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Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2017 Aug 19;14(8). pii: E936. doi: 10.3390/ijerph14080936.

I Walk My Dog Because It Makes Me Happy: A Qualitative Study to Understand Why Dogs Motivate Walking and Improved Health.

Author information

1
Department of Epidemiology and Population Health, Institute of Infection and Global Health, University of Liverpool, Liverpool L69 7ZX, UK. carri.westgarth@liverpool.ac.uk.
2
Institute of Veterinary Science, University of Liverpool, Liverpool L69 7ZX, UK. carri.westgarth@liverpool.ac.uk.
3
Department of Epidemiology and Population Health, Institute of Infection and Global Health, University of Liverpool, Liverpool L69 7ZX, UK. robc@liverpool.ac.uk.
4
Institute of Veterinary Science, University of Liverpool, Liverpool L69 7ZX, UK. robc@liverpool.ac.uk.
5
Department of Life Sciences, University of Roehampton, London SW15 5PJ, UK. g.marvin@roehampton.ac.uk.
6
Department of Health Services Research, Institute of Psychology, Health and Society, University of Liverpool, Liverpool L69 7ZX, UK. e.perkins@liverpool.ac.uk.

Abstract

Dog walking is a popular everyday physical activity. Dog owners are generally more active than non-owners, but some rarely walk with their dog. The strength of the dog-owner relationship is known to be correlated with dog walking, and this qualitative study investigates why. Twenty-six interviews were combined with autoethnography of dog walking experiences. Dog walking was constructed as "for the dog", however, owners represented their dog's needs in a way which aligned with their own. Central to the construction of need was perceptions of dog personality and behaviour. Owners reported deriving positive outcomes from dog walking, most notably, feelings of "happiness", but these were "contingent" on the perception that their dogs were enjoying the experience. Owner physical activity and social interaction were secondary bonuses but rarely motivating. Perceptions and beliefs of owners about dog walking were continually negotiated, depending on how the needs of the owner and dog were constructed at that time. Complex social interactions with the "significant other" of a pet can strongly motivate human health behaviour. Potential interventions to promote dog walking need to account for this complexity and the effect of the dog-owner relationship on owner mental wellbeing.

KEYWORDS:

animals; dogs; exercise; happiness; health behaviour; human-animal interaction; physical activity; qualitative research; walking

PMID:
28825614
PMCID:
PMC5580638
DOI:
10.3390/ijerph14080936
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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