As you know, sniffing is a natural and important behavior for your dog. He uses his heightened sense of smell to help identify people and other dogs, to determine where they’ve been, and to determine another dog’s sex and position in the pack's pecking order.
In most cases, a dog can learn a lot by a quick sniff—and that’s normal, natural behavior that dog owners and their guests have come to accept. However, sometimes a dog seems to become fixated on this behavior and their constant, prolonged sniffing becomes embarrassing for the owner and the people being subjected to the sniffing.
How to nip over-sniffing in the bud
If your dog is an overzealous sniffer, the first thing to remember is that, to him, this is appropriate behavior. Which means, of course, that it’s up to you to help him “understand” that he shouldn’t overdo it. Here’s how:
- When your dog meets someone that he sniffs inappropriately, give your dog the “no” command as you gently tug at his leash. If this behavior is happening in your home and your dog isn’t on a leash, you can gently pull him back by his collar. Next, give him the “sit” command. When he responds correctly, reward him with praise and, perhaps, a treat.
- If your dog sniffs at you in this way, don’t back away from him, as this gives him the message that you are submissive and that he’s in control. To properly train your dog, you need to reinforce your role as leader of the pack. Instead, give him the “no” command and move forward toward your dog. As a result of doing this, he will back away from you. Be sure to reward him when he behaves appropriately.
Consistency is key. Never allow any behavior from your dog that you don’t want to see again, and make sure that everyone in the household is sending your dog the same messages. Be sure everyone in your family understands the difference between appropriate sniffing and overzealous, embarrassing sniffing.