You get home from work and your dog is sooo excited to see you, but also eagerly awaiting going for a walk. You know what they would probably enjoy even more than a traditional leash walk? … a “SNIFFARI”!
I know… you’re probably thinking… a what?!?!? Well, read on to learn what a sniffari is, and the benefits that come along with it.
What Is A Sniffari?
A “sniffari” is, quite simply, a walk with your dog where you give them the freedom to wander and sniff. You may have already figured this out, but the term comes from combining the words sniffing and safari… making the sniffing adventure a perfect activity for your dog! On a sniffari, you generally don’t control where your dog goes, as long as they’re in an area that’s safe! Your dog has the ability to make their own decisions, and choices, on their walk.
What Are the benefits
A dog’s nose may not actually speak, but it does serve as a form of communication. You may not think of it this way, but a single sniff can tell you dog an entire story, without words, about a person, another dog, or the environment they’re exploring. Allowing a dog to smell where other dogs have been could be compared to you checking your Instagram feed. C’mon… admit it, you love to check your social media feeds, so why not let your dog check their “pee-mail”!!
When we look at canine enrichment, which focuses on a dog’s health and well-being, it shows the importance of a dog being able to engage in behaviors that are considered natural… and exploring the environment around them, through their sense of smell, doesn’t get more “natural” than that. So a sniffari is a perfect choice for most dogs when it comes to enrichment.
You know the saying that says we should stop and smell the roses…. well, the meaning behind that is that we should stop and recognize the moments in our day that bring us joy, and in turn, this improves our overall well-being and happiness. Your dog needs those moments too! Allowing your dog to stop and smell the proverbial, or even literal, roses – being on a walk where they can enjoy sniffing and smelling the area around them – is incredibly enriching for your dog.
As well, in giving them choice on their sniffari, you are providing your dog, agency. According to Allie Bender, CDBC, CPBT-KA, SBA, agency is defined as the “ability to have some level of control in our environment and be able to make choices that will result in a desirable outcome”. Just like us, if we allow our dogs to make some of their own choices (those choices should never compromise safety, physical, mental or behavioral health… and they should not allow them to engage in unwanted behaviors), their quality of life and overall well-being will be improved. Imagine yourself in a situation where you have someone controlling most things you do… every day. I think your life satisfaction may not be the highest… and this would likely be expressed through many different behaviors… perhaps some that are less desirable than others. This can very much apply to dogs as well.
So a sniffari provides a lot of wonderful, and necessary benefits for your dog, making them happier and healthier… and who wouldn’t want that for their canine companion?
what equipment do you need?
You likely don’t need any extra equipment that you don’t already have on hand for your dog… except for maybe a longer leash to allow your dog some more freedom to explore. Ideally, something like a 10-foot leash is best for a sniffari as it gives your dog some room to move… but still keeps them leashed and safe. Lots of yummy treats are always a good thing to have on hand as well as you can use this time to do some fun training exercises for things like recall!
How to Go on a “sniffari”… safely
Depending where you live, if you have a natural environmental area near by, that is safe, that is a great place to take your dog on a sniffari. Here are a few other suggestions that you can try:
Dog-friendly parks or trails
One important thing to keep in mind when choosing a location is trying to pick one that isn’t overly crowded.
To create the most enjoyable experience for both you and your dog, here are some things to take into consideration:
Always keep your dog on a leash unless you happen to be in a designated off-leash area. If you happen to come across others on your sniffari walk, remember that not everyone enjoys having an off-leash dog running up to them… or their dogs… so be respectful of that. As well, the leash will keep your dog safe from dangerous areas, roads or even wildlife that may be in the area. It’s important to remember that wildlife… which can include things like snakes… can pose a real danger to you and your dog. Know the risks that exist in the area that you are in. Safety first!
Let your dog take the lead guide you on this adventure. This is the time that they get to decide where they want to go and what they want to explore. (as long as they are safe).
Allow your dog to set the pace. If they stop to sniff, let them take as long as they want, or need… when they are done you continue to move on. If they pick up on a scent, let them follow it (within reason, of course… if you don’t want to walk to a given area, or distance, when appropriate you can change the course).
Take some joy in this yourself, and practice some mindfulness. Live in the moment with your dog… you can both benefit from, and enjoy this experience!
A sniffari walk doesn’t need to be a specific length of time… even 10 minutes of allowing your dog to truly be in the moment, experiencing the world through their sense of smell, can provide them with a great deal of mental stimulation.
A sniffari is just one type of canine enrichment that can benefit your dog. Check out our article on Enrichment Ideas For Dogs: Toys, Games and DIY for more ideas.
Do you take your dog on sniffaris? Tell us where you go in the comments below…