Tag Archives: dog walking

Perspectives on dog walking

Rather than there being a one-way flow of power where the human is dominant, the dog walk is where humans and dogs negotiate power within their relationship. This new study highlights a delicate balance between ‘listening’ to what a dog wants and needs from a walk and acting out a human’s own dispositions and interpretations of what is best for themselves, their dog and others within the communal space.

off-lead-dog-walking

The study was led by Dr Thomas Fletcher, Senior Lecturer and Researcher within the Institute for Sport, Physical Activity and Leisure at Leeds Beckett University with Dr Louise Platt, Senior Lecturer at Manchester Metropolitan University.

Twelve people in Northern England, between the ages of 28 and 66 and who walk with dogs, took part in in-depth interviews as part of the research. The aim of the study was to examine how humans share spaces with their animal counterparts, and how walking experiences with animal companions are negotiated.

Respondents were asked to broadly discuss their dog’s personality, what their dogs meant to them and how their relationships with their dogs had developed and been negotiated. Respondents were asked to reflect on what walking meant, how it featured in their lives, how it was experienced and how they attempted to understand the relationship between themselves and their dog.

Dr Fletcher explained: “The study reveals that humans walk their dogs in large part because they feel a deep-rooted emotional bond with them and hold a strong sense of obligation to ensure they stay fit and healthy. Perhaps more interestingly, humans also walk their dogs because they believe their dogs have fun and are able to be more ‘dog-like’ while out on a walk.

“We found that it was whilst out on the walk that many respondents felt their relationship with their animal was most strongly enacted outside the confines of the domestic setting. This sense of humans ceding authority and providing the freedom and space for their dogs to enact their ‘dog-ness’ was important to the respondents.”

With 40% of UK households being home to a domestic pet and 8.5 million dogs living in UK homes (source: Pet Food Manufacturers Association, 2016), the average person walks with their dog for eight hours and 54 minutes a week, covering 36 miles (source: Esure Pet Insurance, 2011). The new research shows that a dog walk is a partnership, involving co-knowing and anticipatory knowledge, all of which is negotiated (and, to a degree, managed) by human walkers.

The study found that dog walkers commonly thought of the walk as something they did for their dog. Each respondent believed that dogs possess their own unique personality, likes and dislikes.

Dr Fletcher said: “In most cases, characteristics of the walk such as timing, length and place, were determined by their dog’s personality and what they, as humans, thought the dogs liked and disliked the most.”

Also important were ideas of caregiving and responsibility, and of walking being good for a dog’s health and wellbeing. Whilst walking patterns varied significantly, there was consensus that around 30 minutes twice a day was acceptable.

Whilst previous research suggests that the dog walk is seen as a human obligation, or even a chore, the new study found that, in most cases, this sense of obligation was actually overshadowed by the respondents’ want to walk, based on a desire to see their dogs having fun.

Dr Fletcher explained: “The walk was seen as an invaluable opportunity for dogs ‘to be dogs’. There was widespread belief that dogs are happiest when out in the open, and it is here that they are able to best demonstrate their ‘dog-ness’. This was important because, despite the respondents acknowledging that their dogs had been domesticated, they also took pleasure from seeing them behave ‘like dogs’.”

One respondent articulated this by saying: “One of the biggest joys for us is when one of us stands at one part of the field and the other; and he just runs. And we’ve managed to time him. He does 30 miles an hour. And he looks like a cheetah, he looks like a wild animal. And it just makes your heart, I mean, I feel a physical change in my body when I watch him run, which has never been created by anything else, really.”

Some respondents discussed modifying their walks as a result of anticipating their companion’s behaviour, which highlighted the tension between human authority and animal submission. For example, one walker generally kept his dog on a lead due to a perception of that breed being ‘poachers’. This walker feared if, let loose, his dog would kill rabbits and other small animals.

Dr Fletcher commented: “The dog’s ability to run free was often curtailed by her ‘other’ instincts and the human interpretation of these. In the case of the respondent highlighted above, whilst his intention was undeniably good, it does raise a number of questions about the ethics of domesticating animals to suit human needs.”

Similarly, respondents tended to frame their commitment to their dogs’ wellbeing and fun in terms of allowing them to behave in certain ways.

Dr Fletcher continued: “In spite of this, respondents did attempt to ‘listen’ to their companions and wanted to please them. They acknowledged and appreciated the ‘beastly’ nature of dogs in needing the freedom to explore and do their own thing independently. However, this ‘listening’ relies on humans imposing their own interpretations onto animals and their actions.”

