Dogs are the best. They’re good at cuddling, protecting, greeting you, and taking a lick of your sandwich when you aren’t looking — which… you should be mad about, but I mean, look at that face! And just when you thought our four-legged friends couldn’t get any more lovable, it turns out they’re making us healthier too. According to a study reported on by The New York Times, dog owners seem to be more physically active than non-dog owners. Now, if you’re a dog owner you’re probably thinking, “Duh, I can’t even so much as say ‘walk’ or pick up President Pierce’s leash without him absolutely freaking out thinking we’re going out for his daily walk. Sometimes I spell out the word ‘walk’ and he still gets it. I’m taking like seven walks a day at this point because what am I going to do, disappoint a dog like some kind of monster?” Which, admittedly, is a long thought to have, but is proof that having a pet even makes your mind work harder!
But here’s why this study is still interesting, even if anecdotally you suspected this was the case. While previous research has suggested that dog owners are at least slightly more physically active than those without dogs, those studies were limited in scope. To get a more comprehensive understanding of how pet ownership influences active lifestyles, The University of Liverpool looked to 385 households in West Cheshire UK, and asked 694 participants about their lives and pets, and then monitored the physical activity of a few families.
The researchers chose to focus on a specific community so that those questioned and monitored had similar access to parks, sidewalks, and other exercising amenities. Slightly over half of the participants in the study were women, and participants were mainly middle-aged to older adults, though around 70 children also participated. A third of the participants owned a dog — though the study did not account for differences in pets’ sizes, temperament, or training, and whether those factors affected the dog-owners’ willingness to walk their dogs.
The study found that people who own dogs walked far more than those without dogs — about 200 minutes more on average. According to the questionnaire and activity monitors, most dog owners spent around 300 minutes each week walking compared to their dog-less neighbors, who only racked up an average of 100 minutes per week.