More than 8 million dogs dot the British Isles. At last count, they’d all been reassured repeatedly they were “good boys” or “good girls”.
But their humans have occasionally missed the mark.
That’s according to a study published last year by investigators at the University of Liverpool. While some dedicated pet owners walk their dogs regularly, many do not. One hesitates to say, “bad owner”. But there you have it.
Dr. Carri Westgarth, from the University's Institute of Infection and Global Health, wondered why some pet owners are motivated to walk their dogs regularly, while other are not. She sniffed out the finding that some dog owners experience the “Lassie effect,” a feeling of strong motivation to see to it that Fido gets daily exercise, usually at the end of a leash. Others felt no such inclination.
Working with dog owners in Perth, Western Australia, investigators found that there are six reasons why some dog owners are better at taking their dogs for walks than others. Those reasons are:
1. Some dogs are way better at asking for walks than others. These persistent pooches reap the rewards of more frequent exercise.
2. Some owners have a stronger sense of responsibility look after their dog.
3. Owners of large dogs are more likely to give their pets regular exercise. Perhaps because big dogs are more likely to go crazy if left indoors without exercise and start to display less attractive behavioural issues like chewing up furniture and household fixtures for fun.
4. Dogs that appear to enjoy their walks get walked more often - speaking personally as a vet, there is nothing better than seeing a recovering patient gleefully tuck into a bowl of food or go out for walks again. The reward for giving joy and wellness to another creature is awesome.
5. Dogs and owners that form a strong bond go for walks more often.
6. An owner’s awareness of the health benefits of regular exercise for their pet.
Good for You—and Your Pet
Although she didn’t spell it out, the benefits of dog walking—for both owner and pet—are undeniable. Just as many of us are overweight and desperately need to spend less time sitting and more time being active, dogs also benefit greatly from regular exercise. Unless they are unwell, virtually any dog will enjoy the opportunity to walk, especially with a beloved family member.
Regular exercise contributes to a dog’s health and may boost lifespan, just as it does for humans. If you’ve entertained the notion that exercise may be optional for humans, think again. Inadequate exercise is an independent risk factor for heart disease, the leading cause of death among men and women in the UK and in much of the developed world.
In fact, even the “act” of sitting has been identified recently as an independent risk factor for heart disease.
So, even if you don’t enjoy taking Lassie for her daily walkies, keep in mind that she loves you for it, and will probably live longer as a result. As an added bonus you may live longer, too.
Remember, though, that a human’s idea of an appropriate walk is likely vastly different than a dog’s thoughts on the matter… more on that in next week’s Vital Pet Blog.
Until then, grab that leash and take advantage of a walk in the British summer! PS - If you are interested in some added motivation to get out for a walk, then through the summer months Roundwood Vets have a weekly evening Paws in The Park community dog walk. If you are interested in attending then just click here to send an email and let us know you are interested.