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What's the most cringeworthy thing your dog does to embarrass you?
The dog addicted to crotch sniffing is right up there. For example, imagine your dog meets and greets your boss by gluing a nose to their crotch... not a great way to get a raise at work.
However, crotch sniffing is natural canine behavior. Your dog isn't trying to get you into trouble, merely wanting to find out more about a person. It just so happens that most people don't find a wet nose in the nether regions socially acceptable.
Of course, punishment is not an option. How would you feel if someone slapped you every time you smiled at a stranger? But this doesn't mean you have to accept crotch sniffing. Instead, you simply need to teach the dog an acceptable behavior to perform when they feel the need to sniff.
Success depends on consistency. For this, you need to prevent crotch sniffing while retraining (keep the dog on a short leash when close to people) and train regularly so that the dog gets the message.
Rather than 'stopping' one behavior (crotch sniffing) you teach the dog an alternative behavior (sniffing an open palm, looking at you, or going to a mat) that is acceptable. This keeps the dog active and thinking, hence distracting them from their chosen activity.
Ideally, start young by training a puppy. It is far preferable to start with good habits than stop bad behavior once it's developed. However, we don't live in an ideal world and sometimes it is necessary to retrain an adult dog. This is perfectly possible but be prepared to train regularly, twice a day for 10- 15 minutes at a time.
Depending on your chosen method, you'll need a combination of the following items:
- Tasty treats
- A mat or rug
- A (good) friend to act a crotch sniffing bait
- A collar and leash
The Target the Palm Method
Understand the idea
This neat option gives the dog an alternative, more acceptable, place to sniff - hence saving everyone's blushes.
Attract the dog to your open palm
Create an open palm with your fingers extended. Hold the hand in an 'approachable' manner, such as sideways to the dog rather than upright in a traffic cop 'stop' gesture, which can be intimidating. Wait for the dog to approach and sniff your palm (Hint: Make your palm extra interesting by first rubbing it with a piece of cheese.)
Reward palm sniffing!
When the dog approaches and sniffs your palm, say "greet" and lavish him with praise, followed by a treat. Practice this 5 - 10 times each training session.
Have a friend offer their palm
Once the dog is anticipating a reward and readily approaches and touches your palm with his nose, introduce a friend. Have the friend offer out their palm. (Try the same trick, rubbing the skin with something smelly and attractive to the dog.) When the dog touches the palm with their nose, say "Greet" in a happy voice and reward the dog.
Once the dog has achieved this regularly with a friend, enlist other people. Forewarn people to hold out a palm when your dog approaches. This, with the added 'greet' cue should do the trick.
The Greeting Area Method
Understand the idea
If your dog regularly embarrasses visitors to the house, train the dog to go to a mat when guests arrive. Then have the visitors reward the dog for sitting nicely (and not sniffing their crotch) on the mat.
Chose a spot for the dog to go
Place a mat or rug on at a distance from, but within sight of, the door Lure the dog to the mat by placing a treat on it.
Make the mat at great place to be
As the dog wanders to the mat and discovers the treat, praise him and add a command such as 'mat'. With the dog beside you, stand a short distance from the mat. Now toss a treat onto the mat. As the dog gets up to follow the treat, say "mat". Have him sit on the mat and reward him again.
Have the dog stay on the mat
Work on sending him to the mat but delaying the reward so he only gets the treat after he sits. Work on the 'stay' command so he isn't released from the mat until you say he can go.
Have visitors ignore the dog
Now practice sending the dog to the mat as a friend arrives in a quiet manner while ignoring the dog. Only when the dog is sitting on the mat does the friend walk over and reward the dog for sitting. Since most dogs sniff crotches as a greeting, once this flashpoint is over most will lose the inclination to sniff. Have the friend come and go several times in each session, and each time you send the dog to the mat
The Divert Attention Method
Understand the idea
In a situation or place outside your control, diverting the dog's attention from the crotch is a useful tactic. This is easily done with the 'look' command, which gets him to look you in the eyes... and not at the crotch.
Get the dog's attention
Have your dog sit. Hold a treat between forefinger and thumb. Touch the treat to the dog's nose so he smells it and knows where the treat is.
Travel the treat to your eyes
Stare into the dog's eyes as you travel the treat from their nose to between your eyes. The dog should now be fully focused on the treat on the bridge of your nose. As he stares, say "Look" in a firm voice.
Hold the dog's gaze
As he holds your gaze, say "Good" and give him the treat. Slowly build up the number of seconds he must hold your gaze before he gets the reward.
With practice, the dog will stare at you for minutes, by which time the moment for crotch sniffing passes.
By Pippa Elliott
Published: 11/03/2017, edited: 01/08/2021