The Real Reason Your Dog Loves Going On a Walk
Is your dog a runner, a sniffer, or a greeter?
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Being overjoyed about going for a walk is almost universal among dogs. If you reach for their leash, lace up your shoes or do anything that suggests even the remote possibility that you are going for a walk, your dog is probably thrilled.
But did you know that dogs love walks for different reasons? Though many dogs like everything about a walk, there are at least three categories of dogs, based on what they most love about their outings.
Some dogs are runners. What they want out of the walk is exercise, so they want to be moving, preferably as fast as possible. These are the dogs who need their daily (or twice daily or all day) activity. They often pull on the leash at first, but once they get into a rhythm, burn off some energy and released some endorphins, they settle down a bit. They still want to run or trot, but they are more flexible about whatever pace you choose.
It’s rare to find a dog who has no interest in sniffing on their walks, but for many of them, it is their top priority from start to finish. They have their nose to the ground much of the walk, suddenly getting incredibly interested in stretches of grass that look to us, olfactory-challenged humans like every other stretch of grass. These dogs seek mental stimulation on walks, and their minds are stimulated by the smells that are here! And there! And everywhere!
There are some dogs whose main purpose on walks is to meet-and-greet. These are the social butterfly, table-hopper types who simply want to say hello to other dogs, to people or even to the occasional cat. These greeters love to connect with others and may even be disappointed if there aren’t a ton of people or other animals around. Related to the social dogs are the dogs whose purpose is marking their territory and patrolling the area. These dogs, like other social dogs, are highly interested in who is (and has been)out and about.
Many dogs are a combination of these traits. They love to run, sniff, and say hello. But as a their parent, you probably know your dog well enough to understand which activity is most important to them. Happy trails!
Karen B. London, PhD
Karen B. London, Ph.D., is a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist and Certified Professional Dog Trainer who specializes in working with dogs with serious behavioral issues, including aggression. She writes the animal column for the Arizona Daily Sun and is an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Northern Arizona University. She is the author of six books about canine training and behavior, including her most recent, Treat Everyone Like a Dog: How a Dog Trainer’s World View Can Improve Your Life.