Need a refreshing way to get off the couch with a few health benefits? Take your dog on a walk! Dog owners that walk their dogs often achieve the recommended 150 minutes of physical activity per week compared to people that do not walk dogs (2). Dogs provide motivation to exercise!
There are numerous research studies that look at people who walk their dogs compared to people that do not walk their dogs or own dogs. How cool is that? Just goes to show, dogs are awesome!
Dogs owners are more active and have a lower rate of obesity compared to the other groups (1). Lack of an exercise partner was a significant barrier to physical activity with older adults according to a study in 1999 (3). Dogs can be a regular exercise partner and dog walking seems to promote physical activity as well as contribute to weight control.
Individuals that walk dogs experience more social contact (4), with conversations lasting longer then when no dog was involved. Additionally, adults and children with disabilities who have a dog have fewer avoidance behavior from people as compared to those did not have a dog with them (4). Dogs make us more social. Dogs make us more approachable. Dogs make for an easy conversation. When a person is seen with a dog, the perception of them changes (4).
Everyone talks about exercise for humans, but what about your dog? Just like you, your dog needs exercise or they can also suffer from obesity, or even worse, depression. How much physical activity does your dog need? It depends on the dog, just like it depends on the person. Some people need more exercise than others: the 150 minute guideline is known to have health benefits for the average person and can be used as a great starting point. The same goes for dogs, aim for at least 150 minutes of exercise per week for the average dog. Always keep in mind that every dog is different. If your dog is new at exercising take it slow and make a plan by working up to at least 30 minutes a day. You can break it up into 10 or 15 minute sessions to start with. Make sure you take in account the heat; summer is upon us and the days will be hot. Walking in the cooler mornings can help. Dogs may also show signs of lack of exercise: weight gain, destructive behavior, depression (becoming withdrawn), hyperactivity, lack of endurance or stamina, or reluctant to exercise, barking or whining (3).
If you want to start an exercise program please visit your doctor to make sure your program is right for you, but also talk to your vet to make sure that your plan is right for your dog. Once you get the clear you can make a plan that will fit with both of you. Have fun and enjoy the time with your dog!
- Coleman, K., Rosenberg, D., Conway, T., Sallis, J., Saelens, B., Frank, L. and Cain, K. (2008). Physical activity, weight status, and neighborhood characteristics of dog walkers. Preventive Medicine, [online] 47(3), pp.309-312. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2587031/ [Accessed 21 May 2018].
- Cutt H, e. (2018). Encouraging physical activity through dog walking: why don’t some owners walk with their dog? – PubMed – NCBI. [online] Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17942146 [Accessed 22 May 2018].
- petMD, L. (2018). 6 Signs Your Dog Isn’t Getting Enough Exercise | petMD. [online] Petmd.com. Available at: https://www.petmd.com/dog/slideshows/6-signs-your-dog-isnt-getting-enough-exercise [Accessed 22 May 2018].
- The Health Benefits of Dog Walking for People and Pets. (2011). [ebook] West Lafayette: Purdue University Press. Available at: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Sandra_Mccune/publication/290438903_The_health_benefits_of_dog_walking_for_pets_and_people/links/5698af2808aec79ee32c1471/The-health-benefits-of-dog-walking-for-pets-and-people.pdf [Accessed 22 May 2018].