Science Finally Discovers ‘Who Let the Dogs Out (To Walk)’
The study, a collaborative effort between the University of Liverpool and The University of Western Australia, took an in-depth look at what factors motivated people to let their dogs out… for a human-escorted walk… and what emotions were and feelings were connected with those who walked their dogs more (or less).
Dr. Carri Westgarth of the Institute of Infection and Global Health led the study, and found that owners who claimed they felt more encouraged to walk their dogs fell under what the team called the Lassie Effect. The data was collected from over 600 dog owners who participated in 10-year study of Perth residents called RESIDE (a study conducted to examine the impact of urban design on public health).
The survey focused on ‘Dog Encouragement To Walk’ (how often an owner’s dog encouraged him or her to walk in a month’s time) and ‘Dog Motivation To Walk’ (where simply having a dog encouraged a pet owner to walk more) and examined positive and negative associations with each.
Dr. Westgarth found that increased dog walking behavior was found when both dog and owner factors were associated with the pet owner’s feelings of encouragement and motivation to walk their dog, and more specifically, even, that owners felt more motivated to walk their dogs (especially larger ones) if they believed that walking kept their dogs healthy and happy.
They also found that when pet owners felt more strongly attached to their dogs, and even felt familial toward them (who doesn’t?), more walking occurred, with pet owners feeling that their dogs were happier with more walks–which encouraged them to take more.
Conversely, Dr. Westgarth found that pet owners were not as motivated to consistently walk their dog if they thought their dog was too old or sick, or if another family member already had the responsibility to typically walk the dog. This week, the study results were published in the BMC Public Health and will lead the way for more research into walking pet behaviors–and how that can help both humans and their furbabies have the best quality of life.
More by Lori Ennis