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What Motivates Dog Owners to Walk Their Dogs?

Why do some owners walk their dogs, and others do not?


This week marks National Walk Your Dog Week! Coincidentally a study on dog walking motivation was just published last week in the online journal, BMC Public Health.

The research took place in Australia where 629 dog owners were surveyed about their dog walking habits. The researchers looked at two overall variables - how often the dog encouraged the owner to go out for a walk (which they dubbed the "Lassie Effect"), and how often having a dog made the owner want to walk more.

The researchers found that all of the following factors were positively correlated with their two main variables:

  • owning a large dog;
  • a high level of attachment to the dog;
  • knowledge of how much the dog enjoys walks;
  • a belief that walks are good for dog's health;
  • high level of social support from family to walk the dog.

Factors that they found had a negative effect on motivation to walk the dog were:

  • children in the home;
  • main dog walker in the home is a child;
  • issues specific to the dog (i.e. my dog doesn't like other dogs, own more than one dog and too hard to walk both)

Other factors that had a negative association with the motivation to walk the dog were:

  • a belief that dog was too fat to walk
  • a belief that dog was too old and/or sick to walk
  • the main dog walker was the spouse/partner

While the results of the study are probably not earth-shattering to dog owners, the researchers hope they can use the results to find ways to creatively encourage more dog owners to walk their dogs. They suggest using educational campaigns to promote the benefits of walking for smaller dogs and for dogs with behavior problems. They also suggest promoting more training activities, which can increase dog-owner attachment through more interaction. Encouraging families with children to walk the dog together to improve health for both humans and canines was also a suggestion derived from the study.

Source: Westgarth C, Knuiman M, Christian HE. (2016) Understanding how dogs encourage and motivate walking: cross-sectional findings from RESIDE. BMC Public Health 16:1019.

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