* All Sniffspot articles are reviewed by certified trainers for quality, please see bottom of article for details *
Does your dog like to herd you and your family, or perhaps your other pets? Dogs have been used to herd livestock for thousands of years, and herding is probably one of the oldest uses for domestic dogs. Many dogs have a strong herding instinct. Did you know there’s a sport for that?
What is herding for dogs?
Herding as a behavior is the act of trying to round up a group of animals (or people). Dogs will do this by running large circles around the group, and circling smaller as the group moves in the direction that the dog wants. Other behaviors include: staring down the animals or people, barking, and nipping at the heels. Some dog breeds do more of one behavior or another, such as eye contact or nipping. Learn more about your breed on the AKC page (Insert link to AKC page here)
But herding is also a sport! In the sport of herding, dogs perform the same behaviors to herd livestock (or in some cases, large balls), guided by their owner. You can do it competitively or just for fun. There are several ways to get involved in herding, which we’ll cover below.
Why does herding exist?
Herding as a sport exists because many dogs, especially breeds who were specifically bred for herding, have a strong herding instinct, including the Border Collie, Australian Cattle Dog, Belgian Malinois, , German Shepherd, Belgian Sheepdog, Tervuren, Australian Shepherd, Corgi and the McNab dog. This instinct likely does not get not used much in modern dog life, at least for dogs who live in urban or suburban areas. Herding allows the dog to use this instinct in a satisfying way.
The benefits of herding
Is herding right for me?
Herding might be right for you if you have a dog with a lot of energy, a strong prey drive, and herding instincts. (You’ll know if your dog has herding instincts if they try to “herd” you or your family members, especially small children!) The herding behavior can display itself in a variety of ways. Dogs might try to herd people by physically moving them with their body, by staring them down, or nipping at their heels. It also might be right for you if you’re simply looking for a fun and challenging new activity to try with your dog!
*Some breeds are built for herding: There’s an entire class of dogs called the Herding Group! Dog breeds in the Herding Group, according to the American Kennel Club (AKC), share an instinct to herd other animals. These breeds were specifically developed to herd and protect livestock. Herding Group breeds include the Border Collie, the Australian Cattle Dog, the Belgian Malinois, the Border Collie, the German Shepherd, the McNab dog, and many more. The AKC has a comprehensive list of breeds in the Herding Group.
Different kinds of herding
There are lots of different things your dog can herd. Typical herding subjects include:
How to get started herding
Spectating: Spectating at a herding event is a fun and unique way to spend a day, and it can give you an idea of whether you’d like to try it yourself. There are a few different resources to find herding events (also called “trials”) near you:
You can also try looking for herding Facebook groups that are specific to your area, or checking sites like MeetUp for herding events. A simple Google search for “dog herding (your city)” will also do the trick!
Participating: Each herding club or association has a different set of rules and regulations for participating dogs. You will most likely have to request a rulebook, and your dog will have to pass a set of tests. The AKC, which has its own herding program, requires participants to obtain their book of regulations and to have prior training and exposure to livestock before they can participate in the program.
Each program will have different rules and may require a different level of training or prior exposure to livestock. You will have to check the rules of the specific program you choose. Besides the AKC, the biggest herding programs in the United States are the ones referenced in the “spectating” paragraph:
If you want to participate in a trial of a club of your choice, make sure you know their rules before you begin training your dog. While there are plenty of general guides for training your dog to herd, you will need to know what kind of tests your dog will need to pass, and what specific tasks they will be performing in the trial, before you begin your training.
If you live in an urban area: Treibball is a great option for city dwellers. It can be done inside or outside (although you still need a fair amount of space—don’t try it in your apartment). Some dog agility training centers have indoor or outdoor treibball options that can be lots of fun for your dog. Check out the American Treibball Association for more information.
You can also try a DIY version of herding at a Sniffspot! Again, Treibball is the best option for this (as you probably don’t want to cart around a bunch of ducks or livestock for your dog to herd). You’ll need to choose a pretty spacious Sniffspot, and bring your own balls for your dog to play with. Here’s a guide to getting started. All you need is a good-sized Sniffspot, and a willing dog!
