How to Train Your Dog to Stop Sniffing

How to Train Your Dog to Stop Sniffing
Medium difficulty iconMedium
Time icon3-6 Weeks
Behavior training category iconBehavior

Introduction

No one enjoys when a dog is sniffing inappropriately. It can be not only annoying but also embarrassing and sometimes messy if your dog greets you in business attire or nice clothing the same way he welcomes other dogs. This simple greeting from your dog can leave slobber on your clothes. Sniffing while walking can also become distracting and drag out walks, leaving you pulling your dog along rather than enjoying a nice casual walk or a walk which increases your heart rate for exercise. Teaching your dog to stop sniffing, whether it's inappropriate sniffing on people or distracted sniffing everything in his path, is something you're going to want to teach your dog early on so that you can enjoy your time with your dog and have guests over without him putting them in embarrassing situations!

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Defining Tasks

Training your dog to stop sniffing will depend on the situation your dog sniffs most often. If your dog is sniffing anything and everything he comes across while you are walking, you are going to want to do this training on walks. If your dog is sniffing you or other people he greets inappropriately, you're going to need to set up some of these situations to train your dog during an occasion where he sniffs typically. You will also want to teach your dog some basic commands such as ‘sit’ and ‘leave it.’ The ‘leave it’ command can be used for any sniffing to get your dog's attention and tell him to leave whatever it is he has interest in alone.

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Getting Started

Training your dog to stop sniffing will require a bit of patience. You can teach any dog to stop sniffing at any age. But you will need some patience and consistency. Be sure to have a leash if you're taking your dog on walks--and some tasty treats to provide your dog to celebrate a job well done. Train basic commands so you can use them during this training.

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The Off-Leash Leave It Method

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1

Hidden treat

Hold a treat in your hand and let your dog sniff it.

2

Command

As soon as your dog sniffs the treat say the command ‘leave it.’ Once he draws his attention away from sniffing your hand, offer him a treat from your other hand.

3

Repeat

Repeat these steps until you can hold your hand up without a treat hidden inside, use the command, and have your dog withdraw his attention from your hand.

4

Hide treat

Place a treat on the floor and cover it with your hand. When your dog goes to sniff your hand, use the command ‘leave it’ as you did above.

5

Reward

When your dog diverts his attention away from your hand, offer him the treat.

6

Continue practice

Continue to practice these steps above until you are using the command to ‘leave it’ with anything you show your dog from hidden treats to toys you have in your hand. Any time you use the command ‘leave it,’ your dog should divert his attention from the object and earn a treat.

7

While sniffing

When you are out and about and your dog is sniffing inappropriately, use the command ‘leave it.’ Be sure to offer your dog a reward each time he obeys.

The Appropriate Sniffing Method

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Nose sense

Take your dog on walks where you know other animals visit quite often. Allow him, while on the walk, to satiate his senses and sniff everything he likes to sniff. This may mean a very slow walk for you, as he may pause every few seconds to stop and sniff.

2

Hidden treats

Hide treats in puzzle toys around your yard and allow your dog to sniff until he finds them. As soon as he finds these hidden treats, let him have them.

3

Commands

Teach your dog commands such as ‘sit’ and ‘leave it.’ When you are on walks, allow your dog to sniff things that are appropriate, however, when it is inappropriate, use the command to have your dog sit in place and stop what he's doing. You can also teach your dog to 'leave it' so he doesn't sniff something he shouldn't.

4

Stand firm

Once your dog's nose has been filled with all of the scents his body can handle, when he comes to you and sniffs you inappropriately stand firm. Do not take a step back as your dog will follow you and continue if you are submissive to your dog. Stand firm and use a command to get your dog to 'sit' or to 'leave it'.

5

Rewards

As your dog is getting used to new commands as well as learning not to sniff inappropriately, be sure to reward him along his training path. Don't reward him when he sniffs inappropriately, however, do reward him when he obeys the commands such as ‘sit’ while you are trying to redirect him to another activity outside of inappropriate sniffing.

The On-Leash Leave It Method

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1

Leash

Leash your dog and have a friend visit you.

2

Greeting

When your friend walks in the door, greet the friend with your dog on a leash. Allow your dog’s leash to be somewhat loose, giving him free reign to greet your friend as well.

3

Sit

As he walks over towards your friend, ask your dog to sit. Give him a treat once he obeys.

4

Tug leash

If your dog greets your friend by sniffing his or her crotch, gently tug on the leash and take a step backward, encouraging your dog to step back with you. Use the command ‘leave it.’

5

Sit again

As soon as your dog leaves your guest alone and stops sniffing, ask your dog to ‘sit.’ Be sure to reward him for a job well done.

