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Sniffari: Nosing Out Joy for Your Dog

Want your dog to feel happier? Just follow your dog’s nose! It’s true. There’s research confirming that a sniffari (also called a decompression walk) and other scent work activities make our dogs happier. Let’s learn what a sniffari is and how to take our dogs on a sniffing walk for more doggo happiness.

So, come on a sniffari with me! 🐾

Goldendoodle dog and Labrador Retriever dog walking together, photo

What is a sniffari?

A sniffari is an outing where your dog gets to gloriously sniff their surroundings, explore the world, and lead you where he or she wants to go.

The word “sniffari” combines the words “sniffing” and “safari” as a way to describe this sniffing adventure for dogs. It acknowledges the importance of a dog’s need to use his or her sense smell to make sense of the world.

Also called decompression walks or sniffy walks, the purpose of a sniffari is to allow your dog to set the pace and explore his or her environment through smell.

In other words, it’s intentionally giving your dog time to stop and smell the roses…or the tree trunks…or just the fresh air.

Close up of dog sniffing the grass while on a sniffari, photo

Rather than the traditional “dog walk” (walking with a purpose such as for physical exercise or going some place), the idea behind a sniffing walk is to allow your dog to explore using his or her natural behavior for interpreting the world through sense of smell.

According to Psychology Today’s article, Allowing Dogs to Sniff Helps Them Think Positively, giving dogs time to sniff is an important way that they pick up information—and it boosts their optimism.

By putting their needs first (i.e. stopping to use their nose to make sense of the world) over our needs (i.e. getting around the block), we’re giving our dogs important chances to use their nose, make decisions, and just be dogs!

So, if your furry friend enjoys stopping to investigate a leaf, smell the scent of a rabbit trail, or sniff the scent of another dog, go ahead!

By honoring your dog’s natural sniffing behavior, you’re allowing him or her the freedom to use natural doggy instincts and behaviors, which makes them happy.

(BTW, if you’ve ever wondered how to tell if your dog is happy, check out my article, Is My Dog Happy, for 10 signs.)

Benefits of a sniffari walk

Along with all their other super powers, dogs truly do have amazing abilities when it comes to their sense of smell.

According to Nova’s article, Dogs’ Dazzling Sense of Smell, a dog has 300 million olfactory receptors in the nose compared to our lackluster six million.

Also, according to the same article, a dog has a sense of smell that is estimated to be 10,000 to 100,000 times better than humans.

fluffy, red dog sniffing a bush while on a sniffari, photo

All this info about our dogs’ noses points to the fact that dogs who are given the freedom to use their sense of smell are more optimistic, content, and may even be calmer.

Sniffari versus traditional leash walking

How does a sniffari differ from traditional leash walks? Here’s a side-by-side comparison…

Dog leads you You lead dog
Purpose = explore the world Purpose = physical exercise
Wandering, meandering, roamingDirected and direct
Lots of starting and stoppingMore paced

Of course, leash walking and sniffaris are both things you can do with dogs that provide important physical and mental stimulation. And as long as your dog is healthy (and of course, you and your veterinarian know your dog best), both are beneficial activities for most doggos.

Dog with nose to ground taking a sniffari walk in a field, photo

Where can you take your dog on a sniffari?

A natural environment is a great space to take your dog on a sniffari. Depending on your dog and where you live, you may want to check out:

Dog sniffing sea grass on a sandy beach, photo

What you need for a sniffari

You don’t need any special accessories for a sniffy walk—just you, your dog, your dog’s leash, water to drink (for your dog and you), and a poopy sack or two. You also could use a 10′ long lead to allow your dog extra line for exploring.

Labrador Retriever on a sniffy walk with nose to ground, photo

How to take your dog on a “sniffari”

For the best sniffari experience:

  • Choose a location that isn’t crowded.
  • Keep your dog on leash.
  • Let your dog take the lead.
  • Walk at your dog’s pace and allow him or her time to stop and sniff for as long as it takes. Or let him or her follow (or track) a scent for as far as it leads (within reason, of course).
  • Adopt a mindset of curiosity and mindfulness. There’s no place you’d rather be than living in the moment with your doggo!
  • Keep your dog safe from potential dangers or even wildlife. (This is another reason why it’s important to keep your dog on leash! Safety first and happiness will follow!)
  • Pick a time of day when it’s not too hot or too cold.
  • A sniffari doesn’t have to be a long adventure. Even 10 minutes of sniffing will give your dog mental stimulation.

Of course, sniffaris are just one type of canine enrichment activity. You can mix things up and teach your dog many other nose work games for dogs that provide mental stimulation. You may also enjoy trying out other games to play with dogs.

Close up of a white dog's black nose, photo

Enjoy the journey

The best part of a sniffari? We think our doggos might say that the best part of a sniffari is getting to spend one-on-one time with their hoomans!

Thanks for stopping by Happy-Go-Doodle®. We hope you and your pupper make many joyful discoveries and have a “scentsational” time as you try out sniffari walks together. 🐾

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