According to new research, only 4 in 10 of the nation’s dogs are walked on a daily basis.
The research, commissioned by natural dog food producer Forthglade, found that more than HALF of British dog owners admit to not walking their dog as often, and for as long, as they should, with the average weekday dog walk a mere 19.9 minutes long – despite guidelines that dogs are exercised for a bare minimum of half an hour a day, with up to two hours for larger breeds.
Almost a quarter of the nation’s dogs are NEVER let off the lead while out walking, with 5 in 10 only being given free run due to worries for their safety, as owners admitted their dogs run away and refuse to return when called.
Why Are Fewer Dogs Being Walked?
Alongside behaviour, owners admitted that the main reasons related to time, or a lack of it, confessing that they squeeze their dog walks in around their busy lives, exercising on school runs or by taking a quick walk around the block after work because they're too tired or prefer to watch TV.
Some pet owners blamed their dogs too. Saying that when it's wet or muddy their dogs don't want to go outside.
Little wonder then, perhaps, that according to Forthglade more than a third of dog owners confess that their dogs are overweight.
Let's Remember the Benefits of Walking
Undoubtedly, it has health benefits, both physically and mentally, for dogs and humans.
Despite Brits not walking their dogs as often as they should, most dog owners say that walking their dog makes them feel happy, helping them relax and unwind, resulting in them feeling positive and energised, and strengthening their bond with their dog at the same time.
It's for this reason that the pet food manufacturer has launched its ‘Great Dog Walk Challenge’ campaign: a bid to help dog owners reprioritise the daily dog walk and to highlight the mutual benefits that walking can have on dog and owner relationships.
TV vet Steve Leonard, who is supporting the campaign, is concerned by the findings that many pet owners are not exercising their dogs as often as they should:
“Without regular exercise, dogs are at increased risk of health problems, such as joint disease, obesity and stress-related disorders. Like humans, exercise is an important part of mental and physical wellbeing.”
“If you can walk your dog even just a little bit more, not only will your dog reap the health benefits of regular exercise, but it will strengthen and enhance the bond between you and your dog.”
So, How Often Should You Walk Your Dog?
Dr Carri Westgarth, a dog behaviour expert and Lecturer in Human-Animal Interaction at the University of Liverpool, has conducted extensive research into the positive effects of dog walking on health and wellbeing of both owners and dogs.
She says: “Puppies need much less exercise than fully-grown dogs. A good rule of thumb is a ratio of five minutes exercise per month of age (up to twice a day) until the puppy is fully grown, i.e. 15 minutes (up to twice a day) when three months old, 20 minutes when four months old etc. If you have an older dog, perhaps choose shorter but more regular walks rather than long ones. If in doubt check with your vet.”
Carri hopes Forthglade’s campaign will lead the way to encourage dog owners to get out and walk more frequently, and mindfully:
“These findings are extremely familiar to me as dog owners tell me the same in my own research. It sounds obvious to state that regular walks are good for us, but in our busy lives, it’s easy for walks to slip by in a hurry, or be put off until tomorrow. We want to help people rediscover the joy in walking their dogs and appreciate those moments that are not only benefitting the dog and themselves physically, but also helping us de-stress and improving our mental health” explains Carri.
“As part of Forthglade’s Great Dog Walk Challenge campaign, we are launching a 6-week ‘Mindful Dog Walking Challenge’ to provide practical advice for dog owners on how to reap the benefits of longer, more frequent and more mindful dog walks without it feeling like a burden or chore. Over six weeks we will help you tackle your barriers to enjoyable dog walking and gradually establish a new daily routine.”
Managing Director of Forthglade, Gerard Lovell, speaks from personal experience on the topic:
“Our research highlights a growing need for people to extend their daily dog walks, to really make the most of all the health and wellbeing benefits to both us and our dogs. It’s also a wonderful way to nurture the special bond between dogs and owners, which in itself, makes us so happy. As a dog owner myself, I know finding the time to walk isn’t always easy, but once firmly in your daily routine it can be so positive and rewarding. Alongside a nutritious diet, walking really is one of the best ways to support your dog for a happier and healthier lifestyle.”