6

Practice

Practice these steps with your dog on a leash around various people. You can take your dog for a walk around the neighborhood or invite more friends over.

By Stephanie Plummer

Published: 11/15/2017, edited: 01/08/2021

Training Questions

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Training Questions and Answers

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rascal

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Pomchi

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7 Years

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Question

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There is a dog next door and rascal will act like he needs to go to the bathroom, but when he gets out there, all he does is sniff. He does not go to the bathroom. He acts like this every 5-10 minutes.

Dec. 23, 2021

rascal's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello, If pup is crate trained, I would take pup outside to go potty. Go with pup and tell pup to "Go potty", giving a treat if pup goes potty when you take them, then take pup straight back inside. When pup goes out and doesn't actually need to go potty so doesn't go, I would calmly take pup back inside and crate pup for an hour, helping pup still be motivated to go out when they actually need to go, but not just for the fun of seeing the other dog. Once pup has gone potty outside, when pup asks to go out again when back out of the crate, I would also safely ignore pup's requests, knowing that if it's only been an hour and pup is potty trained, pup is probably asking for the wrong reason. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

Dec. 23, 2021

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Alfie

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Tibetan Terrier cross

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3 Years

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Alfie is a rescue dog we have had for 5 months. He has settled in really well and has now bonded with us. We have successfully worked on reactivity to other dogs using a clicker and rewards. However just recently he has went for the ankles ( quite aggressively) of people that we stop and talk to when walking him and once when I was walking him with my friend. We think it might be a reaction to the fact that he isnt getting our attention. We dont know how to train him not to so this. It is worrying for us. He also reacts badly to his collar being pulled so must have had a traumatic experience in his past.

July 29, 2021

Alfie's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello Irene, I would start by building pup's respect and trust for you, as well as his general obedience. All three of these methods for gentle respect building: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-doberman-to-listen-to-you Out - which means leave the area: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-teach-a-dog-the-out-command/ Leave It method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite Down-Stay: https://www.thelabradorsite.com/train-your-labrador-to-lie-down-and-stay/ Heel- Turns method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel I would teach the above commands. Require to pup walk in the heel position with focus on you, through lots and lots of practice. You want pup to be in a following, calmer state while walking with you to begin with. That will have a direct effect on pup's state of mind and response when meeting people. Especially work on Leave It and Out. Those commands can be used to give pup instruction as soon as you see pup starting to tense up around others, before there is a lunge or growl even. Finally, work on building pup's trust of other people. Recruit friends and family pup doesn't know to walk past them while on leash. Watch pup's body language and have the person stay far enough away that pup stays relaxed. As the person passes pup and pup is reacting well (don't reward while aggressive or acting fearful), then have the person toss several treats gently toward pup's paws and continue walking. Have lots of different people do this in lots of different place - without approaching pup after. You want pup to begin to associate the people with something fun happening and take the pressure of petting away at first before pup is ready for that part. As pup improves, have the people gradually decrease the distance between them and pup. Once pup can handle people walking right by and dropping treats, practice the protocol from the video linked below, keeping pup's leash short enough that if pup were to lunge while practicing this, they won't be able to get to someone to bite. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KIJoEJfTS-E Finally, during all of this, practice desensitizing pup to handling and touch using their food. As often as you can, feed pup their meals one piece at a time. Gently touch pup in an area while feeding a piece of food. Touch their should - feed a piece. Touch their back - feed a piece. Touch an ear - feed a piece. Touch their collar - feed a piece. Touch their paw - feed a piece. Touch their belly - feed a piece. ect... Do it gently and start with areas pup is most comfortable and work up to the other areas as pup improves. When pup enjoys your touches, add in other people pup knows touching, like family members. When pup can handle that add in gentle strangers once pup has completed the other training and is more comfortable with strangers. Don't rush these things but do practice very often and with lots of different people. Watch pup's reaction and go at a pace where pup can stay relaxed - the goal isn't just for pup to act good but actually feel better about people - so pup staying relaxed and happy around people is what you want to reward, which will mean going at the pace or distance pup an handle. If there s a bite, you feel things are unsafe with your management of the behavior, things get worse, or things aren't improving, I would hire a professional trainer who specializes in behavior issues to work with you in person. If you do hire someone, look for someone who comes well recommended by their previous clients, work with a staff or team of trainers so that there are multiple "strangers - i.e. the training staff" to practice with pup, and ideally has access to other well mannered dogs, if you wish you work on the reactivity around dogs too. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

July 30, 2021

Thank you so much Caitlin - you dont know how grateful we are for this advice. Your advice makes complete sense and we are sure Alfie will respond to this. Thank you so much x

July 30, 2021

Irene M.


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