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Pediatr Obes. 2013 Oct;8(5):392-403. doi: 10.1111/j.2047-6310.2012.00113.x. Epub 2012 Dec 13.

Understanding the relationship between dog ownership and children's physical activity and sedentary behaviour.

Author information

1
Centre for the Built Environment and Health, School of Population Health, The University of Western Australia, Perth, WA, Australia.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Dog ownership is a catalyst for physical activity in adults. Given 50-70% of Australian households with children have a dog, dog-facilitated physical activity may be an effective way to increase physical activity and decrease child obesity.

OBJECTIVE:

We hypothesized that children with a family dog walk more, are more physically active and are more likely to achieve recommended levels of weekly physical activity compared with children who do not have a dog.

METHOD:

Cross-sectional data from the Western Australian TRravel, Environment, and Kids project (TREK) were analyzed for 1218 children aged 10-12 years. Individual and environment factors, child physical activity, walking, screen use, sedentary behaviour and dog ownership status was collected from child and parent questionnaires. Children's height and weight were measured.

RESULTS:

Approximately 60% of children had a family dog. Dog ownership was associated with, on average, 29 more minutes of walking and 142 more minutes of physical activity per week (P ≤ 0.01). After adjustment, children with a dog were 49% more likely to achieve the recommended level of weekly physical activity (420 min) and 32% more likely to have walked in their neighbourhood in the last week, compared with non-dog owners (P ≤ 0.05). These relationships varied by gender. Dog ownership was not associated with screen use or weight status.

CONCLUSIONS:

Dog ownership was associated with walking and physical activity, but not screen use or weight status. Within dog-owning families, the promotion of walking and active play with a dog may be a strategy to increase children's physical activity.

KEYWORDS:

Canine; neighbourhood; obesity; walking

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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