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Take Your Dog On A Sniffari

It’s all about letting them follow their nose.

by Karen B. London, PhD
February 22, 2019
A little puppy Jack Russell terrier is smelling the grass in the park with red dog-collar.
Mila / Adobe Stock

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A sniffari is an outing where your dog sniffs whatever they want and leads you where they want to go. It’s different from taking your dog for a walk: 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. When they can’t, it 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, flowers, and view of the mountains.

It’s good to differentiate between sniffaris and outings that have a different purpose — like going for a hike or 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. 

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One easy way to help your dog distinguish between outings where they get to call the shots and ones where they must follow along is to use different leashes and collars for each activity. Maybe use a flat collar when on sniffari but a harness when going for a run. Once your dog gets used to the pattern, they will know what the expectations are even before leaving the house.

The bottom line? Sniffaris let dogs be dogs — and that’s good for their quality of life and mood. These adventures in smelling leave many dogs more content (and even tired) than after a walk when they are moving but don’t have the opportunity to take it all in through their nose. Since one of the many benefits of providing interesting and stimulating opportunities for dogs is the calm state they are in afterwards (albeit sometimes only briefly!), sniffaris are an excellent activity. So go ahead, let your dog sniff to their heart’s content! 

karen london

Karen B. London, PhD

Karen B. London, Ph.D., is a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist and Certified Professional Dog Trainer who specializes in working with dogs with serious behavioral issues, including aggression, and has also trained other animals including cats, birds, snakes, and insects. She writes the animal column for the Arizona Daily Sun and is an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Northern Arizona University. She is the author of six books about training and behavior, including her most recent, Treat Everyone Like a Dog: How a Dog Trainer’s World View Can Improve Your Life.