Take Your Dog On A Sniffari

They are so good for our canine companions
By Karen B. London PhD, February 2019

A sniffari is an outing in which your dog sniffs whatever she wants and leads you where she wants to go. It’s distinctly different in mindset than taking your dog out for a walk for exercise. The point of a sniffari is to allow your dog to explore the world by way of all its glorious smells. Most dogs want to take in the smells on a walk and explore based on what odors are around. Being constantly prevented from doing so as people urge them to keep moving can be very frustrating for them and robs them of the opportunity to follow their noses. It would be like humans going on a hike and being whisked along too fast to visually register the trees, the flowers and the view of the mountains.

It’s fine to differentiate between sniffaris and outings that have a different purpose—perhaps to hike or to run. Sometimes I take dogs out because they need and want to go and I am just along to facilitate their experience. Other times, the goal is for me to go for a run or a hike and the dog comes along to join me in my activity of choice. It’s perfectly natural in a relationship for each individual to choose the activity that both will participate in.

One easy way to help your dog distinguish between outings during which she gets to call the shots and ones in which she must follow along are to use different leashes and collars for each activity. Perhaps she wears a flat collar when on sniffari but a harness when going running. Once she gets used to the pattern, she will know what the expectations are even before leaving the house.

Sniffaris let dogs be dogs, and that is good for their quality of life and their mood. These adventures in smelling leave many dogs more content (and even tired) than after a walk when they are moving all the time without the opportunity to take it all in through the nose. Since one of the many benefits of providing interesting and stimulating opportunities for our dogs is the calm state they are in afterwards (albeit sometimes only briefly!), sniffaris are an excellent activity.

How does your dog react when given the chance to sniff to her heart’s content?

Karen B. London, PhD, is a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist and Certified Professional Dog Trainer who specializes in working with dogs with serious behavioral problems, including aggression. She is the author of five books on canine training and behavior.