Monday, February 20, 2017

Frustrated by a non-stop, stubborn sniffer? I may have a solution for you.

Leopold being stubborn on a walk.
So you're on a walk with your dog, and your dog pulls you over to a bunch of grass to sniff around.  Then he spends a while there before walking three more feet and stopping again to smell a stump. Then more time passes and he finally moves on: four more feet and he stops at a rock.  Then two feet and it's some random bit of who knows what that you can't even see because it's so small.  And every time your dog stops, you stop, because you're attached to him.
Sound like your experience?

It's certainly my experience with one of my dogs:  Leopold will stop dead and dig in his heals in order to thoroughly inspect an area with his nose.  If I let him, our walks would take hours.  I don't have hours, so Leopold's excessive sniffing behavior just can't happen.  I used to spend a good deal of our walk hollering at him to get a move on and eventually putting my weight into the leash to get him walking again.  Let me tell you, 70 lbs of stubborn dog can be hard to get moving, and all the hollering and pulling sure puts a damper on our walk.

But dogs like to sniff, and it's good for them.  It's an engaging activity that's great for mental health.  I'm all for doggy mental stimulation, but I'm a busy person and can't spend hours on walks.  I concluded that Leopold should get to sniff, but I get to decide when enough is enough and it's time to move on.  The trick is communicating this to Leopold so that I can avoid the whole forceful haul.

My solution was a countdown.
Here's how it works:
Leopold gets to stop and sniff, but when I feel like we need to continue on our walk, I say "Leopold, Three, Two, One" and then I start walking again.
And it works--Leopold starts walking again without me having to pull and yank on the leash.

It took a little time to teach Leopold the countdown, just as it takes time to teach anyone anything.  In the beginning, I would count down, and then give him a pull to get him walking. It didn't take long for him to learn that the countdown means he better get in one last sniff or finally pick something to pee on already, because when I get to "one", we're headed away from the area.

Both of us are a lot less frustrated, and walks are much more pleasant.  As with so many things, communication is key.

If you're frustrated by a dog that likes to sniff non-stop on walks, you might give this trick a try.  If you do, leave a comment and let me know if it worked for you, too!

Leopold gets to stop and sniff, but when I want to keep moving, I do a count down.

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