As part of Forthglade’s Great Dog Walk Challenge, the Devonian pet food makers announced results from a national mindful dog walking survey, with the aim of encouraging more UK dog owners to make the most of precious daily dog walking time; for improved health and wellbeing through exercise, valuable down time and the opportunity to bond with canine companions.
The recent study, commissioned by Forthglade, surveyed 1,500 dog owners across the UK and found that two thirds of dog owners are unable to switch-off from screen time whilst walking the dog.
Results showed that 63% of owners regularly use their phone whilst out on dog walks to send texts (50%), chat to friends (48%), check work emails (27%), post on social media (26%), shop online (14%), and even monitor online dating apps (7%), for potential love interests.
Forthglade have worked with Clinical Psychologist Linda Blair and Certified Animal Behaviourist Caroline Wilkinson, co-founders of ‘Mindful Living and Our Dogs’, who says walks should be an ”opportunity to unwind, switch off, and engage with pets”.
Blair said: “It’s concerning that so many of us are plugged into our phones whilst out walking our dogs. We think smartphones allow us to us ‘stay in touch’, when in truth they prevent us from making meaningful social connections. When we text or email we’re exchanging information but we’re not connecting emotionally. Try leaving your phone at home and look around as you walk. Be curious, appreciate your surroundings, and greet other dog walkers. You will quickly enjoy the increased wellbeing and a growing sense of calm and belonging.”
It’s not only owners’ wellbeing that’s affected by the inability to switch off on walks – it could be affecting their four-legged friends too.
The study found that less than half of British dog owners (49%) see dog walks as a way to bond and connect with their dog, which may be leading to a nation of anxious, misbehaving dogs, with 69% pulling on the lead, 49% barking at other dogs, and 27% chasing wildlife.
Wilkinson added: “Being more mindful of our dogs whilst on walks can have huge benefits. How often have you charged through the on-lead part of your walk, desperate to get to the park to allow your dog off the lead? Try to change your approach; Use the on-lead section of your walk as an opportunity to engage with your dog. Try scattering treats in the grass to engage your dog’s nose, or calmly stroke them to release oxytocin and reduce tension. You and your dog will immediately feel calmer and more engaged.”
Gerard Lovell, managing director of Forthglade and owner of Labrador Bo, said: “As a dog owner juggling work and family commitments, I know how difficult it can be to find the opportunity to really switch off. But by leaving your phone at home and being more ‘present’ whilst out on walks can make the world of difference to your own wellbeing, and to the relationship you have with your pet.”
The research found that walking the dog can be positive for wellbeing, with three quarters of Brits (73%) saying walking the dog makes them happy, and a further 57% saying it helped them feel positive and energised.
It also revealed that walking the dog is great for social lives, with more than half (59%) saying dog walks helped them to get out and meet people, and 45% having made new friends on walks. In fact, one in ten Brits (59%) actually met their partner whilst walking the dog.
Wilkinson and Blair have worked with Forthglade to create five tips to More Mindful Dog Walks
By ‘Mindful Living and Our Dogs’ experts Caroline Wilkinson and Linda Blair
- Leave your phone at home. Many of us think smartphones allow us to us ‘stay in touch’, when in truth they prevent us from making meaningful social connections. Why not use your dog walk to reach out meaningfully instead? Leave your phone at home and look around as you walk. Greet others warmly and enjoy a friendly chat. The reward? Increased wellbeing and a growing sense of belonging.
- Be curious. Challenge yourself to think in a new way on your dog walks. No zoning out. No criticising. No comparing. Instead, simply appreciate what’s happening all around you, right then and there. See if you can describe your surroundings to yourself in detail, but without comparing them to anything else. Just notice.
- Be calm. Considering our dogs don’t use language in the same way as us, they’re very adept at understanding the ‘meaning’ of the words we use. But we often assume that dogs understand us more than they do. When out on walks, try to use cues consistently and a calm, happy tone to your voice. Over-talking to our dogs can raise their level of arousal, plus it doesn’t allow them the important processing time they need to understand what we are asking of them.
- Ditch the ball and engage your dog’s nose. Did you know that the part of the dog’s brain responsible for processing scent is proportionally 40% larger than in us humans? In our dogs, the nose is king and sniffing actually has stress-reducing benefits. So, it’s a much better activity for your dog on a walk than chasing a ball repetitively, which can cause physical pressure and large amounts of adrenaline. And while they may not be running – sniffing is tiring.
- Make the journey as interesting as the destination. How often have you charged through the on-lead part of your walk, desperate to get to the park to allow your dog off the lead? Try to change your approach; Use the on-lead section of your walk as an opportunity to engage with your dog. Try scattering treats in the grass to engage your dog’s nose, or calmly stroke them to release the love hormone oxytocin and reduce tension. You and your dog will immediately feel calmer and more engaged.”
To take up the Mindful Dog Walking ‘5 day focus’ go to https://forthglade.com/news/5-days-to-mindful-dog-walks. A social media campaign is being launched this week to help support the campaign, for Mindful Dog Walking advice and tips follow @Forthglade #MindfulWalkies #Pawsandswitchoff