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Sniffing Other Dogs on Walks – How to Handle it

Why do dogs sniff other dogs? Why do they have that natural urge to go and sniff the butt of another puppy? Well, it is all because of the dog’s olfactory system. It is a complex and advanced system. This makes your pup’s sense of smell far superior to yours.

Just to give an idea of how big a difference that is. Humans have about 5 million olfactory receptors in their noses. Dogs nose, on the other hand, has about 220 million. Our puppies can smell layers upon layers of scents and odor even when we smell nothing. And it is quite impressive. That is why many dogs get the role of a detection dog at airports and in police.

Now, if you had a nose like that, wouldn’t you love to sniff everything you can? How much pleasurable that would be? Sniffing is also mental stimulation for puppies.

Why do dogs sniff? For two simple reasons.

  • Enjoyment, stuff smells good and smelling things is fun, stimulating, and feels good
  •  Information, dogs want to figure out and learn more about someone or something. For example, male dogs sniff female dogs to check if they are in heat

How to handle sniffing?

You should never take sniffing for granted. Always reinforce when dogs sniff each other and continue walking. Why? Because that is good behavior and proper manners.

Praise your dog when he has a classic dog reaction. Praise your sniffer dog when sniffing other dogs, and praise your pup when being sniffed.

Why should you do this? Well, simple. When you ignore dog reactions, you actually contribute to dog reactivity. We lose confidence in our dog. Praise your dog, show any kind of reaction. If you do not, you look like a boring person and your dog knows it.

How to build confidence in your puppy?

Building confidence is vital to dog training improving dog manners. The most important thing is to let your dog get familiar with the environment. Give your dog a chance to normalize himself.

There is one test you can try as a pet parent. It works on walks when there is another dog coming your way. Stand still and see what your pet does.

Is your dog saying to you, “it is OK, we can go on”? Pay attention to his body language, is he wagging his tail? Does his face look happy? Or is he stiffed? Is his tail docked? Does he feel anxious and scared?

If the dog looks at you and feels happy, you can continue that way. If not, if he doesn’t look at you and he is stiffed and focused on the other dog coming, then he might not be OK with that greeting.

If your dog doesn’t look at you, that means that things out there are more important to him and you cannot train him at the moment.

So, take time with your puppy. Wait until he looks at you. Eventually, you can slow down. Or, if you notice your dog is anxious, simply change the direction. It is one of the most effective ways to shift the focus of your dog towards something else.

Another trick you can try is the stimulus blocking technique. Basically, you take out a toy and play with your dog. Shift his focus from the dog out there, to yourself.

Can you train your dog not to sniff other dogs?

We answered before why do dogs sniff. And we explained that butt sniffing is a totally normal dog behavior. It is truly the best way for two pets to get to know each other.

Now, if you have concerns about your dog approaching other dogs, you can try something different. The trick is to teach your sniffer dog calm behavior and different greeting.

Any experienced dog behaviorist or dog trainer might help you. The simple solution is to teach your dog to sit and wait for other dogs to pass by.

As a dog owner, you want to train your dog to calm his enthusiasm and aggression when other dogs pass by.

The reality is you cannot be sure for every dog that passes by you on walks. But as we said before in the intro, always reward butt sniffing. A proper butt sniff should never go unrewarded.

No matter if your dog is on the shy and gentle side or more of an aggressive dog, do not lose confidence. If you notice his body language is fine and he shows you might walk by another dog, let him sniff. Take one step at a time.

My dog doesn’t sniff butts

You might have a dog that is not a butt sniffer. Should you worry? Not necessarily. As we said previously, you be dealing with a shy dog. Not all dogs are sociable. Yes, we should always socialize dogs, but do not push it. Take it slow.

Now, you might want to schedule a consultation with your vet. Check for any health concerns or a disease. But at the end of the day, there are lots of dogs that prefer people over dogs. There is nothing wrong with that, you just have to accept it and use it as part of your training. Just visit any veterinary clinic to check if your dog’s sense of smell is intact.

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