Certified Trainer Review of this Article
There is so much misinformation out there, we want to make sure we only provide the highest quality information to our community. We have all of our articles reviewed by certified, positive-only trainers.
This is the certified trainer that reviewed this article:
Olivia Peterson, CCS
Owner - Sound Connection Dog Training
WSU Bachelors in Animal Science Business Management
Northwest School of Canine Studies (NWSCS) Certification
Every dog is a unique and wonderful creature, but they all have something in common: They need to exercise. No matter what breed or how old your dog is, exercise is a vital part of keeping them healthy and happy. If you're bored with long, leashed walks or just looking for unique ways to help your furbaby let out their seemingly boundless energy, look no further. We've compiled a list of 10 unconventionalâbut totally effective and, most importantly, fun - ways to exercise your pup.
1. Dog Agility Courses
What is agility: Think of agility training as dog obstacle courses. You've probably seen these before - the dog show-esque setups where a trainer guides a precision-focused dog through various obstacles. Dog agility courses can include poles to weave, hoops to jump through, and mini hurdles to clear. You may have seen this in actual American Kennel Club (AKC) dog shows too - itâs part of the organization's competition.
Why is it good for your dog: In addition to being a great form of exercise, the American Kennel Club notes that agility courses can help dogs master self-control and even overcome anxiety. According to Arlene Spooner, an AKC Executive Agility Field Representative, participating in agility training benefits dogs in a number of ways.
"For the dogs, there's the exercise, the social aspect, and the feeling of having a job or a purpose," she says. "And working with their person (rather than just fetching a thrown ball) builds teamwork, trust, a deeper level of communication, and a stronger bond."
How can you get into it: You can set them up in a gym using professional equipment like you see on Instagram, but you can also set them up in your backyard using things you have around the house. One of the great things about agility training is how customizable it is.
And, if you want to get into agility training but don't have the space or the equipment to get started, you can check out Sniffspot and search for hosts with agility equipment available for use. Just go to app.sniffspot.com/listings and select "Agility" in the filter to see spots that have agility equipment. You can also search for agility courses and equipment available to access or rent for a fee in your area.
2. Dog Swimming
What is dog swimming: This one isn't a trick question. Dog swimming is a lot like people swimming, but with dogs. Dog swimming is, of course, much cuter than human swimming though.
Why it's good for your dog: Swimming is a great form of exercise for any dog, but can be especially beneficial for older dogs, overweight dogs, and dogs with injuries or other physical issues, like hip dysplasia and arthritis. Just like it is for people, swimming is a form of exercise that can be easier on dogs' joints than land-based fitness options.
Be cautious though, especially when your pup is starting out with swimming. While some dogs are natural swimmers and taken quickly to the water, others won't know how to swim on their own and might be scared of the pool at first. Be patient and always put your pup's safety first. If your furbaby isn't a natural swimmer, take the time to teach them to swim or work with a qualified trainer to help them get comfortable in the water.
How you can get into it: Most public pools have rules against dogs swimming, but you can search for dog pools (also sometimes called "canine aquatic centers") near you to find pet-friendly pools in your area. You can also find Sniffspots with water features by going to app.sniffspot.com/listings and selecting "Water" on the filter tab.
3. Dog Hiking
What is dog hiking: Hiking with dogs is a lot like regular hiking - but roughly a thousand percent more fun. It might seem like this is essentially a fancy way of saying you're going to take your dog on a walk, but it really isn't!
Why it's good for your dog: Not only does hiking involve a variety of terrain and elevations that challenge your dog and increase the exercise they're getting during their walk time, it also gets them out of their comfort zone and lands them smack in the middle of a new, wonderful world of smells, which stimulates their minds as well as their noses.
Dog-friendly hikes are also a great way to meet other pet parents and find pals for puppy playdates.
