People are often captivated by the sight of dogs onlead who march by their owners side. Step for step, not pulling, not looking at their own, not sniffing...not doing anything. Just marching by their owner. But very often if you look closer you may see these dogs have their head low, their tail dropped and they don’t look to be having a lot of fun. Personally, I get sad seeing dogs like this.
Dogs walks are their opportunity to express themselves, to be dogs, to explore! To build confidence and get to know the world around them. I encourage my dogs, and my clients' dogs to sniff on walks. I believe manners onlead are vital, for a good walk for dog and owner, however the opportunity to sniff should be available.
Sniffing is like reading the paper for your dog! It tells them what dogs have been there and when they have been there. It tells them about the wildlife in the area and gives them the opportunity to decompress.
Having this opportunity to decompress is important. Dogs who have the opportunity to relax and be dogs, walking on a loose lead sniffing, or exploring offlead or on a long line, are more likely to be able to relax when they get home. This is because sniffing is mentally tiring. Being forced to march in a precise heel without exploring takes ALOT of self control, this can be frustrating for dogs and cause issues elsewhere. Being allowed to sniff and explore can only do good things for your dog! If your dog is struggling on walks, on a cortisol vacation or your ditching the walks due to heat or reactivity, its great to give them that opportunity to work their nose. Take a look at some simple scent games below: SEARCH Have your dog elsewhere so they can't see you (leaving them with a snuffle mat can be ideal)
Now in a different area "hide" your treat. By hide I mean, puta treat out that is easy peasy to find the first time!
Now get your dog and say your phrase "search" and send them to find the treat. Try not to help them or chatter too much!
When they find it, praise them.
Each time make that treat a little further away until you can start to hide it properly. Initially, you will probably just increase the distance a tiny bit from where it was.
As they advance you can play around with height hidden and make it more complex generally.
Snuffle mats are ideal to give your dogs to keep the brain working without needing a lot of space, and can be perfect to pop their meals in. Snuffle mats can be great to be paired with new sounds with pups or get them settled while exciting things are going on.
These are also ideal for more mature dogs who may not want to move too far as with the other games.
My Whippets love the snuffle mats from https://www.facebook.com/KarensK9Enrichment and get their Whippety seal of approval!
Treat trails are simple and easy to setup.
Have your dog elsewhere so they can't see you (leaving them with a snuffle mat can be ideal) Now in a different area lay a trail of treats (you can use dry food also) Start with it being so there are minimal gaps between the treats and with a simple straight line. Now let your dog go and hoover up their treats! Ideally they may follow them in a straight line one by one! As they improve, space the treats out further and began to add curves for them to follow for variety. Think like a breadcrumb trail, they can follow it wherever you lay it!
Adding sniffing and scentwork games into your dogs world is simple, fun and will help them relax and channel natural needs!