Regular physical activity is associated with numerous health benefits, including the prevention of many chronic diseases and conditions or a reduction in their adverse effects. Intervention studies suggest that promoting dog walking among dog owners who do not routinely walk their dogs may be an effective strategy for increasing and maintaining regular physical activity. Strategies that emphasize the value of dog walking for both dogs and people, promote the context-dependent repetition of dog walking, enhance the social-interaction benefits, encourage family dog walking, and ensure availability of public space for dog walking may encourage increased dog walking. Research also supports organizing buddy systems via loaner dogs to facilitate informal walking by dog owners and non-dog owners. Given the number of homes that have dogs, strategies that promote dog walking could be effective at increasing physical activity levels among a significant proportion of the population. Maximizing the potential for dog walking to positively influence the health of individual people (and dogs) will only occur through implementing programs with broad population-level reach. Policies that facilitate dog walking at the community and population levels, such as dogs allowed places, off-leash zones, and dog-friendly built environments and parks, may contribute to greater physical activity through dog walking.
Christian, H., Bauman, A., Levine, G. N., McCormack, G., Rhodes, R. E., Richards, E., ... Epping, J. N. (2018). Encouraging dog walking for health promotion and disease prevention. American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, 12(3), 233-243. https://doi.org/10.1177/1559827616643686