BBC Countryfile presenter Adam Henson is supporting Forthglade’s campaign
The Great British dog walk could soon be a thing of the past, with only 42% of the nation’s dogs walked on a daily basis, according to a new study.
The research, commissioned by natural dog food producer Forthglade, found that more than HALF of British dog owners (58%) 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 Kennel Club guidelines that dogs should be exercised for a bare minimum of half-an-hour a day, with up to two hours for larger breeds.
Almost a quarter (24%) of the nation’s dogs are NEVER let off the lead while out walking, with 55% being given free run only sometimes due to worries for their safety and nearly half (49%) of owners admitting their dogs run away and refuse to return when called.
Twenty-six per cent of time-poor dog owners confess they squeeze their dog walks around their busy lives, exercising them on the school run, shopping trip, and quickly ’round the block’ when they get home from work.
The reasons given for not walking dogs for longer include just not having enough time (28%), being too tired after work (15%), dogs misbehaving on walks (15%) and preferring to watch TV (4%). Yet 93% of British dog owners wish they were able to walk their pets more often!
But it’s not just owners who would rather cuddle up indoors than go for walkies, with 20% of dog owners claiming their dog doesn’t like to be out in bad weather, 11% saying they own tiny dogs with short legs who hate long walks, and 4% saying their dog just doesn’t like getting dirty.
It would appear that, like many owners, dogs love a TV dinner. In fact, 46% of those polled claim that their pooches love sitting on the sofa and watching TV, with a quarter of owners admitting they feed their dogs leftover takeaways – and more than a third of dog owners (36%) confess that their dogs are overweight!
Despite Brits not walking their dogs as often as they should, 96% say 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. Twenty-one per cent believe it helps them get out and meet new people, while 15% say it encourages more talking time with the family and children.
The study marks the launch of Forthglade’s ‘Great British Dog Walk’ campaign – a bid to help dog owners reprioritise the daily 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,” he said. “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.”
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 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,” she said. “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.
“As part of Forthglade’s Great British Dog Walk campaign, we are launching a six-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 added: “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.”
To take up Forthglade’s six-week “Mindful Dog Walking Challenge”, go to www.forthglade.com
Follow the latest news on Forthglade’s Great British Dog Walk campaign @Forthglade #GreatBritishWalkies #WalkWithUs