I’ve had three family dogs – all border collies. The one in the picture is Bluey, a 15 month old red/white border collie. He’s a friendly and active fellow, on a whole food meat and other stuff based diet.
I wanted the smartest, most active dog because my view was that they would need exercise and that would force me and the family to do more exercise. So is that likely to work, or is the dog more trouble than he’s worth and you just spend more money and can’t holiday when and where you like?
Well the original big dog in the research into dogs and physical activity was Prof Adrian Bauman and his dog Schroeder (a Jack Russell). Schroeder is the first dog I know to be a published author on a research paper.
Anyway, Adrian is back with a team reviewing the benefits of dog ownership on physical activity in the latest issue of the Journal of Physical Activity and Health.
There are now 29 studies looking at this, including one by me almost 10 years ago. I showed that dog ownership wasn’t enough; you needed to have at least a middle to big sized dog!
So what has the latest review shown? “Approximately 60% of dog owners walked their dog, with a median duration and frequency of 160 minutes/week and 4 walks/week.” Dog owners on average are slightly more active than non-dog owners, but the effects are small. We don’t know if giving someone a dog helps them be more active. In other words, we need dog intervention research!
So is it worth having a dog? Probably. There are numerous benefits, including some extra activity. Are there hassles? Damn straight there are. Mine crapped in the kitchen overnight and I was the one who got in trouble for it, and I even cleaned it up!
There’s something else about being out with a dog too. The sheer primal nature of it, the ability of the dog to draw you into the moment of being alive. Running on an empty beach. Chasing seagulls. It’s great fun.