Nikolina M. Duvall Antonacopoulos and Timothy A. Pychyl
The purpose of this study was to examine whether dog walking is beneficial for dog owners’ health by providing sufficient physical activity for health benefits and improving their psychological health immediately after dog walking. The sample was comprised of 61 dog walkers who wore an accelerometer for one week on all of their dog walks and completed seven visual analogue scales assessing their psychological health before and after each of their dog walks. Slightly more than half of the time spent dog walking was at the moderate- to vigorous-intensity level recommended for health benefits. Furthermore, through dog walking alone, approximately two in five dog walkers met Canada’s 150-minute physical activity guideline for health benefits. Analyses comparing dog walkers’ psychological health before and after their dog walks revealed an improvement on six out of seven psychological health measures. Dog walkers felt less stressed after walking their dog and experienced an increase in their energy, self-esteem, social life satisfaction and overall life satisfaction as well as a more positive mood. Taken together, these findings provide objective evidence that dog walking is a viable means of attaining the physical activity needed for health benefits and highlight the need to further explore the short-term health benefits of dog walking.