Shoshana grew up as the child of two dog trainers. When the time came to bring a dog into her adult life, she was excited about the opportunity to raise a puppy of her own! She did her research and settled on a Shiloh shepherd: a breed with German shepherd and malamute ancestry selected for a gentle nature. (“I loved the idea of a large, fluffy dog who didn’t drool,” she said.)
Her new best friend Griffin fit the bill perfectly.
He was everything Shoshana wanted and on track to be a highly socialized companion. By the time he was one year old, he’d already attended multiple training classes, won a bundle of conformation show ribbons, and was on his way to earning his Canine Good Citizen title — but an attack by two off-leash dogs in an on-leash area shook everyone’s confidence.
Griffin wasn’t all that bold from the beginning (as a young dog he spent some of his puppy classes hiding from the other attendees underneath the counter) but his attack tipped the scale clearly towards anxiety. He and Shoshana were taking an on-leash walk through a public park when two unknown dogs approached without warning.
While the large shepherd didn’t suffer lasting physical effects from the confrontation, he became wary of unfamiliar dogs and struggled to relax in public environments. “I could watch him tense up seeing a person and then relax when he realized they didn’t have a dog with them,” Shoshana said.
When the two started working with a trainer to heal Griffin’s anxiety, she recommended Sniffspot as a way to continue safely exploring new places and having novel experiences. Since then, it’s become a regular part of their weekly routine!
When visiting a Sniffspot, Griffin isn’t fixated on the environment. He’s able to relax in a secure, private space — and the neutral locations make the perfect opportunity to hang out with other dogs that Shoshana trusts! (As long as he feels safe, Griffin will still play with low-key friends even after being attacked.)
Sniffspots also give the Shiloh shepherd plenty of calm, uneventful exposure to new things. He’s gotten to meet livestock and horses who are completely unbothered by his presence, which allows him to settle in and be neutral to theirs as well.
Shoshana shared one favorite story about Griffin happily bouncing after some quacking ducks at one particular Sniffspot’s pond. He enjoys the water and listening to the world around him. “I think a pig would be his perfect creature,” Shoshana said about Griffin’s affinity for other animals and their strange sounds. “I’d love for him to meet one someday.”
Shoshana also appreciates the “absolute kindness” of the Sniffspot site owners. “They’re so considerate,” she said, talking about the ways they make sure Griffin has a great experience. It’s wonderful to connect with such an understanding, caring dog community.
Beyond weekly Sniffspot visits, Shoshana and Griffin share relaxed regular walks (they drive to a peaceful spot nearby) and plenty of couch snuggles. The huge shepherd also loves to lounge in the garage — with the door mostly closed, he can relax in a cool, safe space to just watch the world go by.
At times Shoshana’s journey with Griffin has been difficult: She’d grown up with a dog-aggressive dog as a child and tried so hard to do everything right for her new puppy only to have the actions of someone else deeply affect his development.
But working through her shepherd’s anxiety has also been a valuable learning experience.
Shoshana now thinks more deeply about the way other dog owners see the world. Instead of being angry, she tries to empathize and understand they might not realize the impact their pets could have in a public space.
When it comes to life with Griffin, she’s moved from thinking about what he can handle or tolerate to considering what really helps him thrive. “I want him to be happy,” she said, “to do things because he enjoys them.” While he was able to complete his Canine Good Citizen title despite his bad experience, it wasn’t a relaxed accomplishment. In contrast, Sniffspot adventures are what bring him joy.
It’s been two and a half years since Griffin was attacked, and life is wonderful — he has dog friends he can play with in safe spaces, gets regular opportunities to decompress, and always makes Shoshana laugh when he rests his chin on the table (he really is that tall).
Sniffspot is a community marketplace that enables anyone to rent land by-the-hour as a safe and private dog park.
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