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Background:

Dog walking is a strategy for increasing population levels of physical activity (PA). Numerous cross-sectional studies of the relationship between dog ownership and PA have been conducted. The purpose was to review studies comparing PA of dog owners (DO) to nondog owners (NDO), summarize the prevalence of dog walking, and provide recommendations for research.

Methods:

A review of published studies (1990−2010) examining DO and NDO PA and the prevalence of dog walking was conducted (N = 29). Studies estimating the relationship between dog ownership and PA were grouped to create a pointestimate using meta-analysis.

Results:

Most studies were conducted in the last 5 years, were cross-sectional, and sampled adults from Australia or the United States. Approximately 60% of DO walked their dog, with a median duration and frequency of 160 minutes/week and 4 walks/week, respectively. Meta-analysis showed DO engage in more walking and PA than NDO and the effect sizes are small to moderate (d = 0.26 and d = 0.16, respectively). Three studies provided evidence of a directional relationship between dog ownership and walking.

Conclusions:

Longitudinal and interventional studies would provide stronger causal evidence for the relationship between dog ownership and PA. Improved knowledge of factors associated with dog walking will guide intervention research.

Christian is with the School of Population Health, The University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia. Westgarth is with the Dept of Epidemiology and Population Health, Institute of Infection and Global Health, Faculty of Health and Life Sciences, University of Liverpool, United Kingdom. Bauman is with the School of Public Health, Sydney University, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. Richards is with the School of Nursing, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN. Rhodes is with the School of Exercise Science, Physical, and Health Education, University of Victoria, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. Evenson is with the Dept of Epidemiology, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC. Mayer is with the Institute for Behavioral and Community Health, San Diego State University, San Diego, CA. Thorpe is with the Hopkins Center for Health Disparities Solutions, Dept of Health Policy and Management, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, MD.