No matter what you call it-- sniffari, houndabout, sniffing walk, dog-led walk-- it can be difficult to let go of a bit of control while walking our dogs. Here are some tips for letting your dog have a little fun without driving you mad!
Bring Treats on Walks
Whether you're wanting your dog to stay by your side, or letting them wander and weave, you are still competing with the environment for attention. One of the easiest ways for your dog to learn how to focus on you is to pay them for their attention.
Bring delicious food. your dog is unlikely to be interested in kibble on walks
Make it easy to earn food at first. Start by offering food for free (gasp!) or call your dog's name and pay them for looking in your direction.
Be consistent. In order to build a habit, carry food consistently. It took 2 weeks of offering food on walks to my newly adopted dog before she realized it was available.
Ride out the waves of attention. Don't be worried if your dog starts constantly looking at you for food. This will ease up over time and you can refine this behavior.
Teach "Let's Go" So You Can Move Your Dog Along When Needed
In a low-distraction environment on a walk, say "Let's Go!" and walk very quickly for 6 feet.
Pause and give your dog a Treat Jackpot -- several treats, given one at a time.
Resume walking normally.
Practice several times over the course of a walk.
Teach "Leave It" So Your Dog Can Learn to Ignore Distractions When Needed
Leave It is an all-purpose skill that can be used to ask your dog to ignore things in the house or outdoors: spilled food or medication, children's toys, trash, other dogs, people, critters, interesting shrubs.
It doesn't have to be all or nothing when you let your dog lead the way. Build a habit of using basic skills so you both can have a great walk together.