We all know that dogs have an amazing sense of smell, but just how good is it? To give you a better idea of how a dog can “see” with their nose, think of it this way: when we use perfume of cologne, we smell a nice fragrance. What our dogs smell is every single chemical individually.
However, our vision much more detailed than theirs is. Dogs see best at dawn and dusk, when they are most active, and their eyes are primarily used to detect movement. That’s why, when you place a treat on the floor, they won’t know where it is unless they see you put it there. We, on the other hand, can see the different colours and textures and can recall from memory the general idea of what that particular treat looks like.
To get a dog who is primarily focused in prey mode to calm down, we need to switch them from using mostly their eyes to using their nose. We do this by training commands which require the dog to slow down so they can start to regroup. Once you have made it clear to them that you expect them to remain on “place” for an extended period of time, they will begin to switch from reaction to observation. This is when they will automatically start to use their nose more than their eyes.
Once they have become observers, they will start to see the world very differently. The dog that they would normally have reacted to becomes just a dog walking by rather than a new playmate. The squirrel is still a thing to chase, but because you (their leader) have requested rest, they will leave them be – but they will immediately go check out the track once you have allowed them to do so!
This is much better for their overall mental health anyway. It’s fun to chase, and it’s something they are designed to do well, but they aren’t built for continually being in a heightened start of prey or reactionary drive. They need time to conserve their energy, and use brain power! 🙂