Sniffaris are one of the best activities you can provide for your dog on a regular basis. It meets so many of their needs. Aside from the physical exercise, the mental stimulation dogs get from sniffing and exploring their environment is off the charts!
What is a sniffari?
A sniffari is a walk with the intentional goal of letting your dog explore and sniff as much as possible in different environments. Dogs olfactory senses are far better than human senses and it’s a basic need for them to use those noses!
Sniffaris can be short or long. They can be in new places or routine areas you visit. You can walk your dog on a long line, a regular leash, or no leash at all if appropriate (make sure your recall is solid though!).
The key aspect of sniffaris is choice. If your pup wants to smell a tree for 5 minutes, then you try to hang out for that five minutes with your dog before moving to whatever they want next.
There may be times when their choice (food trash on the road in traffic) isn’t an option and you’ll have to skip it and move away, but where it is safe and appropriate to do so your dog leads the way in both direction and time.
Do I need to cue them to do things?
Using cues to move away from areas that aren’t safe or to make sure your dog isn’t imposing on anyone else is totally fine. But where you can let them wander and explore, do so. This is their time. Often times, when we start to give them this freedom regularly, we see more engagement with our dogs rather than less. They don’t have to fight for it anymore so they can explore and engage with us more regularly!
Do I have to find a hike area or big park to do a sniffari?
Obviously, the more open and different it is to your normal walk environment the bigger the mental workout for them. But sniffaris can be done in your neighborhood or places like a Petco parking lot. Use what you have access to and look for bigger opportunities when you can.
My dog pulls on leash or is really reactive on walks. Is this right for me?
Yes! You might need some help to get started (so reach out to me!) but sniffaris can be incredibly beneficial for dogs that pull on leash or react to their environment. Start small, looking for easy places to squeeze in some dedicated sniff time, or bring the sniffari home to your dog by gathering up leaves and branches from the neighborhood to lay out in the backyard.