Is your canine’s nose spending too much time on the ground?
How long should I let my dog sniff on walks?
My dog is sniffing the floor like crazy
Why is my dog sniffing the air and looking up?
These are just a few of the common questions that dog owners have questions about and there is nothing to worry about, because, all can be fixed.
It’s common for dogs to want to sniff, especially when food is around, however it potentially can be a difficult problem and there can be various reasons why your pet is doing this. With that out of the way…
Dogs sniff for all sorts of reasons on course. Your dog obsessively sniffing the floor in the house. Sometimes the dog is genuinely looking for food or whatever else his senses smell. So, while they are in the house, I would dis-regard this situation. De-scenting what is on the ground can’t be changed so ignore it.
Sniffing can be a potentially difficult problem, but the training and walking activity has to simply be better and more interesting than whatever is on the ground. Something that will help you out a great deal is lots and lots of attention work used in obedience training. Once you teach the dog that he or she needs to keep their attention on you instead of the ground, your dog should be able to transfer that behavior over to you when you are walking outside in any situation.
Work on your attention training by starting your dog in the heel position (sit at your side), use your attention word “SET” and hold eye contact for about 5 seconds. When he does this successfully, give praise (good boy/girl), he gets an immediate release (start walking). Continue to repeat this step of training until you can maintain eye contact for 30 seconds before the release and reward. Then, and only then, can you start moving by taking that first step. The critical part is to increase the amount of time holding the dog’s attention in small increments so as to always be in control of your dog’s actions.
Here’s a training class exercise that you can try in order to teach your dog to happily ignore distractions.
Start in your yard or an isolated place with no or least amount of distractions. The instant the dog pulls and/or smells, instantly turn and sprint in the other direction, without saying anything and giving a sharp jerk on the leash. As soon as the dog turns and is moving towards you, praise him very well and rub and pat your dog on the shoulder area. Dogs usually respond favorably to this as a good feeling of attention. The hard part is to say nothing, quickly move in the opposite direction, and praise happily, since this whole problem has probably been a source of much frustration.
Once the dog can walk around a regular yard, drop some hot dogs around, and you just mosey around. If the dog pulls or sniffs, repeat the procedure. If the dog gets a piece of hot dog, shame on “YOU” Once training has been completed successfully then do it on the walk.
This exercise accomplishes two things. 1) it gives the owner back some of the leadership in the relationship and 2) the dog learns that the instant they put their head down your going to move away silently. It really teaches the dog to watch and happily follow the owner.
Another instance in a training class. Sniffing on course can be active disobedience — a dominance challenge as to who is the team leader (alpha male), you or your dog. Sniffing also can be a stress-reliever or time-filler for a dog under stress (you aren’t giving commands fast enough, a conflict between verbal and body language commands, etc.)
Try this one if you can.
Targeting may improve contacts without encouraging sniffing because of a specific exercise done early in target training. Initially, it is done away from equipment and you need friends. You set out several targets and run the dog from one to the other. You need another person at each target. If you say look, take it, the friend at that target makes sure there is food there so that when the dog looks there is food there to get. If you don’t say take it, the friend is the evil one who tells the dog that it is wrong to search a target for food when not authorized by the command take it — and the friend obviously makes sure there is no food there that the dog can get. This makes you look so much more attractive as an option when you call here, the dog comes and you have the food at that time. You maintain a positive relationship with your dog. The friend also tells the dog it is wrong to keep shopping, looking for more food, when you say here.
Also, one thing that should be obvious but is often forgotten – your dog may genuinely be hungry. Breakfast may be early in order to get there on time and the dog has had a chance to digest the meal before running. The dog is then going to be hungry earlier in the evening. Consider whether you need to give a small lunch at a trial to help the genuinely hungry dog pay more attention to you in the late afternoon/early evening runs.
If you do not know much about targeting: Don’t let the dog get the food if he has not done whatever you are targeting correctly. This often requires the help of others and is one reason why the target sometimes is further away from the obstacle — if the dog has done it incorrectly, you don’t take him to where the food is. He gets the food only when he has done it correctly. Using targets can progress to where the target is outside the ring entirely–and you take the dog to it after a successful run.
Try teaching the non-agility bit elsewhere, i.e. teach a ‘leave’ command which basically means “I (the owner) have something much more interesting here if you pay me attention and not what is on the ground” using really good tidbits, and in the agility setting, work on distracting or physically stopping the dog sniffing (by cuddling for example-a nice way, not a nasty one) to stop the habit until the agility motivation starts to really bite. Make the agility more interesting – toys, food, standing on your head, running about, anything! Keep sessions short and praiseworthy. Simply stop and distract him if he starts sniffing.
Another exercise can be, placing several plates of food around and, with the dog on a lead, and wander around. Do some heeling, drop on recall near a plate, have people offer food as you walk by, etc. If the dog so much as looks at the food give them a brisk leash correction and move quickly in the opposite direction.
To ensure that you have control over your dog they need to realize that you are the boss, not him or her. To do this you need to ensure you are following the correct techniques to becoming the alpha to them.
You should also reprimand your dog for unacceptable behavior. Use the word “NO” in a stern but not a threatening tone. I do, however, disapprove of the techniques of squirting them with cold water, or shaking a can of pebbles, and growling. The word No is sufficient and praising and reinforcement of any good behavior has its rewards and your pet will learn that.
Basic Vocabulary of Dog Commands
I thought it best to list here for you some basic commands when training your dog (puppy).
Every dog owner should know basic commands in their training regime. These commands can create a foundation of communication and later when these are understood, then you can add additional commands.
Sit. The sit command means the dog’s hips are on the ground while the shoulders are upright. The dog should remain in position until released.
Come. The come command in dog training means stop what you’re doing, ignore distractions, and go directly to the owner.
Stay. Remain in position while the owner walks away from the dog and the dog holds still until he’s released.
Release. This is the word that tells the dog he can move from the position he’s been in.
Good dog/good boy/good girl. Verbal praise can be used after the Sit, Come, Stay or any other command for a good job well done. (small treats are good when first starting out)
Go Outside. What is your word or phrase for the dog to go outside to relieve himself?
Go for a walk. It’s time to go for a walk.
Dinner. This signals that it’s time to eat.
Fetch. Get your ball, toy, etc.
Bring it here. Bring me your ball, toy, stick.
Drop it. Drop what’s in your mouth.
Leave it. Meaning to ignore what they’re paying attention to such as food, or something they shouldn’t be bothering with on the floor or outside.
Best of luck with your training.