Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Taking A Sniff-a-bout

How do you set up for a sniff-a-bout?

**Safety First**
Only allow off leash sniffing (especially for teen dogs and older dogs each spring) in controlled areas where your dog can't wander away and unfamiliar dogs can't enter unexpectedly.

If you don't have a fenced area, use a longline attached to a back clip harness.
Stay with your dog to supervise! 
To make sniffing enrichment, you need to be present to "enjoy" it with your dog.

**Safety First means knowing your dog's abilities, your abilities as a guide, and your environment and making any adjustments you need to stay safe!

Train Smarter, Not Harder with Sniff-a-bouts

Here are some tips to help you get started on your sniff-about walks.
  • Notice the gear used in this walk is a harness and longline and the environment we are in is a large open yard where distractions are somewhat predictable.  Gear designed for giving the dog freedom while maintaining safety is essential to all sniff-a-bouts.  Longlines are great for giving the dog freedom to make choices and move at a pace that is natural to them in the moment.
  • Choose the right location!  When you're first starting out, try a large open field where there are few things to get tangled on and you can possible triggering distractions before they come close.  Very early on, I want to take my dog away from any triggers to prevent them from going over threshold but as your teamwork skills improve on sniff-a-bouts you can slowly add in distractions at a distance and slowly decrease the distance as your dog becomes more comfortable around that trigger.
  • Time of day is super important!  Not so much per your routine in your household, but the routine of the distractions in the environment you will be doing the sniff-a-bout in.  Avoid the busiest times of day for any environment avoiding popular dog walking trails early in the morning and later in the evening when more people are walking the dogs.  If you are doing the sniff-a-bout near a playground, go during the school day when there are less kids playing.

Until you're very comfortable using a longline, practice sniff-a-bouts in a large field or open area at a park. The fewer things to get wrapped around or tangled in the better. Allow your dog to engage with the environment, going in any direction they choose unless their choice leads to a hazard such as a pond, sidewalk, parking lot, or anything that is dangerous.

Walk with your dog or sit down and relax depending on how quickly they move from spot to spot. Walk peacefully, only giving cues that are necessary that guide your dog down the path of making good choices. For example: if my dog gets near the opposite end of the longline, I'll cue "This Way" to get them moving back in my direction without fully recalling them.

Have some treats available to reward your dog for making good choices along the walk. Sometimes I even take my dog's meal and scatter it along the ground for them to enjoy hunting for it. At the end of your sniff-a-bout be sure to reward your dog for re-engaging with you as you walk back home or to the car.

Be sure to reward yourself too! Taking a snack, beverage or other treat for you can make this slower paced walk more enjoyable which in turn makes you want to repeat it more often.

The more often you go on sniff-a-bouts and practice using the longline together as a team, the more distracting environments you can enjoy together! You can even add in some doggy parkour to your sniff-a-bouts to make them more fun!

You can watch lots of videos of Azul taking a sniff-a-bout on a longline on this playlist on our YouTube Channel. 

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