Alaina Osborne |
August 27, 2014
A surprising number of dog owners avoid walking their pets, even though this activity is good for both dog and owner. Walking helps manage weight and lower the risk of cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer.
University of Guelph Applied Human Nutrition professor John Dwyer and master’s degree student Julia Campbell wanted to know what motivates or prevents dog owners from engaging in this relatively simple task. .
They interviewed 26 dog owners in Guelph and at a pet community centre in Toronto. They found major barriers for owners included the weather, their dog’s behaviour, and feeling unsafe in certain areas at night (usually in rural settings or those that are poorly lit).
But they also found the main motives were keeping fit, forming an attachment with their dog and socialization. Participants also said that walking their dog was often a calming experience and that dogs walked regularly tended to be calmer as well and were less likely to have excess energy at home later in the day.
In addition, interviewees said dog walking helped strengthen the bond between owners and their dogs, as well as among other people.
“Past research has shown that people are more likely to strike up a conversation with someone accompanied by a dog,” says Campbell. “So we want to emphasize that dog walking can be a good way to meet new people and socialize with neighbours.”
To help owners overcome the barriers to dog walking and raise awareness of its health benefits, Kahntact Marketing in Guelph provided its services to assist in developing a brochure that the researchers hope to see in veterinary offices and clinics, online and in pet stores.
The brochure lists the benefits of dog walking as well as locations of nearby dog parks and trails and how to incorporate dog walking into a regular routine.
“We want owners to see their dogs as cues for physical activity,” says Dwyer. “This research will help us encourage owners to take the steps to improve their dog’s health, as well as their own.”
The Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology recommended amount of moderate exercise for a healthy adult is 150 minutes per week.
“Getting 30 minutes of exercise in a day can consist of taking your dog on two 15-minute walks, in the morning and evening,” says Dwyer.
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