In Brief: Dog walking could promote child exercise

Researchers at the University of Liverpool have shown that dog walking could help increase physical exercise in 9-10 year old children.

It is thought that owning a pet dog could improve child health, but evidence to support this is limited, as little is known about the level of participation in dog walking.  Dr Carri Westgarth, from the University’s Institute of Infection and Global Health, surveyed over 1,000 school pupils in Liverpool to understand the frequency of dog walking and the factors associated with regular dog walking.

The ‘Child Lifestyle and Pets’ survey showed that overall, 15.4% of children reported walking with any dog – their own or belonging to a friend or family member – more than once daily.  Approximately 14% reported walking a dog several times a week and 27.6% less than once a week.  Almost 43% stated that they never participated in dog walking.

Children that owned a dog reported walking ‘several times a week’ more often than those without a dog, but were less likely to report other walking without a dog.  Similar to findings in adult studies, children who had a strong relationship or ‘attachment’ to their pet dog were more likely to walk it. Findings suggest that promoting supervised walking of pet dogs may be a novel opportunity for increasing physical activity in 9-10 year old children.

The research, supported by the WALTHAM Centre for Pet Nutrition, is published in BMC Public Health:

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