “possess up to 300 million olfactory receptors in their noses, compared to about six million in humans. And the part of a dog’s brain that is devoted to analyzing smells is, proportionally speaking, 40 times greater than ours.” It is estimated that a dog’s sense of smell is at least 10,000 times stronger than ours. I’ll admit, at first, it’s a little difficult to fully appreciate this comparison, but James Walker, a former director of the Sensory Research Institute at Florida State University, explained it well when stating “If you make the analogy to vision, what you and I can see at a third of a mile, a dog could see more than 3,000 miles away and still see as well.” Or take for example that when a dog greets another dog or person, and do the embarrassing crotch sniffing, they are learning all kinds of detailed information about that individual such as their age, sex, health condition, emotional state of being, where they’ve been and what they’ve eaten recently. So let dogs be dogs and sniff things out.

Photo credit: @heather.grows.wild / @sparrow.the.bullmastiff

Okay, but why do dogs love to roll around in gross things like mud or something dead? There are several theories for this strange behavior called “scent rolling” and it’s most likely a combination. One theory is that canines want to impress their friends much like we spritz ourselves with perfumes and colognes. Another theory is that they are trying to mask their own scent and/or leave their scent on their findings. This goes back to their wild hunting instincts. A third theory is that they carry these scents back as a way to communicate with their pack. Again, I like to think of it like us humans posting our pretty pictures on social media. It’s the dog’s way of saying, “hey everybody, come smell the awesome adventure I went on this morning.” And the mud thing is pretty simple. Plopping down into water or mud or digging a hole and laying in the dirt is a relatively quick way for dogs to cool off and lower their body temperature.

Knowing this information about our dogs helps my husband and I to be mindful of their desires and needs as well. We want our dogs to fully enjoy our walks and adventures in their own way. But let’s face it… we certainly don’t want to bring their odiferous filth back home with us. Our advice is simple. Plan ahead and be prepared. Give yourself plenty of time when taking your dog to run free somewhere. Remind yourself there is a pretty high chance your dog may get wet, dirty or roll in something foul.

So what can you bring to help you on the trail? If you just know your four-legged friend will make a bee-line for any body of water, then we recommend investing in a waterproof collar. There are a number of companies that carry awesome lines of “no stink waterproof” collars and leashes that are both stylish and extremely easy to clean and dry.  Dogs That Hike previously reviewed Petoji products, including collars and leashes, and have found they’ve held up well to muddy adventures.

While any old towels from the house will do, we are big fans of REI’s line of travel towels. They are very lightweight and fold to fit compactly in a travel pouch. They absorb water well and are quick to dry. We keep ours packed and ready to-go in the car or backpack along with a travel size bottle of dog shampoo.  You can also carry all-natural pet wipes for those times when you just need a quick clean-up, especially for the paws.  If you are bringing wipes on the trail make sure they are pet wipes and not baby wipes as the ones meant for humans can often be too harsh for your pup’s sensitive skin.

Photo credit: @heather.grows.wild / @sparrow.the.bullmastiff

After an adventure our doggies often need a good clean up and we like to use all-natural biodegradable soaps that are gentle on their coat and safe for the environment. Earthbath is our brand of choice and their Eucalyptus & Peppermint Shampoo is our fave!  And well, if your buddy happens to have an unfortunate encounter with a skunk on the trail, pinch your nose, and have these ingredients handy: hydrogen peroxide, baking soda, and dish soap. Get the recipe and instructions here.

With just a little planning and preparation, you and your dogs can roam free without fear of a stinky disaster.  So get out there, explore, and have fun with your best friend. But let your dog be a dog. You go see the world and let them take a big whiff.

Heather and Neil Heath own two pet businesses in Charleston, SC. They certainly love the beach, but travel to the mountains with their two mastiffs as often as possible and just recently returned from a two month off-the-grid adventure in the Colorado Rockies. Check out their story at Be Wild and Live Free. and follow their pup on Instagram @sparrow.the.bullmastiff


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