Kids with Dogs Exercise More

The University of Virginia just released a study which showed that teenagers with dogs get about 15 more minutes a week of moderate to vigorous physical activity than teens who don’t have any pets.

The finding was unexpected because the researchers had anticipated the dog-walking responsibilities would be taken by the parents. “We hypothesized it would have an effect on adults, but we didn’t see that. We saw it in the kids,” study researcher John Sirard, an assistant professor at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, said.

Despite the link between dog ownership and teenagers’ physical activity, researchers said they could not be certain that getting a dog would encourage people to be more active. It could be that more active people choose to have dogs, because the pet already fits their lifestyle, Sirard said.

As a dog owner very interested in both exercising and dog ownership, I have some thoughts on the subject.

First of all, I came to dog ownership almost by accident. I hadn’t owned a dog nor wanted one since I was a child. My ex-wife got a puppy for my daughter and they had a lot of problems dealing with it. Every time I spoke with them on the phone I heard a new horror story about what Gabi had chewed up now. When I heard that the pup had chewed on furniture, I realized she was not long for their world. I knew my ex was going to get rid of it some day when my daughter was at school and that would be that.

My dog Gabi at 12th St. Beach in the wind.

I didn’t want my daughter to lose her puppy, so I offered to take the dog on weekends in ‘split custody.’ That way my ex could have several days of relief and things should get smoother. After several weeks, however, I realized that they didn’t know how to handle the dog and she was unhappy being with them, so I kept her at my place, but said she was my daughter’s dog who lived with me.

That was several years ago. While I hadn’t wanted a dog, I am very happy to own one now.

Regular good walks and attention brought poochie around and she has become a lovely part of my life. She makes me laugh every day.

I would not recommend getting a dog to increase your exercise. Having a dog will do that, but a dog is a living creature, not a piece of workout equipment. If you think you have room in your life for a companion who can give you unreserved love and acceptance, you might consider getting a dog, but don’t do it as an exercise vehicle. It isn’t fair to the dog.

I would like to add that in the past nine years, I have gotten outside at least three times a day every day to walk her. Over the course of the day in good weather we cover several miles in our walks. That is very good exercise for me. In addition, I have met some of the neatest people in my neighborhood as well as on the web through my dog. She has added a rich new element to my social life that wasn’t there before.

As a retired person, I have a lot of time to give her and when I need to go out, there are dog walkers and dog sitters who can care for her in my absence.

Whether you get a dog or not, as I wrote back in October, you need to exercise daily. I hope you are doing something about that.



Filed under Exercise, Weight

2 responses to “Kids with Dogs Exercise More

  1. John Sirard


    You are absolutely correct. People shouldn’t get a dog and treat it as a piece of equipment. People should get a dog because they want a loving companion and will be able to care for the dog. I’ve mentioned this in each interview I’ve done related to this article but it doesn’t always make it out there. The walking is a benefit for both the family and dog but should not be the primary motivation for getting a pet.

    Also, we likely didn’t see an association with the parent because the measure of physical activity we used was not as good, compared to what we used for the kids. I actually do think there is an association but we just weren’t able to see it in this data.

    John Sirard


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