Lesson 8 of 20
In Progress

Sniff the Dog

Normally it’s us humans that make all of the choices when it comes to our walks. Dogs get very little say in the matter. We decide where we walk, how quickly we walk and how long our walk will be. 

Instead, how about we let go a little and remain in control of the safety of our walks but leave the direction, duration and speed up to our dogs to choose? 

Choice leads to confidence and a confident, self-assured dog is less nervous and reactive. When we did this activity in Club Dogwood, members were impressed at how much more relaxed their walks were.

Fifi above is scent-obsessed. She puts her nose down and glues it to the ground as she walks. Every couple of steps she’ll put the brakes on and really get a nose-full of something – grass, a lamp post, a seemingly empty pavement – and won’t budge. 

It’s tempting to call her on, to move forward, to get on with the walk (especially as Lao only ever wants to get to the next place: forwards, forwards, incessantly forwards); but scent is a dog’s way of understanding the world. So Lao just has to wait – and then he starts sniffing too! 

When us humans walk into a cafe or meeting we have a look around to see who’s there. A dog’s way of ‘looking around a room’ is to use their nose to make sense of life.

Instead of taking your dog on a walk, take them on a sniff.

On a Sniff the Dog walk, dogs sniff as they like. They choose the direction of the walk or linger to get to the bottom of a smell. 


Let your dog dictate the duration and direction – as long as it’s safe.

  • Go as slow as possible.
  • Long, loose lead.
  • It takes as long as it takes. If you have to get back for a certain time, cut the distance short, not the sniffing.
  • Watch your dog and make observations – that means putting the phone away. I wish I could remember where I read it so I could credit the author but someone said that we should allow our dogs to be the GPS – Ground Patrol Sniffers!

Reactive dogs

Ugly Walks are an absolutely essential step in helping your reactive dog. Don’t skip this. Going somewhere quiet away from their triggers gives them the essential opportunity to destress – a stressed dog can’t learn new things. On Ugly Walks we can Sniff the Dog or work on other activities from this challenge.

No walks? No problem!

If you have already started the de-stressing process (yay!) and you are giving your dog a break from walks this week (or if you are shielding or isolating), don’t worry – you can still take part! Ugly Walks will be a fundamental step for you especially as they will help you reintroduce your dog to the world in a way that will not overwhelm them. Make a list of Ugly Walk destinations instead and what order you will introduce them in so you’re all ready for when you do venture back out.