Did you know that dogs have 300 million olfactory receptors in their noses?

Joe Inglis's dog Pip in the Gloucestershire woodland

Pip enjoying springtime in Gloucestershire woodland - Credit: Joe Inglis

Animal magic with the media vet and chef to pets

Spring is in the air as I write this here in the Stroud valleys, where a week of late March sunshine has brought the trees into blossom and wild garlic has started to carpet the woodland valley floors. It’s a wonderful time of year to be a dog owner – or pet parent as the more correct modern term goes – with the daily exercise regime turning from a cold, wet and muddy ordeal to a wonderful, sun-bathed escape from the desk. 

And for our dogs, this time of year is a wonder too, with nature and all its abundant sounds, smells, and things that run to be chased. My dog Pip (the husky x German shepherd x poodle x Cairn terrier) seems to come alive at this time of year, racing from tree to tree (and squirrel to squirrel!) as we make up way up and down the glorious valleys that we are so lucky to live close to. As well as long walks in the woods, I often take Pip running with me, and she makes an excellent running companion – no unnecessary conversation required, and some helpful pulling on the lead when we tackle a particularly steep slope! 

Unlike us humans who lap up the dappled light of the spring sun shining through the branches and bright colours of flower blossoms, the smells of the spring are really what excite our canine companions. For dogs, smell is the primary sense through which they experience the world around them – they have some 300 million olfactory receptors in their noses compared to a measly 6 million for us, and the area of their brain devoted to analysing smell is 40 times as powerful as ours – so springtime with all its complex aromas is some kind of heaven for dogs. 

As well as the natural smells of spring, back indoors there have been some very different but equally alluring smells for Pip to enjoy. The Inglis household has been turned into a dog treat development kitchen in the last few months as I’ve been working on a new project as part of my VetChef pet nutrition business. The idea of home-made dog treats has been there from the start, but with so much else to do it’s only recently that we’ve had the time to devote to it – but now we’ve got started, it’s turning into an amazingly exciting project.  

Imagine a cross between Graze (the snacks in a box business) and Hello Fresh (the ingredients delivery service) and you’ll get a good idea of what we’re up to. The basic concept is that we deliver a kit containing everything you need to cook up a batch of nutritious, homemade dog treats or snacks to your door once a month. Every kit is different, with a new and exciting recipe to bake for your dog, from liver chip cookies to birthday cupcakes and venison love hearts.  

Creating the recipes and road-testing the finished treats has taken up a lot of my time – and Pip’s daily calorie budget – over the last few months. There have been plenty of failed versions of every recipe that have tested Pip’s legendary ability to eat almost anything, and some interesting aromas wafting from the oven, but it’s been a really fun experience and the end result has been a range of amazing recipes that I think will go down so well with dogs (and their parents!) After all, what better way to end a perfect spring dog walk than with a tasty home-made treat? 

Follow Joe on Twitter: @joethevet