FAIRCHILD & TOWN OF WHEATON, Wis. (WEAU) – Private dog parks are growing in popularity with pet owners 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. This can be especially beneficial for reactive dogs that don’t get along well with other dogs.
WEAU’s Danielle Wagner visited two Sniffspots in western Wisconsin to find out how it works and to learn more about some of the benefits when dogs are allowed to sniff.
“It’s a company started by a guy from the Pacific Northwest, David Adams, who had a reactive dog that couldn’t go to dog parks, and he started it by going knocking on the door of his neighbors and saying hey can I rent your garden for an hour so my dog can get rich,” 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 area is 20 acres,” Berner said.
You can rent time at Berner’s land, which is Wisconsin’s premier Sniffspot site with over 750 visits. You even have the option of renting a golf cart to help you track your pooch. When not rented, the woods and field are used by Berner’s dogs, including Spyder.
“Sniffspot is an amazing opportunity for your dog to get outside and experience the world in a controlled way. When you rent my place, you’re the only one here,” Berner said.
Being a private dog park is one of the biggest draws for Sniffspot users like Shelley Janke and her two dogs – Charlie and Toby.
“We live in the city, so it’s really nice to have a place where we can hang out. Let the dogs run. Release some energy,” Janke said.
Janke takes her dogs to this 15-acre Sniffspot in the town of Wheaton.
“I like that it’s just open in nature. You can just walk and be free. My dogs do really well here, so it’s nice to be able to let them roam and jump on you if they want to,” Janke said.
Wheaton Wild opened about a year ago after hosts Leslie Gustafson and her husband heard about Sniffspot at a puppy training class.
“When we got our pup, we were physically tiring her, but then we found that taking a sniff walk helped engage her brain and wear her out without having to walk her a mile at a time while time,” Gustavson said.
Here’s how Sniffspot works. You use the app to find locations available for rental near you. When you find a location that suits your needs, you can reserve an available day and time. Rates vary in this area up to $15 per hour. There is 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 definitely worth it when you think about the benefits,” Janke said.
“Even if your dogs aren’t struggling in an urban environment – walking with other dogs, other people, kids on bikes, in cars – it just gives them a chance to relax and be a dog, which I think is so crucial to the emotional well-being of many dogs,” said Heather Mishefske.
Heather Mishefske is a Certified Canine Behavior Consultant and owner of emBARK in Eau Claire.
“There are a lot of dogs that don’t like group environments, group play, dog parks. There are a lot of dogs that struggle to walk in urban settings, so it’s a fabulous idea for dogs to get outside and tend to their needs, which is really important in a safe space,” Mishefske said.
She recommends Sniffspot to her clients as a different form of dog enrichment than a public dog park.
“When dogs are allowed to engage in these natural scent behaviors, it almost has a cumulative calming effect,” she said.
Mishefske says that while your dog can’t be off-leash, you can use a long leash and still get the benefits of Sniffspot. Benefits 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,” Berner said.
“There’s the comment that their dogs came home very tired, and I know a tired dog is a happy owner,” Gustafson said.
If you want to become a Sniffspot host, you don’t need a lot of space, some people just rent their backyards. Click HERE to learn more about becoming a host.
To learn more about the benefits of the sniffer for dogs, click HERE.
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