Acquiring a Dog and Walking It: A Preliminary Examination of the Possible Physical Activity and Health Benefits

Nikolina M. Duvall Antonacopoulos & Timothy A. Pychyl

Carleton University, Department of Psychology

In light of the detrimental health consequences associated with insufficient physical activity, there is growing concern about the low percentage of adults who are sufficiently active. Given that some researchers have recommended that acquiring a dog should be promoted as a means of increasing physical activity, this longitudinal study examined whether acquiring a dog and walking it leads to an increase in physical activity. Results revealed that participants in the acquired-dog group (n = 17) increased their moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity in 10-minute bouts from baseline to 8 months, while there was no change in the control group (n = 28). The present study also examined whether, if dog owners become more physically active, this results in health benefits. Although individuals in the acquired-dog group increased their physical activity, they did not experience any improvements in their physical or psychological health over the course of the study relative to the control group. However, it is noteworthy that the majority of the acquired-dog group perceived that acquiring a dog had positively affected their health. Taken together, these findings suggest that acquiring a dog and walking it merits further attention as a way of increasing physical activity and there is a need for additional research on the possible physical activity-related health benefits from dog walking.

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Keywords: dog, dog walking, longitudinal study, physical activity, physical health, psychological health
Posted in 2017, Volume 5, No. 2