How you can get into it: Search for dog-friendly hiking trails in your area - AllTrails is a great resource for finding good options all over the country thanks to its dog-friendly search filter. You can also consider checking sites like Facebook and Meetup to look for groups of other dog parents looking to hike with pups. The barrier to entry is low though - once you find a place you and your furbaby want to hike, you can get started right away.
4. Puppy Playdates
What is a puppy playdate: Puppy playdates aren't just adorably meet-cutes for your doggo and their furry friends, they're also a great opportunity for exercise.
Before you set your dog and their furry playmate loose, make sure they have a chance to get used to each other, especially if it's their first time hanging out. Just like people, dogs have different personalities and sometimes they clash or just need a little time to warm up to each other. Check out our handy guide for tips on introducing dogs here.
Why it's good for your dog: Anyone who's seen dogs at play knows what a workout the whole ordeal is (it's easy to get tired just watching them go). With a playdate, however, your dog doesn't just get to exercise their body, they also get to exercise their social skills, which is hugely important for pack animals.
How you can get into it: To get the most out of a puppy playdate, find a place to meet up that allows for off-leash play (if you live in an apartment or donât have a safe, fenced-in yard, this is a great time to put Sniffspot to good use). Off-leash play isn't just great for exercise, it also benefits your dog's mental health and is a great opportunity to build trust with your pup.
5. Dog Cycling
What is dog cycling: Obviously, dogs can't ride bikes, but they can accompany their human parents for a ride. Dog cycling is when a human ride a bicycle and their pup trots alongside them as they ride.
Why it's good for your dog: Dogs love to run. In fact, running probably tops your dog's list of "favorite workouts." If you don't have access to wide open, safe spaces for your doggo to run full speed through, however, there's a good chance your pup never gets to really open up and run as fast as they can. Even running or jogging with a human holds most dogs back when it comes to running. But, put the human on a bicycle and suddenly the playing field is a little more even.
How you can get into it: This is one that takes a little pre-planning.. Before you hit the bike path with your dog in tow, make sure you've taken the time to train your dog to run alongside a moving bicycle. If your dog isn't in running shape, you'll need to start by jogging and then running with your dog before you jump into cycling together.
Next, you'll need to make sure you have all the right gear to keep your dog safe during your dog biking adventure. PetMD recommends stocking up on the following before your first dog cycle:
6. Dancing with Your Dog
What is dancing with your dog: If you're a pet parent, then chances are, you've already engaged in a bit (or a lot) of dancing with your dog over the years. Not only is dancing with your dog insanely fun, it can be a great workout for both of you, too.
Why it's good for your dog: Not only does dancing provide a great workout, but since this is an activity you'll be doing together, your dance seshes will also be a great opportunity to bond.
How to get into it: Put on your favorite, upbeat tunes, and have fun with it. You can choreograph moves for yourself along with active tricks for your pup, or you can just go freestyle and encourage your dog to chase you around and "dance" along with you. If you get really into it, there are even lots of "canine freestyle" and other dog dance competitions all around the world. Look for local events or search through national organizations like the Canine Freestyle Federation for more information.
7. Dog Frisbee
What is dog frisbee: If your dog loves being outside and playing active games like fetch, you might want to try playing frisbee together as a great form of exercise. The rules of dog frisbee are pretty straight forward: The pet parent throws the frisbee, the dog runs their little heart out to catch and/or retrieve said frisbee. Then, of course, the dog returns the frisbee to their human parent so the fun can repeat.
Why it's good for your dog: Frisbee lets your dog combine several of their favorite active activities: running, catching, retrieving, and, of course, playing with you. It's also a great way to gameify your dog's training and reinforce behaviors like fetch and come.
How to get into it: Frisbee is, of course, a game that's best played off-leash (for obvious reasons), so it's another great opportunity to look for a Sniffspot in your area if there isn't a good off-leash park near you.
8. Plan Some Dog Nosework
What is nosework: Nosework (also known as scent work) turns one of your dog's favorite activities (sniffing) into an active game.
