How to Train Your Dog to Stop Sniffing

Medium
3-6 Weeks
Behavior

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!

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.

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.

The Off-Leash Leave It Method

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Effective
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Step
1
Hidden treat
Hold a treat in your hand and let your dog sniff it.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
5
Reward
When your dog diverts his attention away from your hand, offer him the treat.
Step
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.
Step
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.
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The Appropriate Sniffing Method

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0 Votes
Step
1
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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'.
Step
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.
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The On-Leash Leave It Method

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Step
1
Leash
Leash your dog and have a friend visit you.
Step
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.
Step
3
Sit
As he walks over towards your friend, ask your dog to sit. Give him a treat once he obeys.
Step
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.’
Step
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.
Step
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.
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Written by Stephanie Plummer

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

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Alfie
Tibetan Terrier cross
3 Years
1 found helpful
Question
1 found helpful
Alfie
Tibetan Terrier cross
3 Years

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.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
943 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

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

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Question
Loki
Cock-A-Poo
11 Months
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Loki
Cock-A-Poo
11 Months

My dog doesn’t obey commands when we’re out on a walk. He is constantly pulling the leash and doing his own thing. This gets way worse when he sees another dog, where he’ll get very stiff, his ears turn off, and if we get somewhat close he starts pulling frantically toward the other dog until he gets there to greet/play with them.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
943 Dog owners recommended

Hello Derek, Check out the article and video on heeling. Heel article - The turns method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel Heel Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OTiKVc4ZZWo Once pup is doing better about heeling when not around another dog, I would recruit friends with friendly dogs to practice the Passing Approach method from the article I have linked below. When pup has mastered the Passing Approach method, you can switch to the Heeling Together method, which is slightly harder, to practice more. https://wagwalking.com/training/greet-other-dogs Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Benji
Zuchon
1 Year
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Benji
Zuchon
1 Year

When i take Benji on a walk he continuously stops to stiff every second so i feel as if when im walking him he is not out to walk just to sniff, im not sure what to do to reduce this from happening?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
943 Dog owners recommended

Hello Tanisha, Is pup on a leash while walking? If not, start by leashing pup at least until the training is in place. Use the Turns method from the article I have linked below to increase pup's focus on you during the walk. Turns method for Heeling: When pup stops to sniff without being told "Okay" or "Go Sniff" or the release command of your choice, quickly tell pup "Let's Go!" happily and pick up the pace of your walk, your momentum should keep pup moving to catch up while on leash. As soon as pup catches up a little, praise pup happily and offer a treat that's easy to eat while moving, like a small freeze dried soft piece of liver. With practice pup should learn that "Let's Go!" means don't stop and it can be used at other times too. If you are trying to transition to off leash for this, then once pup is good on a six foot leash, practice this with pup wearing a padded harness and a long training leash, like 20 - 30 feet. The long leash should allow you to also enforce pup catching up to you if pup disobeys your command, then if pup chooses to check all the way in with you and come close, pup gets a treat. Also transition to rewarding pup for choosing to stay with you and check in frequently in general, so pup learns not to stop so much at all. When you want to allow pup to sniff, like when you are ready to stop, give pup a command like "Okay!" and give slack in the leash for pup to go sniff something. When pup is done, tell pup "Let's Go" again and resume the walk. Leave It is also a useful command for sniffing too. How to Teach Leave It section of this article: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/train-dog-not-to-chew/ Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Marley
Golden Retriever
3 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Marley
Golden Retriever
3 Years

