Why do dog owners really walk their dogs? New study reveals the secrets

Is walking your dog every day just another chore you have to do?  Not at all, say researchers. A new study reveals that people who walk their dogs really want their dogs to have “fun, freedom and space to enact their ‘dog-ness'”.   Woof!

Dog Walkers Want Their Dogs to Enjoy the Chance to Be ‘Dog-Like’ and Free on Walks

Dog walkers want their dogs to have fun, freedom and space to enact their ‘dog-ness’ when they go for a walk, a new study from Leeds Beckett University shows.

Rather than there being a one-way flow of power where the human is dominant, the dog walk is where humans and dogs negotiate power within their relationship. The study, published in Social and Cultural Geography journal, highlights a delicate balance between ‘listening’ to what a dog wants and needs from a walk and acting out a human’s own dispositions and interpretations of what is best for themselves, their dog and others within the communal space.

“The study reveals that humans walk their dogs in large part because they feel a deep-rooted emotional bond with them and hold a strong sense of obligation to ensure they stay fit and healthy. Perhaps more interestingly, humans also walk their dogs because they believe their dogs have fun and are able to be more ‘dog-like’ while out on a walk.”

-Dr Thomas Fletcher, Senior Lecturer and Researcher within the Institute for Sport, Physical Activity and Leisure at Leeds Beckett University


The study found that dog walkers commonly thought of the walk as something they did for their dog. Each respondent believed that dogs possess their own unique personality, likes and dislikes.

“In most cases, characteristics of the walk such as timing, length and place, were determined by their dog’s personality and what they, as humans, thought the dogs liked and disliked the most.”

Also important were ideas of care-giving and responsibility, and of walking being good for a dog’s health and well-being. Whilst walking patterns varied significantly, there was consensus that around 30 minutes twice a day was acceptable.

Whilst previous research suggests that the dog walk is seen as a human obligation, or even a chore, the new study found that, in most cases, this sense of obligation was actually overshadowed by the respondents’ want to walk, based on a desire to see their dogs having fun.

Read more about the study here.

Journal reference: Thomas Fletcher, Louise Platt. (Just) a walk with the dog? Animal geographies and negotiating walking spaces. Social & Cultural Geography, 2016; 1 DOI: 10.1080/14649365.2016.1274047

graphic: animatedimages.org