Why it's good for your dog: In addition to keeping pups active, nosework can increase confidence in anxious dogs and can be a great supplement to other activities, like agility courses, because it can help dogs increase their focus and attention.
How to get into it: According to the AKC, nosework or scent work is played by asking a dog to locate a hidden cotton swab scented with essential oil. Dogs who play nosework games tend to become fully immersed and engaged in the game, which means you can encourage activity by hiding the cotton swab in new and increasingly challenging places or by hiding a series of swabs to keep the game going.
9. Go on a Dog Sniffari
What is a Sniffari: Simply put, a Sniffari is an adventure led by your furbaby's nose.
Why it's good for your dog: These outings (also called "scent walks") are vitally important for your pup. Dogs have an estimated 200 million to one billion scent receptors compared to the measly six million humans have. On a practical level, this means that the dog's sense of smell is kind of like a human's sense of sight; it's their primary way of experiencing the world.
These walks improve a dog's confidence and stimulate their brains. Think of smells as being like books for dogs - really powering through a good smell will leave them as mentally spent as speed-reading a classic book would leave you.
How to get into it: Planning a Sniffari is easy, mostly because you don't have to do any planning at all. The beauty of this kind of adventure is that you're letting your dog (and their stellar sense of smell) lead the way. Take your dog on a walkâbe it of your neighborhood or a new, exciting area they've never been to - and instead of directing the walk yourself, give your dog permission to go sniff crazy and to follow the smells that grab their attention.
10. Resistance Dog Walking
What is resistance dog walking? If you want to increase the exercise your dog gets from a simple walk, look to nature to help you add a little resistance to the mix.
Why it's good for your dog: Resistance walking ups the benefit of a regular walk by increasing the cardio benefit for both you and your pup.
How to get into it: Getting into resistance walking with your dog is easy. All you need is an area that's difficult to walk through. Walking your dog through snow, sand, shallow water, or even a layer of fallen leaves can add natural resistance to the walk.
In the end, there's no wrong way to exercise your dog. The important thing is that your dog gets the time they need to be active so they can stay healthyâphysically, mentally, and emotionally.
Trainer Review of this Article
There is so much misinformation out there, we want to make sure we only provide the highest quality information to our community. We have all of our articles reviewed by qualified, positive-only trainers.
These is the trainer that reviewed this article:
Owner - Dog's Day Out, Ballard, WA
Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA)
Licensed AKC CGC Evaluator
NW Coordinator, Doggone Safe
Sniffspot launches website and mobile app to provide private land for reactive dog exercise and enrichment
SEATTLE, October 17, 2018 – Sniffspot, the marketplace that provides private land for reactive dog exercise and enrichment, has announced the release of their website and mobile apps on iOS and Android. Through this website and app, reactive dog owners can find the ultimate solution for exercise and fun for their dogs.
“Dog ownership is becoming more urban, but it’s really hard to own a reactive dog in a city,” said Sniffspot founder David Adams. “Exercise is one of the hardest things. Most folks take dog exercise in the city for granted, but it’s really hard to find a place to exercise a reactive dog. Sniffspot provides any easy way to find and visit private off leash areas that are safe, clean and fun for dogs to exercise.”
75% of dog owners report that their dog has some reactivity with 22% reporting that their dog is always or usually reactive. Some experts believe that reactivity is growing especially in urban dogs, who need to contend with constant invasive stimuli. Despite the prevalence of reactivity, reactive dog owners are often made to feel alone and there is a dearth of reliable support options for them.
Having a safe area to play and sniff is essential to having a healthy dog. Research shows that dogs get up to 3x better exercise off leash than on leash. First, off leash dogs can run and play, which, similar to humans jogging, burns more calories for them. Second, and more importantly, sniffing new areas is an important part of a dog’s mental exercise and reduces overall anxiety and hyperactivity.
