A study from the University of Liverpool has recommended investing in dog owner education and facilities as a strategy to target physical inactivity and problems such as obesity in both people and their pets.
In a review of scientific papers published since 1990, the researchers found that access to dog-friendly walking environments and better education about dogs' physical needs, could all motivate people to get out and take more exercise with their pets.
It is estimated that 40% of dog owners don't take their dogs for a walk. In the UK, almost a quarter of households own a dog, but less than half of adults meet the recommended level of 150 minutes a week of physical activity.
To find out how to motivate people to use dog walking as a form of exercise, the researchers from the University's Institute of Infection and Global Health reviewed 31 research studies from the UK, USA, Australia and Japan.
Among the most common findings was that dog owners have a varied understanding of how much exercise their dog needs. This affected how much they took their dog for a walk and this is something that could be addressed with education programs.
Similarly, people without access to high quality local areas that support dog walking, for example parks where dogs are allowed off-leash and poo-disposal facilities are provided, were less likely to walk with their dog and missed out on the associated health benefits.
Population health scientist, Dr Carri Westgarth led the study. She said: "It is easy to assume that people who own dogs are more likely to take exercise, but the reality can be very different. If all people who owned a dog walked with it every day, physical activity levels would be much improved, benefiting the health of both the owners and their canine companions.
"There are a large number of reasons why people do or don't walk their dog and it is worth considering how we can address this when desi
|Contact: Jamie Brown|
University of Liverpool