Sniffspot rentals offer benefits for dogs

Published: Sep. 29, 2022 at 9:36 PM CDT
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FAIRCHILD & TOWN OF WHEATON, Wis. (WEAU) - Private dog parks are gaining popularity for pet parents as a safe place to provide their dogs with physical and mental exercise.

Sniffspot started in Seattle in 2018 with community members renting out their yards and private land to dog owners. It can be especially beneficial for reactive dogs that don’t do well around other dogs.

WEAU’s Danielle Wagner visited two Sniffspots in western Wisconsin to find out how it works, and to learn about some of the benefits when dogs are allowed to sniff.

“It’s a company created by a guy in the Pacific Northwest, David Adams, who had a reactive dog who couldn’t go to dog parks, and he created it by going to knock on his neighbors’ doors and saying hey can I rent your backyard for an hour so my dog can get some enrichment,” said Michel Berner.

After hearing about Sniffspot from a friend in Seattle, Michel Berner’s land in rural Fairchild became the first designated Sniffspot outside of the Pacific Northwest.

“The entire fenced in area is 20 acres,” said Berner.

You can rent time at Berner’s land, which is the number one Sniffspot location in Wisconsin with more than 750 visits. You even have the option to rent a golf cart to help you keep up with your pooch. When it’s not rented out, the woods and the field are used by Berner’s dogs, including Spyder.

“Sniffspot is an incredible opportunity for your dog to get out and experience the world in a controlled way. When you rent my spot, you are the only one out here,” said Berner.

Being a private dog park is one of the biggest appeals for Sniffspot users like Shelley Janke and her two dogs - Charlie and Toby.

“We live in town, so it’s really nice to have a spot we can come out to. Let the dogs run. Get off some energy,” said Janke.

Janke brings her dogs to this 15-acre Sniffspot in the Town of Wheaton.

“I love that it’s just open in nature. You can just walk and be free. My dogs do really good off leash here, so it’s nice to be able to just let them roam and jump on you if they want to,” said Janke.

Wheaton Wild opened about a year ago after hosts Leslie Gustafson and her husband heard about Sniffspot in a puppy training class.

“When we got our puppy we were tiring her out physically, but then we found out by taking for a sniff walk, it helped engage her brain and helped tire her out without having to walk her a mile at a time all the time,” said Gustafson.

Here’s how Sniffspot works. You use the app to find locations available to rent near you. When you find a spot that fits your needs, you can reserve an available day and a time. The rates range in this area up to $15 per hour. There’s a 30-minute buffer before and after each appointment so you don’t run into other guests.

“Do I really want to pay for my dog to walk for an hour? But it’s so worth it when you think of the benefits,” said Janke.

“Even if your dogs don’t struggle in an urban setting - walking around other dogs, other people, kids on bikes, car - it just gives them an opportunity to relax and to be a dog, which I think is so crucial to a lot of dogs’ emotional wellness overall,” said Heather Mishefske.

Heather Mishefske is a Certified Canine Behavior Consultant, and the owner of emBARK in Eau Claire.

“There are a lot of dogs that don’t enjoy group settings, group play, dog parks. There’s a lot of dogs that struggle in an urban setting walking, so such a fabulous idea for dogs to get out and have their needs met, which is really important in a safe space,” said Mishefske.

She recommends Sniffspot to her clients as a form of enrichment for dogs that’s different from a public dog park.

“When dogs are allowed to do these natural smelling behaviors what happens is it almost has a cumulative calming effect,” she said.

Mishefske says even if your dog can’t be off leash, you can utilize a long leash and still get the benefits of Sniffspot. Benefits both Gustafson and Berner say they hear from their visitors.

“The most common thing we hear is OMG, I’ve never seen my dog so happy,” said Berner.

“There’s the comment that their dogs went home very tired, and I know a tired dog is a happy owner,” said Gustafson.

If you’re interested in becoming a Sniffspot host, you don’t need a lot of space, some people just rent out their backyards. Click HERE to learn more about becoming a host.

To learn more about the benefits of sniffing for dogs, click HERE.