His recall is excellent until he sees another dog and he’s off, he completely ignores me, he use to be submissive and roll over but now he’s annoying to other dogs going round in circles sniffing them, then he rolls over and over into the dog and the owner for attention but I’m frightened he’s going to hurt a little dog, I have to keep him on a lead around other dogs, I’ve just had a man have ago at me because he was pulling me, he really is a nightmare at the min, he’s screeching to get to other dogs, I’ve been pulled over a few times and he’s really hurt me, I’ve tried every training method possible even police training, they said he’s a very confident dog, it’s getting me down especially when I get shouted at, Apart from this Marley is the most sweet loving boy you could want, he doesn’t touch his food until told doesn’t beg I can take him to every cafe and he’s great, he’s got worse and his sniffing is unbelievable so much so it takes me all my body to pull him away from either dog smells or rabbit smells, it’s just NOT pleasurable taking him for a walk, I walk him with his mum who runs free off a lead, he is a singleton puppy so he’s had no siblings I also look after dogs when people go on holiday and taught lots of dogs to walk to heal, I’ve tried all techniques that I know. please HELP

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
943 Dog owners recommended

Hello Trish, Check out James Penrith from Taketheleadtraining. He works with dogs who chase and sometimes kill livestock and specializes in off-leash training. Some of the tools and methods he uses, and the way they build on each other might be good for you to look into. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCoxuNKpmUs390K7x_rvgjcg Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Tucker
Labrador Retriever
8 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Tucker
Labrador Retriever
8 Years

Living in an apartment. Walks are usually to go to the bathroom but recently he sniffs so much that it is painful and I find that I am always pulling him or dragging him. He is a very strong dog and often pulls me towards what he wants to sniff or plants his legs so that I cant actually pull him away.

Alisha Smith
Alisha S., Dog Trainer
239 Dog owners recommended

Hello. You will want to teach your dog the command "leave it". Leave it is great for anything you want your dog to leave alone, stop going after, getting into, etc. Here are the steps for "leave it" Teaching a dog 'leave it' Teaching “leave it” is not difficult. Begin the lessons inside your home or in an area with very few distractions. Here are the steps for teaching “leave it”: Make sure you have two different types of treats. One type can be fairly boring to the dog, but the other type should be a high-value treat that he finds pretty delicious. You will also want to make sure that the treats are broken up into pea-sized pieces so it won’t take him too long to eat them. Put one type of treat in each hand. If you like to train with a clicker as your marker, you can also hold a clicker in the same hand that holds the high-value treat. Then, place both of your hands behind your back. Make a fist with the hand that is holding the treat of lower value and present your fist to your dog, letting him sniff. Say “leave it” and wait until he finishes sniffing your fist. As soon as your dog is done sniffing, you can either click with the clicker or say “yes.” Then offer him the higher-value treat in your other hand. Repeat until your dog immediately stops sniffing your hand when you say “leave it.” When you say “leave it” and he stops sniffing right away, leash your dog and then toss a low-value treat outside of his reach. Wait until he stops sniffing and pulling toward the treat. As soon as he does, either say “yes” or click and then give him a high-value treat from your hand. Practice this exercise a number of times. Over time, by practicing “leave it,” your dog should stop pulling as soon as you give the cue. When rewarding him with a treat, make sure that it is something good, not plain old kibble. By doing so, you are teaching him that asking him to leave some food doesn’t mean he won’t get anything, but that in fact he might get something even more delicious. When your dog is reliably responding to the cue, you can teach him that “leave it” can apply to other things as well, not just food on the floor. Repeat the exercise with five different items that are fairly boring to your dog. After using five different “boring” items, start using slightly more exciting items. You know your dog, so you alone know what items he would consider more interesting, but don’t jump to high-value items right away. To increase his chances of success at learning the cue, you want to work up to high-value items gradually. If Kleenex or a piece of plastic, for instance, would attract your dog on a walk, don’t start with those. Choose the items based on your ultimate goal: Anytime you say “leave it,” you want to be confident that your dog will indeed leave whatever you are asking him to leave. . The reward he receives when he leaves an item can change as well. If your dog has a favorite toy, squeak it and play for a moment when he comes running to you after leaving the other item of interest. Most dogs love interacting with us, so a moment of praise or play with a toy can be just as effective as a treat. Keep it fun Even though you’re practicing “leave it” as a way to keep your dog safe, you want him to see it as a fun game you play. When your dog is proficient at the game in your home, start practicing in a variety of locations with more distractions.

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