This is the latest thing, sniffing, scenting, “Sniffaris” and other reasons to allow your dog to pull on leash and pretend you don’t exist.
Let me tell you why this is a bad idea.
- First, your dog is coming to learn that they find rewarding things out in front and get to them by pulling you to them.
- Next is that the rewards are out in front and you’re holding them back, this causes frustration and can lead to other behaviours such as barking, lunging, redirecting onto you etc.
- You’re allowing an expectation to develop in your dog that rewards are found out in front, not from you.
None of these are useful.
People ask me how often I walk my dogs, I say “I don’t”.
My dogs walk for transport, to get from one place to another and when they do walk, they are well mannered, relaxed, respectful, and focussed.
They find entertainment, enrichment, and fulfillment from things such as swimming, running on our 7 acres, coming on holiday with us and running on the beach, swimming in the river, fetch, training, and spending time with us.
If your dog thinks pulling on leash and sniffing the ground around the block is the best thing ever, that’s really highlighting a problem.
Do we really feel that “walking around the block is entertainment?”
Maybe dogs that are never allowed off leash may take what they can get.
Buy, why can’t they be off leash?
- They won’t recall.
- They bully other dogs
- They are aggressive
- They run away
- They display a behaviour you don’t like
These behaviours can be changed, and if they were, you might stop thinking that walking around the block is enrichment, fulfilment, and entertainment.
We see a lot of dogs come to us screaming in frustration when they see a dog, a cat, a ball or their owner walk away and they are held on leash.
This happens because they “expect” to get what they want by pulling into the leash and now when we don’t allow them to succeed, they lose their mind in frustration.
These dogs also have some behaviour problem, dog reactivity / aggression, cat chasing, human aggression etc so due to that, they are never allowed off leash.
But someone has advised you that, “it doesn’t matter, just let them sniff on walks, it’s the same thing”.
No, it 100% is not.
When people come and see me with a German Shepherd for example that is dog reactive, whilst I focus on that behaviour, my plan is to get the dogs training very quickly to a point that he or she is reliable off leash.
I believe part of the rehab process is giving them access to environments they can explore off leash and find things they find enriching.
We see a lot of dogs come to us with structural injuries. This often happens due to lack of muscle tone, lunging into harnesses, head collars and flat collars.
Others come as they are suffering from frustration fuelled aggression and lunging when they see other dogs on a walk.
Teaching your dog “how to walk” calmly with you can prevent these injuries, the frustration that comes from pulling on leash and the desperation to find something stimulating.
Focus on training that will give your dog the freedom to explore, find true enriching and fulfilling environments and activities that both stimulate them physically and mentally.
Then walking at heel calmly won’t be removing the only good thing left in his or her life.