One man and his dog

– used a GPS tracking system to prove how much more ground his pet covers while going on his walk.

Chester (the soggy Spaniel) wearing his GPS collar – Photo: Rod Kirkpatrick

Most dog owners know that going on walks and hikes with their best fur-buddy can be fabulous exercise for both dog owner and dog – especially if done twice a day.

Rod Kirkpatrick, 45, found however, that these benefits are doubled for our four-legged friends.  He found that they cover twice the distance as us humans simply because they explore their surroundings!

Rod saw his energetic 15-month-old springer spaniel regularly covered far more ground when going on walks.

In order to test quite how much distance Chester, the Springer Spaniel, was running, he fitted a GPS tracking device before a soggy, January walk on the Staffordshire moorlands.

Similarly, his eight-year-old daughter Freya, used a GPS app on her smart phone to accurately map and time the walk.

As soon as Chester was let off lead, he had splashed through a knee-deep bog and disappeared into a clump of heather.  He was out exploring!

“Dogs need to follow scents and sniff things, which is hard for humans to understand, but they need the chance to be dogs, to experience different terrain and textures and explore new things.”

– Louise Glazebrook

For the next hour, Chester ran in circles over heathland and around giant boulders, returning only when whistled.

On their return to the car, Freya’s GPS revealed that she and Roy had walked 4.2 miles (over 6.5 km).

The GPS that had plotted Chester’s “exploratory” path showed that he had run 8.8 miles (over 14 km) as he looped and zig-zagged around his owners through undergrowth and wild flora.

Chester’s trail vs his human’s trail.
Software produced maps of the human route (left) and dog route (right). Photo: Rod Kirkpatrick

Experts said the findings showed how important it was for dogs to explore varying and unfamiliar terrain and to be allowed off their leads.

Louise Glazebrook, an animal behaviourist and founder of the Darling Dog Company, said that dogs need constant stimulation.

“While it’s great to take them out, dogs do get bored being walked in the same park every day.
“They need to follow scents and sniff things, which is hard for humans to understand, but they need the chance to be dogs, to experience different terrain and textures and explore new things.”

The small video camera attached to Chester’s collar showed that he had splashed through 15 bogs, often stopping for a drink, occasionally stopping to sniff the skeleton of a sheep and to peer at the view through a hole in a dry stone wall.

Mr Kirkpatrick, who is from Ashbourne, Derbyshire, said: “We’ve always known that Chester walked so much further than us and wondered exactly what the difference might be. I actually expected it to be much more but perhaps he was having an off-day.
“He always charges off as fast as he possibly can and is fully out of breath by the end of any walk, whereas myself and Freya took a more leisurely pace.”

Caroline Kisko, Kennel Club Secretary, said: “Off lead exercise is extremely important for a dog’s general health and fitness, so we would encourage owners of well trained and socialised dogs to exercise their pets off lead at least once a day.

“Dogs, like humans, are far happier and content when they are being kept physically and mentally stimulated so it is important where possible to allow a dog to experience different environments when out and about.”

Chester covers twice the distance of his humans when going out for a walk

“It’s far more exciting for a dog to experience a range of sights and sounds and to explore the great outdoors, than to experience the same ones every day, but of course this may not be realistic for everyone, particularly those living in a town or city, which is why it is so important to do your research before getting a dog to ensure you find a breed or crossbreed that suits your lifestyle.”

Ms Glazebrook said there was no doubt that dogs walked further than their owners on walks, whether on or off a lead.

But she said the difference in distance very much depended on the breed and age of the dog and the location of the walk.

“Springer spaniels are bred to work in fields so they are here, there and everywhere and are one of the most energetic dogs. You would only have one as a pet if you were prepared to be active and take them for long walks.

“A French bulldog, for example, would stay much closer to their owner. Equally, Great Danes would take long strides and cover more ground while a pug would take far more paces.”

I am sure this article is true for many of our readers and their dogs.  Remember that you need to protect your dogs while they explore.  Maintain their joints (your pets are travelling much more than you after all), ensure their stomachs are strong (they are investigating) and keep them pest free!

Tell us about your travels and walks with your fur buddies.  We would love to hear your stories!

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