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Dogs V's Humans - Do they cover more distance than us?

Updated on February 22, 2012


Being a keen dog walker I can often be seen wondering the local fields and pathways with my beautiful Dobermann Lexx. Sometimes we take several small walks a day and sometimes we will take a couple of good long ones but I always make sure he gets a minimum of 2 hours a day exercise.

Now the beauty of where we live is there are plenty of places where it is safe to run the boy off the lead and let him really stretch his legs. As I trudge along through the mud he races along like a mad thing stopping regularly for a sniff or to pee up something and then tearing off again.

Most days we meet up with other like minded people and their dogs and as us humans set the world to rights the canine fraternity will enjoy each others company, often bursting into spontaneous wrestling matches or running competitions which would embarrass even the best olympic athletes.

Now, over the years several of our walking buddies have raised the question whilst watching our furry friends racing around "I wonder how much more ground they cover on a walk than us?". This question prompting several answers - "Must be more than twice what we do!", or "I bet they cover three times as much ground as us!", among others.

Purely out of interest I decided to find out! How? Well that's what I thought. However, I soon came up with an idea - Both my partner and I had recently been testing an app on our mobiles, my partner on her Iphone and myself on my android based Galaxy S2.

The app is called Endemondo Sports Tracker and is a GPS based system which uses your smart phones GPS signal to track your exercise whether you are walking, hiking, cycling, skiing or one of many many more outdoor activities. Before setting off you set the activity you will be doing and a few other things if you wish such as your weight etc. and hit START. As you continue along your way all the GPS data is recorded showing you your distance, average speed, location and route undertaken on a map and many more things which I'll not go into in detail but all the info collected is viewable on your device and on the endemondo website.

We have found this app to be of great use in realising how far we are walking each week and my partner uses it for the purposes of monitoring her exercise for a charity fund raising event they are completing, the aim of which is for her team at work to conglomorately record their measurable physical activities, to achieve a combined goal of 5.5million meters ie. the distance from London to New York.

So, all well and good then! I can and have already been recording the distance I travel whilst exercising the boy. But the boy, clever as he is, has not evolved enough to go down the local phone shop and purchase himself a smart phone. Hmmm. do I dare ask if I can borrow my partners spare android phone so I can somehow strap it on the dog and let him burst around the local fields in the mud and rain? Of course I do - He who dares wins right?

In fact, my other half thought this would be an interesting project and no doubt knew that if she said no I would most likely go into a mood for the rest of the day, so after a bit of reassurance that I would find a way to securely fit it to the boy she said yes. in a short while I had added the endemondo app to this phone and registered it to the boy - including setting up a facebook account to log in from (LEXX ROBERTS if you're interested in speaking to him - he's a quiet sort though and not much good on a keyboard). Well, were now ready to go with the app tested and boy ready for a walk, so I just need to find a way to secure a HTC smart phone the the Dobe!

The Phone
The Phone
Going in the harness
Going in the harness
All fitted to the boy and ready to go
All fitted to the boy and ready to go

Connecting the device to the dog

The boy is a very well behaved dog but does have a couple of small faults, namely he puls like a steam train on the lead when going out for a walk. Over the years we have tried various gadgets and training techniques to combat this behaviour and have settled on one - the Halti Harness. I'll not go into detail about the harness itself but my brain quickly started clunking over in a bid to compute how I may use this device to securely attach a phone. The harness itself has a kind of double mesh chest area which I thought was about the same size as my partners phone - to my delight it was. So, ever so carefully, I cut along the mesh on one side of the chest piece to make a handy phone sized pocked -DOH!!!!!! I only managed to hold it upside down and cut the slit to the pocket in the bottom! Oh well, I thought must push on and find a resolution. As we often run the boy in the pitch black a fluorescent velcro band with flashing led's is often secured around the chest piece so we can see where he is. This, I thought, would now have a second use of holding the phone in place, so you can imagine my pleasure when after wrapping the phone in a plastic bag and slotting it into the new pocket on the harness it stretched around with a beautifully snug fit.

