A 'Good' Dog Walk Measured in Sniffs Not Steps
For your dog, regardless of their age or breed, their walks are opportunities for mental stimulation and a chance to express all of their natural instincts - their chance to be a dog and do dog things. It doesn't take too many times walking a dog to realize that more things happen on a walk than just walking. That's because there are so many great benefits to the dog when they go out for a walk beyond just getting some exercise. Specifically, think about all the times you stop to let your dog sniff and pee.
Embrace 'Sniff and Explore' Time
I think it is fairly widely known that dogs have a pretty keen sense of smell. Why else would they be so eager to walk with their nose to the ground for what seems like 90% of the time! Ok, I admit that's a bit of an exaggeration, but unlike us humans dogs view the world much more through their nose and their sense of smell, then we do through our eyes and what we see, so their desire to have their nose to the ground (and every tree, post, pole, fire hydrant, sign) is understandable. In fact, a dog's sense of smell is at least 10 000 times more powerful than ours due to the millions more scent receptors that they have in their noses as well as having a large part of their brains dedicated to analyzing smells. So, with this in mind, while out on a walk allowing your dog the time to sniff their surroundings not only prevents frustration and boredom, the enriching experience provides important mental stimulation/exercise which can be just as exhausting as how many steps they take.
Allow Dogs Plenty of Time to Go to the Bathroom
For your dog, going to the bathroom (pee or poop) is more than just finding a bare patch of grass, it is also about communicating with the other dogs in the neighbourhood. You might have heard the term 'pee-mail' used to describe the information that dogs can learn from smelling each other's pee. You could view it as social media for dogs because when dogs are sniffing other dogs' pee they can determine things like the sex, age, health and even the types of food that other dogs in the neighbourhood have eaten. When they choose to pee, well they are deciding to add their own 'contribution' to the conversation or local gossip in the neighbourhood. When you see your dog scratching at the ground with their paws, that can be another way of emphasizing their message. All of this sniffing, scratching and interpreting information that they are picking up takes concentration and energy, all great things to be happening on a walk.
So even though you may think a measure of a good walk is how many kilometers or steps were covered, for your dog they have a much different measure of a 'good walk', probably measured in the amount of time spent sniffing and the amount of pee spread around the neighbourhood!
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