Most dog owners have experienced that awkward moment when guests arrive and the family dog – full of love and joy – begins sniffing at the guests in all the wrong places. You’ll be relieved to know that there are a few tricks to help your dog learn when to sniff, and when to stay back.

Why dogs sniff

Sniffing is an important and natural behaviour for dogs. With more than 220 million sensors in their noses (compared to only 5 million in humans), dogs have an extremely keen sense of smell – more than 10,000 times more sensitive than humans. Not only does sniffing allow them to identify and understand the world around them, it helps them determine the health, gender and mood of other dogs. Their extraordinary sniffing talent is what makes dogs suitable for forensic, medical and policing applications.

How to stop inappropriate sniffing

Sniffing is an important part of a dog’s behaviour, but there are a few tricks you can use to help your dog learn when sniffing is off limits.

  • Give your dog’s nose a workout before an event. This will not only tire your dog out but also satiate the nose, making him or her less likely to sniff things that are off limits.
  • Offer new, interesting scents to appease that curious nose.
    • Take nose-friendly walks and remember to vary the route taken.
    • Hide kibble in food-containing toys around your house or in your backyard and have your dog sniff out his or her dinner. This not only exercises your dog’s nose, but also ensures he receives physical exertion and is mentally engaged.
  • Teach your dog the “sit” and “leave it” commands. Best taught to a dog early in life, these commands will help your dog to stop sniffing on your cue. If your dog tries to sniff when guests arrive, gently tug on his or her leash saying “no” and repeat the “sit” and “leave it” commands. If your dog stops sniffing, make sure you praise his or her obedience with a treat or toy reward.
  • If your dog sniffs at you, don’t back away. As the master, it’s important that you maintain control. If you back away, it will suggest to your dog that you are being submissive. Never back away – instead, give the “no” command and move forward toward him or her. This will show that you are the leader of the pack. Always remember to reward good behaviour.
  • Consistently train your dog. Never allow your dog to get away with a behaviour that is inappropriate. Continue the training commands until your dog is responding appropriately. It’s important that everyone in the house sends the same messages and understands the difference between appropriate sniffing and overzealous, inappropriate sniffing.
  • Avoid punishment. If your dog has a wayward sniff every now and then, don’t punish him or her, rather employ the “sit” and “stay” commands and reward them when they comply.
  • Confine your dog to a room in the house. If the commands aren’t working, it may be necessary to confine your dog to an area of the house where guests aren’t present. It’s important to do this in a way that is positive and rewarding for the dog. Use a normal, soothing tone of voice, so the dog doesn’t feel like he or she is being punished.

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