First trial

So, off we headed on a nice little walk through the local field, up to St Leonards church, off through another muddy field, through some woods, up a farm track, through another couple of fields and home = about 3 miles in all. I had set off the tracking app on us both before leaving and was looking forward to getting home and looking at the results when something struck me - Endemondo gives little pep talks every mile to let you know your current distance and time taken to achieve it. Suddenly I realised the dogs phone had spoken some time ago but mine hadn't! Bugger i'd forgotten to turn on the GPS on my phone! A few choice expletives that thankfully only me, the boy and the birds could hear and I set about rectifying things and after having wasted the first 1.47 miles (at least as far as data collection was concerned) we were again on our way. By the time I got home I had picked the boys phone up off the ground once and re-tightened things several hundred times but was confident I now had some data and maps to analyse so was quite pleased. Initial comparisons weren't a surprise really but I'll explain why in a bit.

I had covered (for the rcorded part of our trip anyway) 1.56 miles at an average speed of 2.23 mph whilst the boy did 1.66 miles at an average speed of 2.31 mph.

The maps below show the GPS data of where we went - I'm the Blue trail and the boy is the red trail...

(Please click to expand the image)

Maps of mine and the boys walk overlaid
Maps of mine and the boys walk overlaid

I say the above didn't surprise me, why? well, because the particular walk was a regular route we take following footpaths and trails - and strangely enough unless something draws him away from them my boy is a stickler for sticking to footpaths and trails even in large wide open spaces. There's a couple of places where you can see on the map that he does have a little deviation - to chase a couple of birds if my memory serves me correctly - but apart from that he pretty much took exactly the same route as myself only notching up 1 tenth of a mile more. what is a little more interesting if you look at the graphs below....

My graph
My graph
Lexx's graph
Lexx's graph that whilst I maintain a relative regular and steady pace - stopping on occasion to roll a cigarette - the boys graph shows a much more spurious trend often accelerating then stopping. So has the myth that a dog gets more exercise on a walk than it's owner been blown out of the water? well no not really this is only the first experiment around a well rehearsed route. However the fact that the boy was sometimes running, sometimes stopped, sometimes in front of me and sometimes behind certainly offered the illusion that he was covering more ground than myself.

So what next?

I now need to gather some more info and look at different concepts of the walks we undertake - After all it's when were walking as groups that people make the kind of comments about their dogs covering more ground - perhaps then we need to add a few more hounds to the equation then or maybe take a virgin route where the boy may find something different and interesting to look at away from us?

BUT one type of walk I had to record data for was a night walk - I don't know about anyone reading this but come dusk the lad is on fire!!! his protective streak comes out and he has to let everyone in the fields know that he's about which includes barking like a mad man and disappearing into the darkness (remember the fluorescent band attached to his harness?) So come sundown there we were back in the fields as usual for this time of night, tracker on - this time secured in place with Gaffer tape - and off we set. At this time of night my partner and I will usually carry out a circuit of one particular grassy field whilst the boy entertains himself in the darkness so we are only in there for about 25-30 mins. Take a look at the map below you may be interested to see a slightly different pattern....

Again Lexx is the red trail and I am the blue trail - Click on the map to expand it.

A night walk shows a totally different pattern of behaviour
A night walk shows a totally different pattern of behaviour

... As you can see the lad often leaves us to - not quite sure why! I guess he may just be covering more ground to warn people he's about or maybe he catches more interesting scents at night. There are certainly foxes about after sundown in these fields and it's a well known fact that dogs in the wild tend to hunt at dusk. What is interesting is that now he has very little regard for pathways and trails and can be seen tearing accross open fields and even picking up his own recent trails as he crosses them, turning to go back down that route.

So what is the exact differation between our routes? how much more ground did the boy cover in this relatively short walk than us? Well, I managed a poultry 0.59 miles. And the boy? 1.76 miles! A staggering 1.17 miles or 76.5% more! More than twice the distance I covered.

And whats more, the graphs below show that although again my pace is fairly steady his is still very much all over the place and although his top speed on our previous walk was just 6 mph this time he reached 20mph - I know he can beat this as I have paced him in the car at about 30mph but this time was across a ploughed, wet muddy field which I find pretty damned fast!

My Graph
My Graph
Lexx's Graph
Lexx's Graph

So although I look forward to to completing more runs under different conditions it seems at this moment in time that owners that think their dogs get much more exercise on a walk then them may indeed be correct, however many factors will influence this - age, health and breed of dog, location, other dogs to name but a few.

So have you learned anything from this Hub? Probably not but I enjoyed researching and writing it and will hopefully have some more data to add at sometime in the near future.

Thanks for reading

Doberdog (Brendan Roberts)


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