Tag Archives: walking

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

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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 leader of the pack

Dogs’ paths during group walks could be used to determine leadership roles and through that their social ranks and personality traits, say researchers from Oxford University, Eötvös University, Budapest and the Hungarian Academy of Sciences.

The research team tracked the movements of six Vizsla dogs and their owner using high-resolution GPS harnesses during fourteen 30-40 minute walks off the lead.

Photo credit: Zsuzsa Ákos

Photo credit: Zsuzsa Ákos

The dogs’ movements were measurably influenced by underlying social hierarchies and personality differences.

‘On individual walks it is hard to identify one permanent leader, but over longer timescales it soon becomes clear that some dogs are followed by peers more often than others. Overall, the collective motion of the pack is strongly influenced by an underlying social network.’ said study author Dr Máté Nagy of Oxford University’s Department of Zoology.

Dogs that consistently took the lead were more responsive to training, more controllable, older and more aggressive than the dogs that tended to follow. Dogs that led more often had higher dominance ranks in everyday situations, assessed by a dominance questionnaire.

One possible use of the technology would be to assess search and rescue dogs to see which dogs work best together.  The results have been published in the journal PLOS Computational Biology.

Source:  University of Oxford media release

Exercise for small dogs

Sometimes people forget that small dogs have different needs for their care and exercise than larger breed dogs.  Here’s some tips on how to keep your small breed dog happy and active.

  • Walking

Walking is ‘tops’ on my list for exercise for all dogs.  There are added health benefits for the dog owner, too. I recommend twice per day walks.  You need to be careful about the length of walk for small dogs because they may not be able to go as far as you can.

  • Swimming

I’m a big supporter for hydrotherapy for dogs, particularly as they age or have rehabilitation needs.  But, swimming is excellent general exercise for your small breed dog.  Check out hydrotherapy facilities in your area for information on ‘casual’ swims (therapist supervision not required).  In Christchurch, we have an excellent facility for this:  Dog Swim Spa.

  • Ball games – playing fetch

Small dogs can get quite a bit of exercise in by playing with toys and their owners.  This is great inside exercise during the winter months – provided you have a long hallway or room for your dog to play in.

  • Using the stairs

If your house has stairs or you can take your dog to work with you, using the stairs can be excellent exercise for your small breed dog.    Some breeds, such as dachshunds, should not be encouraged to do lots of stair climbing because their long spine makes them vulnerable to stress and strain injuries including slipped discs.    Be mindful of just how much effort a small dog may need to climb a stair designed for full-grown humans.  Aging dogs with arthritis should avoid stair climbing as a major source of exercise – there are better options as described above.