Ever go on a sniffari with your dog? You should! It’s fun and the ultimate enrichment activity for your best friend.
Simply, a sniffari is a walk you take with your dog that’s guided by what your dog wants to do. It can be as long or short as you want. We’ve found that our best sniffaris are about half an hour, depending on where we go.
Get out of your neighborhood
The ideal sniffari happens someplace new. You don’t have to go far from your neighborhood. If you always take a particular route in a certain direction, change it up. If time or transportation is short, just turn opposite the way you normally would. As your surroundings change, so do the bouquet of smells your dog gets to sample.
That’s the point of a sniffari. Your dog gets to wander and sniff where you go. There’s no particular destination or goal to reach. Follow your dog’s nose. Let your dog stop and sniff whatever they want, for however long they want. It totally depends on the dog. That being said, real life does have some limitations. Be prepared with some of your dog’s favorite treats to tempt him/her back home, or to the car.
Make it a real treat
If you want to take your sniffari to the next level, take your dog someplace they’ve never been before, as long as it’s someplace dogs are allowed. It could be your local park, greenway, or beach. It doesn’t have to be far, just outside of your regular routine. If you have the option, you can even take your dog for an indoor sniffari in places dogs are welcome. Some home centers allow dogs, check with your local establishment before you try.
Dogs love exploring new smells and surroundings. Anything different in their environment, especially something with an odor, intrigues them. Just this week both our lilac and peony bushes bloomed. The yard smelled very different. And all four of the dogs spent time sniffing at the blossoms.
Even unsocial dogs
Even if your dog isn’t great out in public, reacts to people, other dogs, bicycles, etc., you can still give them an enriching sniffari experience.
Set up a sniffing scavenger hunt inside your home. You can use a bunch of cotton balls or pads. Put some different non-toxic scent on each one (essential oils, perfumes, vinegar, juice, herbs, etc.) and hide them around the house. Your dog will be able to detect just a couple drops of scent. Their noses are hundreds of times more sensitive than ours, and they love putting that skill to use.
“Hide” the scent-laden cotton balls around the house. Put them in places the dog can’t get to them, up high, or in a little box or envelope. If you think your dog won’t be able to find a “hidden” scent – you’d be wrong. In the dog sport called “Nose Work,” one of the first tasks the dogs have is to find covered scents. There are levels where they have to find scents buried within a box of sand or dirt. Dog noses are amazing. We play a short version of nose work regularly, calling it “Find it!”
Choose your own sniffari
Whether you treat your dog to an exploring the world, or at-home sniffari, don’t be surprised if your dog is exhausted when it’s over. It’s fun, challenging, and requires all of your dog’s concentration. And thinking, as anyone who’s ever taken a test knows, can be tiring.
We ask our dogs to do what we want most of their lives. Every once in a while, it’s okay to let them take the lead. You may be surprised how much you both get out of the experience.
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My little Pandora is almost thirteen, and I have always figured her walk was for her, so it’s pretty much been what I call a “sniffamble”. I’ve called it that for years. I really love watching her enjoy all the different things to sniff (and mark, raising her leg like a boy). She and I love her blue mesh harness. So easy to use, and she can’t back out of it.
Glad to hear that you and Pandora are enjoying your “sniffambles!” That’s a great word for an older dog’s “sniffari!”