For my blog post I chose an interesting, potentially fun article to read (subjectively speaking of course). If you read through my short bio, blurb rather, you may better understand why this was my topic of choice!
Since I am passionate about physical activity (PA) and obsessed with my 4-legged fur babies, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to critique an article about PA and dog walking!
The general basis of the article was to better understand the relationship between different dog characteristics and dog owners’ obligations that influence their dog walking motivations. Do they walk their dogs because, ‘a tired dog is a happy dog?’ Maybe it’s because they feel guilty if they don’t walk their furry companion? Or, could it simply be the bond and affection they feel towards their dog when enjoying a walk together? Oh, and I almost forgot, maybe the underlying reason people walk their dog is for the sheer benefit of themselves meeting recommended PA guidelines set forth by the government?
To summarize, the article confirmed that dog-walkers walk at least 1.6 times per week more than those without a dog. However, only 27% of those dog-walkers meet the PA guidelines (150 minutes of moderate-vigorous PA per week) or walk ‘brisk’ enough for health benefits (1).
In order to be a part of the study, participants had to be 18 or older and have a least one dog between the ages of 1 and 7. Surveys were conducted during the winter months to determine dog walking, dog responsibility, dog attachment, dog-related exercise motivation, and lastly, dog characteristics (size and energy level)(1).
All in all, as expected, results indicate that dog-owners who enjoyed the physical activity and understood that they and their dog benefit from a walk, engaged in more dog walking1. Also, energy level and size of dog influenced dog-walking behavior. Specifically, dog owners of larger, more energetic dogs walked more often. Which again, is not surprising1.
Recruitment links were sent through Facebook to rescue organizations and canine-related pages along with flyers that were put up around dog parks, recreation centers, and local veterinarian offices2. Within the article the recruitment protocol is described as a limitation because it may exclude dog owners that do not have Internet or engage in social media. However, the recruitment strategies and outlets were geared toward predictably active dog owners, which seems to target a convenient sample. A recent review of dog owners and PA show that dog owners participate in more walking and PA(2).
All of this leads me to question the generalizability of this study. The only participants that were recruited were dog owners. The study is not representative of the non-dog owner population. As a dog owner, it seems extremely normal and common for households to own dogs because they’re awesome (again, subjectively speaking)! However, when you remove the bias from that statement, it is actually very common for people to NOT own dogs. According to the American Veterinarian Medical Association (3), only 36.5% of US households owned a dog in 20124. How do we convince the other 63.5% of the US population to buy a dog (an large, energetic dog at that), become attached to it, and be committed to walking it for at least 150 minutes at a brisk pace every week? Very interesting strategy to ponder and, if it were possible, how cool would it be to be the graduate research assistant running that project (if you’re into dogs and physical activity, VERY cool!)? As physical activity advocates and researchers, we are committed to finding ways that get the public motivated and moving.
In my opinion, this article was interesting and a fun read. However, I question the public impact these data produce? What is the next step and how do we formulate an intervention to increase dog walking among sedentary adults? Well, a study done by Schneider and others in 2013 utilized social media to engage current, sedentary dog owners in more walking and physical activity and saw increases in PA (1).
To conclude, if you have a dog, take him/her out for a walk! They, and you, will most likely enjoy it. Plus, vitamin D and vitamin N, that’s better than a BOGO sale!!
1 Lim, C., Rhodes, R.E., Sizing Up Physical Activity: The Relationships between Dog Characteristics, Dog Owners’ Motivations, and Dog Walking, Psychology of Sport & Exercise (2016), doi: 10.1016/j.psychsport.2016.01.004
2. Christian, Hayley E.; Westgarth, Carri; Bauman, Adrian; Richards, Elizabeth; Rhodes, Ryan E.; Evenson, Kelly R.; Mayer, Joni A.; and Thorpe, Roland J. Jr, "Dog Ownership and Physical Activity: A Review of the Evidence." (2013). School of Nursing Faculty Publications. Paper 9
3. American Veterinarian Medical Association. https://www.avma.org/KB/Resources/Statistics/Pages/Market-research-statistics-US-pet-ownership.aspx