Take it easy, it’s not that simple. Let’s say you’re a first-time pet parent struggling to teach your dog to walk on a loose leash. You can’t get his attention for a second and you don’t know why your dog sniffs everything around him.
Terrible right? This is because he is much more interested in knowing his surroundings and his biggest concern at the moment is this: smell.
And it’s likely that when you search for a solution on the internet, you will be showered with people telling you to use the fact that your dog sniffs everything around him as a backup. Sounds miraculous, right?! A powerful motivator for most dogs, and an obvious candidate for reinforcement methods.
But unfortunately, for some first-time tutors or those “not-so-good” trainers, it can take a long time to acquire the “finesse” needed to use it.
But what’s the problem with letting my dog sniff everything around?
The big problem with this type of behavior is this: if you let your dog out, you need to bring him back to you. And he’s already made it clear that being released to smell all those millions of new smells is a thousand times more interesting than the usual snacks in your pocket.
So, if you leave him on a loose leash to sniff, you’ll have an even bigger problem: your dog will get all anxious about the new stimuli and will forget about the most important task, walking properly.
If your dog, like you, is a beginner in walks, the problem is doubled. You’re teaching him a complicated technique (letting the leash loose and walking side by side with you), but at the same time, you’re letting him run off to sniff everything and everyone, and oftentimes, letting the leash stretch and hold you making you run back. How do you keep the walk idea clear for your dog? So you only confuse him!
Most of the time, the difficulties that some dogs have when walking with a looser leash are:
1) The dog is too excited to focus on the task of walking beside you;
2) The dog has not had much practice when it comes to walking beside its owner;
3) The treat or reward that the tutor has in his hand is not attractive at all.
Let’s see how letting him smell everything won’t solve these problems.
1) If you start walking as usual, calmly, and then release your dog to sniff everything on the street, will the habit of sniffing magically disappear? Hmm, I don’t think so. If your dog hasn’t focused on you in the first few tries, letting him sniff everything and everyone isn’t going to fix that;
2) If your dog hasn’t practiced enough in your training room or backyard, letting him out to discover new smells won’t as if by magic, make him go to your side and walk calmly;
3) If your reward failed to make him pay attention and walk along with you, how could it work after you let him go to discover millions of intriguing new smells? Yeah, it won’t.
What happens when you “release the scent”?
This is what will likely happen if your dog sniffs everything around and you haven’t trained him enough: you’ll start walking quietly, and then you decide to let your dog go to explore the surroundings.
You follow him around a little bit and when you think you’re done exploring, you say “come on, Thor!” (or some other calling you have taught). Guess what, he’s still sniffing. You call him again – he keeps sniffing and doesn’t even pay you attention. You will probably lose your temper and lock the leash and turn your body to call him to you. Depending on how interested he is in sniffing every possible scent, he might even go with you, but he might also pull the leash even harder.
One way or another, you no longer have your dog’s attention all to yourself, and your walk will need more training. After all, what’s the point of encouraging you to know so many new things and fascinating smells, and then literally pulling you back to reality?