Whilst dog walking is commonly thought of as a social activity, the researchers found that most of the respondents preferred to walk alone and some actively avoided interacting with other walkers. One noted that a culture of judgement existed in her dog walking community, where people known to walk their dogs less regularly were actively excluded.

Dr Fletcher said: “Respondents acknowledged the problematic nature of human and dog interaction, with some discussing how the spaces chosen for walks were selected purposefully to ensure a relatively straightforward (and pleasurable) experience is maintained for both dog and walker. Some respondents chose to walk routes they knew would be quiet. They did this for two reasons. Firstly, they did not want to socialise with other humans (or their dogs); and secondly, some believed their walk would be easier and less stressful if their route was human and dog-free.”

One participant commented: “Sometimes I have had to apologise for no reason, like even when my dog hasn’t done anything wrong. Just sometimes you get children who are scared of dogs and they would run away and have a little cry, even though he hasn’t gone anywhere near them. You just say “sorry”. I suppose it is just another etiquette thing really.”

Dr Fletcher said: “Walking with dogs represents a potentially important cultural space for making sense of human-animal relations. Our research has shown how the personalities of both dog and walker can shape not only walking practices, but also the human-animal bond.”

The researchers feel that future research in order to understand how humans attempt to fulfil the needs and wants of their dogs (and other animal companions), is vital.

Dr Fletcher added: “Moving forward, we would like to see research taking place that can capture the ‘beastly’ nature of animals, allowing them to act without human interference. Technology, such as ‘dog-cams’ and GPS, has great potential for furthering our understanding of the world of dogs beyond their relationships with human companions.”

Source:  Leeds Beckett University

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Why aren’t some dogs walked regularly? (The Lassie Effect)

A new study from the University of Liverpool in collaboration with The University of Western Australia has examined why some people feel motivated to walk their dogs regularly and others don’t.

There are more than 8 million dogs in households across the UK. Unfortunately not all of them are taken for regular walks.

dog-walking

Photo: K Crisley, The Balanced Dog

The study, led by Dr Carri Westgarth from the University’s Institute of Infection and Global Health, examined the demographic and behavioural factors that contribute towards owners reporting having a strong sense of encouragement and motivation to walk provided by their dogs, which the team call ‘the Lassie effect’.

Encouragement and motivation

As part of the study data was collected from 629 dog owners participating in the RESIDE study, a 10-year study of 1813 residents in Perth, Western Australia.

The results of two survey outcomes, ‘Dog encouragement to walk’ (how often dog encouraged me to go walking in last month) and ‘Dog motivation to walk’ (Having a dog makes me walk more), were analysed to identify both positive and negative factors associated with them.

Dog and owner factors

Explaining her findings Dr Westgarth said: “There are both dog and owner factors that are associated with an owner’s sense of encouragement and motivation to walk the dog, which in turn has been found to be associated with increased dog walking behaviour.

“We now know that owners feel more motivated to walk larger dogs, and if they believe that walking keeps the dog healthy. A strong relationship or attachment to the dog and reporting feeling that their dog enjoys walks is also motivating to owners.

“They are less motivated to take their dog out if they perceive that it is too old or sick, or if other family members usually walk the dog instead. These factors may be targeted in future interventions to increase and maintain physical activity levels of both people and pets.”

Source:  University of Liverpool news release

How shelters can use the Pokemon Go craze to their advantage

I heard a business report recently that local shops can benefit from people using Pokemon Go by promoting themselves to people who are out and about playing the game.  For example, local cafes can offer specials for thirsty players to take a break.

And then the animal shelters got involved…

The animal shelter in Muncie, Indiana noticed that a lot of people were  walking around playing Pokemon Go.  Always in need of dog walkers, the shelter staff came up with the idea – play Pokemon and walk a shelter dog at the same time.

Pokemon Go poster

To take a Pokemon Dog, you have to sign a waiver form and you are reminded to watch where you are going for the sake of both you and the dog.

Walking is great exercise for dogs and humans.  If this Pokemon Go craze can help animals in shelters and rescues, I’m all for it.

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

 

Senior adults see benefits from dog ownership

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (USA) recommends that adults of all ages should engage in 150 or more minutes of moderate physical activity per week. Among adults 60 years of age or more, walking is the most common form of leisure-time physical activity because it is self-paced, low impact and does not require equipment.

