Dogs learn a lot about their environment from sniffing, but even for dogs, there is such a thing as too much information. If your male dog’s constant sniffing of other males is causing you embarrassment, teach him some etiquette using gentle guidance and reward.
Put your dog on a leash and allow him to interact with other dogs. Make the leash loose enough that he can freely interact, while giving you the power to control his movement if necessary. The best place to do this is at the dog park, as there will plenty of new, intriguing scents for your dog to sniff. He is more likely to exhibit his male-on-male sniffing when meeting a new dog, rather than with a dog he shares a house with. This gives you more opportunity to study and correct his behavior.
Observe how your dog interacts with other dogs. For example, note whether he is always the sniff instigator or if he only does it when another dog sniffs him. Also, note what his body language is like before he takes a big whiff of that fascinating scent. He may slick back his ears or stoop his neck, for example. Knowing the gestures that come before a sniff will help you time your corrections perfectly.
Take your dog away from the other dogs and walk him by himself for five minutes. This timeout enables you to get your dog’s full attention.
Walk your dog back toward the other dogs, but as you do, issue regular verbal and physical praise. A combination of “good boy” and a few head rubs should do the trick. In doing this, you are enriching your dog’s environment. To your dog, this is a positive thing.
Let him approach other dogs until he finds an interesting-smelling male. Continue the praise for as long as he is polite to the other dogs. As soon as he sticks his snout where he shouldn’t, cease praising him and use the leash to gently guide him away. Ignore him as you do this and give him another timeout. During the timeout, don’t interact with your dog. He’ll notice that the positive stimulus he was enjoying has been removed. But he may not yet know why.
Walk him back toward another male dog and once again give verbal and physical praise. Continue to give praise until he begins sniffing the other dogs. Again, cease the praise and lead him away. With sufficient repetition, your dog will learn that when he performs the action of sniffing, the positive stimulus he was previously enjoying disappears. This is called negative punishment, a kind and effective means of discouraging unwanted behavior.
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