Public dog parks are core parts of city infrastructure, but their free and open nature can also be a limitation. These spots are not private, so they are not an option for reactive dogs. There is no screening of dogs entering these spots to ensure they are vaccinated and free of parasites. There are no enforced requirements for owners to closely supervise their dogs, which can result in dog altercations, dog injury and has even resulted in dog fatalities. There have also been cases of contamination, where dog feces, diseases or other poisons make dogs visiting these public dog parks sick.
Sniffspot partners with local land- and homeowners in the Seattle area and across the US to provide safe and fun private play areas for dogs. Options vary from the rolling hills in our fully fenced, five-acre Country Pasture Getaway to the 175 acre PaJo Ranch in Monroe, WA. There are also many fully fenced yards inside Seattle itself. Sniffspot especially caters to reactive dog owners, whose dogs are often fearful and hence need private spaces to play. Each sniff spot listing provides information on fencing, privacy and our reviews include a section focused on whether the sniff spot would work well for reactive dogs. In addition, hosts can certify whether they have experience with reactive dogs.
As of today, these “sniff spots” are now all easily accessible through a website and mobile apps on iOS and Android. The website and apps include simple log in, detailed search filters including mapping, and booking in just three clicks. This update is one more step on the journey of Sniffspot working to make the world a more reactive dog friendly place.
Download our iOS app
Download our Android app
Browse our new web app
Many folks in the Sniffspot community are looking for more enrichment options for reactive pups. We did some research to find the most interesting enrichment options for reactive dogs by 1) asking reactive dog owners in the area, and 2) asking some local trainers for input to make sure these are the highest quality options for you (see the end of the article for more information on the trainers that reviewed this article).
For those of you not familiar with canine enrichment, enrichment is about providing activities for dogs that stimulates their brains and their bodies. By enriching your dog, you can make them happier and healthier. Specifically for reactive dogs, enrichment can help them with focusing on positive stimuli rather than negative stimuli, and reduce reactivity.
We recommend some local options for getting started with these, but you don’t need to take classes or work with a trainer to get started. You can also get great resources online, for instance, the Canine Enrichment Facebook Group.
1. Try truffle hunting
This may seem strange to you, but truffle hunting is actually a popular outlet for reactive dogs because of the concentration required, game aspect and being alone in the woods! Kristin Rosenbach at Wagnificent K9 is a good resource in the Seattle area for this!
2. Recycle things into dog toys
You can really do anything you can imagine here. We recommend empty cardboard milk cartons with peanut butter for an easy everyday option, but use your imagination. Make sure it is safe and there are no pieces that could tear off and cause issues if swallowed. Here are some more ideas.
3. Try nosework
Nosework is a sport where dogs need to find a hidden object using smell and alert their handler. It’s popular for reactive dogs because it is generally solo and it teaches concentration. A local trainer we recommend for this is Erica Wells at Dogs Day Out.
4. Try out a snuffle mat
A snuffle mat is a mat with rows of fleece strips where treats can be hidden for the dogs to find over time. Reactive dog owners are raving about how much their dogs love them! You can find these to order on many online outlets.
5. Give them a sandbox to dig in
Some dogs love digging, but most dogs don’t get to do it very often. Give them free rein to dig to their heart’s content by creating a sandbox for them. You need the yard space to cordon off a small area for the sandbox. Or you can visit one of our wooded or farm sniff spots, like Dormant Logging Land, to let your dog dig all they want.
6. Take your pup swimming
Swimming is an amazing way for dogs to find a new way to exercise and explore. Give them time to get used to the water and get comfortable. Make sure to always swim in a safe area and use a doggie life preserver if appropriate. Check out some of our most popular sniff spots for areas to swim, like Pajo Ranch.
7. Have fun with a flirt pole
Flirt poles are like fishing poles for dogs, except instead of a hook at the end, there is a dog toy. They’re great for teaching self-control to dogs that have a hard time focusing, because they allow you to control the toy. And they are just a lot of fun to give your pup a work out. You can read more about them here.
