This will not be news to you, at all, that dogs love sniffing. Sniffing isn’t just a fun past-time for dogs, it’s essential behaviour that they MUST do for behavioural health.
Not only that, sniffing can be a great training tool.
Sniffing for training
Dogs pull on lead for lots of reasons:
- they’re excited to be out and about
- the world is an exciting place
- they have twice the number of legs we do
- they want to get sniffing and sniffing and sniffing
- they want to get to things
- they want to get away from things
- we have trained them to pull
Pet owners spend lots of money on all sorts of, often times, scary equipment and lots of time on training exercises, to improve their dogs’ loose leash walking skills.
Changing the dog’s motivation for behaviour, and reducing his expectation (that crazy behaviour is required) will help to prevent pulling behaviour, making walks more enjoyable for all.
Is there a time or area in which your dog really, really pulls?
Do you find it difficult to get your dog from point A to point B, on lead?
Are there particular distractions that you find difficult to manage?
Establishing Sniffing Stations will help:
- to get your dog out the door, without too much craziness
- to get your dog from the house to the car, or from the car to the park or from one spot to a very exciting place
- your dog get passed, toward or through particularly distracting situations
- your dog get to another person or dog in a calmer fashion
- to get a dog from a kennel to an exercise area
- to get a dog to an exit (or entrance)
- the dog to associate good things with potentially distracting or worrying triggers
- your dog’s focus on you to increase
Start with your dog on lead, and use really yummy food rewards.
- say “Go Sniff!”
- drop a couple of treats to the ground, across your dog’s eyeline if possible but just point them out if he misses them
- let your dog eat the treats
- repeat approx. every two metres
We start out with Sniffing Stations close to one another, and can move them further apart as the dog improves, or closer together for really tricky distractions.
If you know that you need to move the dog over the same short route, make more permanent Sniffing Stations.
Use double-sided tape to secure little bowls or even lids to each spot. Pre-load with treats for each trip.
For more temporary but pre-loaded Sniffing Stations, use little pieces of double-sided tape at each station and place treats on each one. This will also take the dog a little longer to eat, so is great to get dog past tricky distractions.
(Securely stick tape so that the dog doesn’t take that too!)
Teach sniffing on cue
Put sniffing on cue:
Sniffing is a handy training exercise because:
- your dog loves to sniff (and is already really good at it)!
- sniffing is a polite dog behaviour and can be used to diffuse the tension between two dogs at a distance
- sniffing is a calming behaviour for your dog
- sniffing can help to divert your dog’s attention away from a trigger
- sniffing can be used as a release cue, to let your dog know they they can go be a dog again
- sniffing can be used to keep your dog busy or entertained when you are otherwise engaged
- sniffing can be used to help your dog calm after excitement
- sniffing can be used as a reward, after recalling for example
- sniffing can be used to help your dog form more pleasant associations toward some trigger
Sniffing as a past-time
Make sure your dog has lots of opportunities to sniff. Forget about taking your dog for walks, instead make outings about sniffing.
Take your dog on a sniff, rather than on a walk. Who’s walk is it anyway!?