Observing Dog Behaviour & Reasons for Some Common Practices in the Clinic
23 May 2020
by Margaret Kraeling, PT, CCRT
A pair of citizen science researchers, Cristina & Aurélien Budzinski, who are also certified dog trainers from France, promote observation and field studies of dogs to determine results from a variety of common behaviours. Their study called “At the heart of the walk,” reveals some fascinating insights into what’s happening physiologically when dogs go on walks.
The Budzinskis recruited 61 dogs for their study, including puppies, adults, and seniors. There were 37 males and 24 females both altered and intact and of a wide variety in sizes and breeds from Chihuahua to Cane Corso.
Each dog was walked for 5 minutes on a short leash (5 feet), 5 minutes on a long leash (16 feet and flat,), and 5 minutes off-leash. They did not use retractable leashes in this study. The order of the walks was random, and the dogs’ pulse rates were monitored on each walk. The data the Budzinskis collected on the walks is enlightening:
•While on the short leash, the dogs spent an average of 37 seconds sniffing
•On the long leash, they averaged 103 seconds — a 280% increase
•Off-leash, the average time sniffing was 119 seconds, which is a 330% increase over sniffing time on the short leash
•Sniffing lowered the dogs’ pulse rates, even as they walked
•The more intensely they sniffed, the lower the pulse rate
There was no difference depending on size, age, breed or sex of the dog nor whether the dog walked calmly or pulled on it’s leash. The length of time the dog spent sniffing increased with the longer leash and increased again when they were off leash.
Another interesting finding was the reaction to a full body shake which the dogs did during their walks, most frequently while on the long leash. They would “shake it off” more commonly when their pulse rate was higher and this resulted in a lowering of their pulse rate. The average decrease in pulse rate was 12%.
This is a fascinating! I doubt that most of us watching our dogs do a full body shake realize that they are triggering a beneficial physiological response.
What I also find interesting is that when I bring a dog into the treatment room, particularly if it is a new patient, I encourage the owners to let their dog wander around the room and sniff to make themselves familiar with the environment before I begin my examination. This can be several minutes as I take a history from the owner. Perhaps this sniffing around my treatment space is lowering their pulse rate and essentially helping to calm them in a new situation.
In addition, I am always happy to see a full body shake after I have finished a treatment session. I thought this meant they were feeling better but perhaps they are actually lowering their pulse rate and calming themselves after the treatment.
At the very least, these are some interesting bits of information to keep in mind next time you are observing dog behavior.