Sniffing, licking & Chewing Calms Your Dog

22nd July 2023 8 min read

Guest Blog: Renee Rhoades MSc

These seemingly simple exercises are crucial in stimulating a dog's senses and engaging their brain, leading to numerous benefits for their overall health and well-being.

Back to News

The Trifecta of Calm: Sniffing, Licking and Chewing

As a qualified dog behaviorist who focuses on coaching dog guardians and the public on how important canine mental health is, I frequently discuss what I call the Trifecta of Calm: sniffing, licking, and chewing. I briefly brought these activities up in my last PR blog (you can read it here). These seemingly simple exercises are crucial in stimulating a dog's senses and engaging their brain, leading to numerous benefits for their overall health and well-being. And, as the title states, they help promote calm in our dogs. So let’s dive deeper into what happens in your dog’s brain when they engage in the Trifecta of Calm!


Sniffing is an innate and highly developed sense in dogs, with a complex system comprised of the nasal cavity, olfactory epithelium and receptors, the vomeronasal organ (Jacobson’s organ), and the olfactory bulb. Every moment your dog explores their environment becomes a captivating olfactory journey. Sniffing allows dogs to process a wealth of information about their surroundings, including detecting scents that reveal the presence of other animals, food sources, and time. This sensory stimulation not only enriches their lives but also promotes mental well-being.

Neurologically, when dogs sniff, their olfactory receptors detect odor molecules in the air, sending signals to the olfactory bulb in the brain. From there, these signals are processed in the limbic system, which is responsible for emotional regulation. Sniffing triggers the release of endorphins, dopamine, and other neurotransmitters that induce feelings of pleasure and relaxation in dogs. This natural "scent therapy" can alleviate stress, reduce anxiety, and enhance their overall mental state. Sniffing is important for all dogs, but it is even more important for dogs struggling with the world around them. An easy, sniff-rich activity you can do for your dog is to scatter smelly treats like Classic Lamb Lung into the grass, or if you don’t have a garden, you can use a Snuffle Mat.


Licking is a multifaceted behavior that serves various purposes, one of which is to provide dogs with a calming effect. When dogs lick objects or themselves, it releases endorphins, creating a sense of comfort and relaxation. It is akin to humans engaging in activities such as meditation or deep breathing to relieve stress. While a dog’s tongue has fewer taste buds than ours, they can still detect savoury, sweet, sour, and bitter. (This is often why your dog can pick out that pill you tried to sneak in their peanut butter.)

From a neurological perspective, licking stimulates the release of neurotransmitters, including serotonin, associated with feelings of well-being and happiness. Additionally, the repetitive and rhythmic licking has a soothing effect on the dog's central nervous system, promoting a state of tranquility. Spreading your dog’s raw food over a food-grade surface like a Lickimat can help promote relaxation after physical activity or just because! As the weather gets warmer, putting some tasty Beef Bone Broth in a freezer-safe dish with a few Whole Fish can make an appetising surf and turf pupsicle sure to cool your dog down physically and mentally.

Choose to Chew

Chewing is an instinctive behavior deeply rooted in a dog's biology, it isn’t just a phase. Puppies chew to alleviate teething discomfort, while adult dogs often chew to satisfy their natural urge to explore and interact with their environment. This behavior not only provides physical benefits by keeping their teeth and gums healthy but also has significant mental health advantages. When dogs chew, it triggers the release of endorphins, which act as natural pain relievers and mood enhancers. The repetitive motion of chewing helps to reduce anxiety and stress by providing dogs with a constructive outlet for their energy. Moreover, chewing is an effective stress management technique.

Neurologically, chewing engages multiple areas of a dog's brain. It activates the prefrontal cortex, responsible for decision-making and executive functions, and the hippocampus, involved in memory formation and emotional regulation. This mental stimulation not only keeps the dog occupied but also contributes to their overall cognitive development and well-being. Hardy chews my dog’s love are these Natural Beef Head Skin, but if you want to go for something that will stimulate your dog and help clean their teeth, my recommendation is a DIY Duck Neck.

So remember, sniffing, licking, and chewing are not just simple behaviors; they are integral to our dog's mental health. These activities provide dogs with essential sensory stimulation, promote relaxation, and serve as powerful stress relievers. From a neurological perspective, they trigger the release of neurotransmitters that induce feelings of pleasure, calmness, and happiness. Incorporating opportunities for sniffing, licking, and chewing into a dog's daily routine can contribute to a happier and more fulfilled life.

Renee Rhoades, MSc is an award-winning, multi-certified dog behaviourist with a Masters in Animal Welfare Science and Ethics. She is the founder of R+Dogs, a virtual dog behaviour consultancy that offers private coaching and online courses for dog guardians all over the globe. Renee specialises in coaching dog guardians to help their fearful and fired-up dogs overcome aggression, reactivity, anxiety, and hyperactivity. Alongside client coaching, Renee co-hosts DogLogical, a podcast that educates the public on dog behaviour and provides mentoring services to other dog professionals.

You can find out more about Renee including how to work with her by visiting

Further Reading