Some 58% of owners admitted to not walking their dog as often, and for as long, as they should, with the average weekday dog walk just 19.9 minutes long – despite The Kennel Club guidelines that dogs are exercised for a bare minimum of half an hour a day, with up to two hours for larger breeds.
Furthermore, 24% of the nation’s dogs are never let off the lead while out walking, with 55% only being given free run sometimes due to worries for their safety. The survey suggested more training was required as 49% of owners said during a walk, their dogs ran away and refused to return.
Some 26% of time-poor dog owners confessed to timing their dog walks around their busy lives – exercising them on the school run, shopping trips, and quickly round the block when they get home from work. The reasons given for not walking dogs for longer included not having enough time (28%), being too tired after work (15%), dogs misbehaving on walks (15%), and preferring to watch TV (4%).
Also 20% of dog owners claimed their dog didn’t like to be out in bad weather, while 11% said they owned “tiny dogs with short legs” who hated long walks and 4% said their dog “just doesn’t like getting dirty”.
Some 46% of those polled claimed their pooches loved sitting on the sofa and watching TV, with a quarter of owners admitting they fed their dogs leftover takeaway. This went some way to explaining why 36% of dog owners surveyed said their dogs were overweight.
Despite Brits not walking their dogs as often as they should, 96% of dog owners said walking their dog made them feel happy, helping them relax and strengthened their bond with their dog.
Some 21% believed it helped them get out and meet new people, while 15% said it encouraged more talking time with the family and children. As well as this, 93% of owners said they wished they could walk their pets more often.
Forthglade’s ‘Great British Dog Walk’ campaign was set up to help dog owners re-prioritise the daily dog 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, said: “Without regular exercise, dogs are at increased risk of health problems, such as joint disease, obesity and stress-related disorders. Like humans, exercise is an important part of mental and physical wellbeing.”
Dr Carri Westgarth, a dog behaviour expert and lecturer in human-animal interaction at the University of Liverpool, added: “These findings are extremely familiar to me as dog owners tell me the same in my own research. 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, said: “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.”