8. Try sheep herding
Ever wondered whether your dog would be good at herding? Well, you can now find out! Many of the highest energy dog breeds actually have a history in herding and this can be a very productive way to get their energy out. In fact, many herding breeds tend to be more reactive than other breeds. You can try herding out with your pup at Fido’s Farm, located just south of Olympia.
9. Try canine parkour
This is a great activity for reactive dogs in urban environments. Parkour can help to focus pups on their activity, so they are less focused on scary things in their surroundings. You can read more about parkour here. We also have sniff spots with parkour equipment, like Puppy Parkour in Montlake Terrace.
Of course, our local sniff spots also offer myriad opportunities for enrichment for your pup. Check them out here!
Trainers that reviewed this article
There is so much misinformation out there, we want to make sure we only provide the highest quality information to our community. We have all of our articles reviewed by qualified, positive-only trainers. The trainers that review our content are reviewed by other trainers to ensure that we have the best quality filters on our content.
These are the trainers that reviewed this article:
Lori Stevens (CPBC, CPDT-KA, CCFT, SAMP) is an animal behavior consultant, a professional dog trainer, a canine fitness trainer, an animal massage practitioner, and a senior Tellington TTouch® Training practitioner. She continually studies the interactions among animal behavior, movement, learning, fitness, and health. She uses intimidation-free, scientific, and innovative methods, in an educational environment, to improve the health, behavior, performance, and fitness of animals. Lori's most recent of three DVDs By Tawzer Dog Videos is co-presented with Kathy Sdao and called 'The Gift of a Gray Muzzle: Active Care for Senior Dogs' --it focuses on improving the life of our aging dogs. Lori gives workshops worldwide and has a private practice in Seattle, WA. She also teaches online classes at Fenzi Dog Sports Academy.
Lori gets joy from helping others help their dogs whether for competition or daily life. She enjoys hiking, training, and playing with Cassie, her Australian Shepherd.
Read more about Lori Stevens at SeattleTTouch.com
Eric Sueltenfuss is a Certified Canine Specialist through the Northwest School of Canine Studies. He is dedicated to furthering his knowledge through continuing education courses and trainings. He has studied animal learning theory and a broad range of science-based training techniques and practical applications.
Bridge The Bark is part of a community of Force-Free practitioners, dedicated to changing the world of canine training.
Read more about Eric here.
By: Danette Johnston
Owner - Dog's Day Out, Ballard, WA
Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA)
Licensed AKC CGC Evaluator
NW Coordinator, Doggone Safe
When I opened a dog day care 19 years ago, I did so because I had been working a shelter and noticed that the majority of the dogs in the shelter were there because they were not getting enough stimulation, both physical and mental. I thought a dog coming to day care five days a week would be swell. “A tired dog is a well behaved dog” right? Well, what I found in reality is that five days a week of day care is actually quite stressful for a dog, and an over-tired dog is not relaxed, but stressed.
I believe the worst part of a dog attending day care everyday was that the dog was not doing OTHER things or going other places. Unfortunately, we (myself and the dog’s guardians) thought we were doing the best thing for the dog by having them active five days a week but what really happened is that the guardians did not do other things with the dog or take him other places because he was so “tired” from day care. So, the dog ended up “well-socialized” in the day care setting but not at all
comfortable in new circumstances. In fact, now we do not allow dogs to come to my day care everyday and recommend maybe 2-3 days of day care with alternating days going elsewhere doing walks and various indoor and outdoor activities (off leash, tricks, games, nose work etc.).
What changed? I blame scientific research! People started studying dog’s brains in more depth. Studies started around the world including, in the United States, with
Dr. Gregory Berns doing a MRI on an awake dog at Emory University in 2012 and Brian Hare working on Dognition at Duke University. In Hungary, the Family Dog
Project continues to study our pet dogs’ brains and behaviors. We were and are, getting much more information on the canine brain.
So what do we know now? Respect The Nose! We now know a dog’s walk is much more about his nose than about his legs and lungs and that, for some dogs, 10 minutes of mental enrichment can be the equivalent of 30 minutes of physical activity.
What can you do to enrich your dog’s life?