Johnson and Dog - senior dogs

Rebecca Johnson and her team determined that older adults who also are pet owners benefit from the bonds they form with their canine companions. Photo by University of Missouri

Researchers at the University of Missouri have determined that older adults who also are pet owners benefit from the bonds they form with their canine companions. Dog walking is associated with lower body mass index, fewer doctor visits, more frequent exercise and an increase in social benefits for seniors.

“Our study explored the associations between dog ownership and pet bonding with walking behavior and health outcomes in older adults,” said Rebecca Johnson, a professor at the MU College of Veterinary Medicine, and the Millsap Professor of Gerontological Nursing in the Sinclair School of Nursing. “This study provides evidence for the association between dog walking and physical health using a large, nationally representative sample.”

The study analyzed 2012 data from the Health and Retirement study sponsored by the National Institute on Aging and the Social Security Administration. The study included data about human-animal interactions, physical activity, frequency of doctor visits and health outcomes of the participants.

“Our results showed that dog ownership and walking were related to increases in physical health among older adults,” said Johnson, who also serves as director of the Research Center for Human-Animal Interaction at MU. “These results can provide the basis for medical professionals to recommend pet ownership for older adults and can be translated into reduced health care expenditures for the aging population.”

Results from the study also indicated that people with higher degrees of pet bonding were more likely to walk their dogs and to spend more time walking their dogs each time than those who reported weaker bonds. Additionally, the study showed that pet walking offers a means to socialize with pet owners and others.

Retirement communities also could be encouraged to incorporate more pet-friendly policies such as including dog walking trails and dog exercise areas so that their residents could have access to the health benefits, Johnson said.

Source:  University of Missouri media release

Throwaway pups…

This article from the Guardian, Throwaway pup trend makes Britons dogs’ worst enemies is sobering.  It talks about disposable pups, bought with little or no knowledge of how to care for them, and fueling a demand for irresponsible breeding with the subsequent flow-on effects for animal welfare and adoptions.

But what I found really interesting is a quote from the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals spokeswoman, Vicki Larkham.  “Millions of dogs aren’t getting off-the-lead exercise outside their home or garden for 10 minutes or more on a daily basis.  Close to a quarter of a million never go for walks on their lead for 10 minutes or more at all.  ”

A minimum of 10 minutes?  Are you kidding?

I support a minimum of 30 minutes, and twice a day.  Most sources I read suggest a minimum of 30 minutes once a day…but 10 minutes?  Where did that come from?

If you think walking a dog for 10 minutes a day will result in a happy, healthy and well-adjusted dog, you are kidding yourself.  Do everyone a favour and don’t get a dog…

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, Canine Catering Ltd, Christchurch, New Zealand

 

The 5 types of dog walker

A new study in the International Journal of Environment and Waste Management discusses the environmental, health and safety issues of dog walking and, in particular, scooping the poop.

Please Clean UpChristopher Lowe of the University of Central Lancashire in Preston (UK) and colleagues hoped to determine what factors influence dog walker behaviour and how those who do not do the right thing might be persuaded to take charge of their dog mess.

The team suggests that there are five types of dog walker from the most to the least socially and environmentally responsible:

  • Proud to pick up – happy to be seen carrying dog waste, will pick up in all locations and take it home if no bins are available
  • It is the right thing to do – will pick up in public places but will seek to dispose of the waste as soon as it is practical; often embarrassed to be seen carrying bagged waste
  • I have done my job – if there is no bin available will leave the bagged waste to be dealt with by someone else
  • Only if I have to – will only pick up in the presence of other people – likely to discard when no one is looking
  • Disengaged – will not pick up in any situation even if they are aware of the environmental consequences of their actions

Dog faeces are not only as unpleasant as any animal waste, they can also carry parasitic diseases that have health impacts on people and animals that come into contact with them. For instance, they might transmit toxocariasis, via the larvae (immature worms) of the dog roundworm (Toxocara canis), which can cause blindness, asthma and neurological problems in those affected. Dog faeces from animals that eat raw meat and bones are also suspected of causing neosporosis in cattle. The researchers also point out that the presence of dog faeces in country parks, walks and other recreational areas can deter visitors and so have a local economic impact in those areas.

The team’s final thoughts:  The issue of getting dog walkers to do the right thing is both complex and emotive….more research is needed.

Source:  AlphaGalileo media statement