I had a consultation this evening where I met a great family, and they weren’t really having a lot of problems with the dog but wanted to improve their relationship. I talked to them about what I’d be teaching them and their dog and how I’d be coaching them. They brought the dog out and I went through the standard evaluation, seeing how the dog dealt with the leash, as well as how they dealt with me, and which food they preferred, etc.
While I’m doing the evaluation, I’m always looking to see if I can pick up any extra detail to be able to share with the family. I noticed that this dog was using its nose quite a bit, more than the average dog. While speaking with my client, they told me how much they struggle on walks and how their dog constantly has its nose to the ground. I ended up telling them “you’re going to have to let them sniff some” and if you have a dog that’s a powerful sniffer, this is the part that’s for you.
When you’re walking, make sure you get the walk the way you want it to be, but when it’s going well I want you to sit your dog and then release them to sniff around. Don’t just let them sniff for 2-3 seconds, let it go on for a minute or two but then go back to your heeling exercise. As you’re doing that, the natural reinforcing tendency the dog gets out of just getting to use its nose, and you put that on the back end of getting the dog to walk nicely with you, you’re going to have a reinforcement mechanism that’s probably better than any reward you can find.
Keep in mind this is specifically for those dogs who really love sniffing around. Every dog likes to sniff some but if your dog isn’t showing a real interest in it, this may not be a powerful reinforcement for them.