The Health Benefits of Dog Walking for People and Pets: Evidence & Case Studies

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Obesity is a national epidemic in the United States. It is estimated that by 2018 the cost of treating weight-related illnesses will double to almost $350 billion a year, while a 2010 report by the US Surgeon General estimates that two-thirds of American adults and almost one in three children are now overweight or obese. This volume originated in a special 2009 symposium funded in part by a grant from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) and sponsorship from Mars WalthamA on how human-animal interaction may help fight obesity across the lifespan. The authors present scientific evidence about the benefits of dog walking for improving human and animal health, and case studies of programs that are using this powerful expression of the human-animal bond to combat obesity. The volume is especially valuable as a sourcebook of evidence-based studies for public health professionals treating overweight humans and veterinarians treating obese dogs.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Drawn from peer-reviewed papers delivered at a symposium entitled Research Meets Practice: Human-animal Interaction in Obesity Across the Lifespan, part of the larger 18th Annual Conference of the International Society for Anthrozoology, held in Kansas City, Missouri in October 2009, this collection examines the effective use of dog walking as a tool for promoting healthy lifestyles in a variety of populations. Topics discussed include physical activity recommendation for dog walking, dog walking as a community strengthening activity, dog walking for senior populations, dog obesity, dog walking and canine health and healthy behavior modification programs for youth and dogs. Contributors include academics and professionals in wide variety of fields including veterinary medicine, child development, health and psychology. (Annotation C2011 Book News Inc. Portland, OR)

How Dog's Spread Happiness
The result? Better Health For you!
USA Weekend
January 19, 2012
Steve Dale

Science is only beginning to understand the intrinsic relationship we have with dogs. “I always want dogs in my life,” says Katherine Heigl — and it appears that will pay off for her in multiple ways. The mere act of petting a dog can cause a chain of events. Instantly, neurotransmitters in our heads do a happy dance — it’s involuntary. We feel good.

When we feel good, we are more likely to smile. Whenever we smile, still more neurotransmitters are fired. That’s why experts say just smiling is good for us.

Studies show that when petting a dog, a hormone called oxytocin kicks into high gear. Oxytocin, which is sometimes dubbed “the cuddle hormone,” helps reduce blood pressure and decreases levels of cortisol, a hormone related to stress and anxiety.

If this is the case, might petting a dog be a substitute for an anti-anxiety medication? To at least some degree, the answer is yes. As a result, some doctors have suggested that dogs are sometimes better than Prozac.

For years it’s been thought that sharing your life with a dog is healthful. Now scientists are not only confirming it’s true, but they’re also beginning to understand why.

It turns out that increased oxytocin may offer additional benefits. Just after childbirth, oxytocin levels in mothers soar, and it’s thought that it cements a bond between mothers and newborns. Is our connection with dogs similarly bonded? No one knows.

And one more thing: Recent studies suggest people supplemented with oxytocin heal faster. Perhaps the healing properties of elevated oxytocin at least partially explain the benefits of therapy dogs.

For decades, there have been anecdotal stories of dogs visiting a children’s hospital or rehab center and seeming to promote healing. In recent years, medical science has documented that such benefits can be real.

Even the simple act of taking a dog for a walk is healthful. There’s the obvious cardiovascular benefit. Also, as Rebecca A. Johnson, Alan M. Beck and Sandra McCune say in their book, The Health Benefits of Dog Walking for Pets & People, dogs are a social lubricant. That’s a fancy way of saying you are more likely to stop and chat with people when you have a wagging tail at the end of a leash.

All dog owners know that strangers who wouldn’t give you a second glance, much less stop to chat, might do so if you have a dog. Or at least people may more likely smile as they walk by. Since we know smiling helps people feel good, walking a dog is a way to spread a little bit of happiness.

No wonder the presence of dogs in a community is considered an important barometer when measuring quality of life.

Actor John O’Hurley, host of the National Dog Show Presented by Purina each Thanksgiving, says, “When a dog wags his tail, it is connected to his heart.” Apparently, those tail wags are also connected to our hearts, and our heads.

Hindustan Times, December 6, 2012

Obesity is an increasing problem among all age groups, across the globe. Walking - one of the most basic forms of exercise - can play an important role in fighting this problem. It is estimated that by 2018, the cost of treating weight related illnesses will double to almost $350 billion a year, while a 2010 report by the US Surgeon General estimates that two-thirds of American adults and almost one in three children are ow overweight or obese.
The book, The Health Benefits of Dog Waling for Pets & People , provides case studies and evidences on how human-animal interaction can help fight obesity. While sharing your life with a  dog is healthful at many levels, studies suggest that dog walkers often walk more than those without dogs.
The various topics discussed int he book include physical activity recommendation for dog walking, dog walking as a community strengthening activity, dog walking for senior populations, dog obesity, canine health and healthy behaviour modification programmes for he youth and dogs. Apart from the health benefits, the book also suggest that one is more likely to stop and chat with people walking a dog than with those walking alone.
Though the language used in the book is not difficult to understand, it is technical and may not interest all. go for it if you're looking for in-depth information on the subject. In India the book is only available online.
Shruti Dargan

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Product Details

Meet the Author

Rebecca Johnson, PhD, RN, FAAN, is Millsap Professor for Gerontological Nursing and Public Policy at the University of Missouri. She holds a joint appointment at the College of Veterinary Medicine as the director of the Research Center for Human-Animal Interaction (visit Author of over forty publications, in 2010 she was elected president of the International Association of Human-Animal Interaction Organizations.Alan Beck, ScD, is the Dorothy N. McAllister Professor of Animal Ecology at Purdue University. Before coming to Purdue, Beck directed the Center for the Integration of Animals and Society at the University of Pennsylvania and was director of animal programs for the New York City Department of Health. Beck has published numerous articles and several books on the nature of our relationship with animals and is a founding board member of the Delta Society. Sandra McCune, PhD, VN, is research manager for the Human-Animal Bond Program at the WALTHAMA Centre for Pet Nutrition, part of Mars, Inc. The WALTHAMA Centre is the hub of global research activities for MarsAE Pet Care brands, and its research team is responsible for some of the most important breakthroughs in pet care and nutrition.
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Table of Contents

List of Tables vii

List of Figures ix

Foreword xi

Acknowledgments xiii

List of Contributors xiv

Chapter 1 Dog walking as a new area of inquiry: An overview Alan M. Beck 1

Chapter 2 Physical activity recommendations and dog walking Jacqueline N. Epping 7

Chapter 3 International perspectives on the epidemiology of dog walking Adrian Bauman Hayley E. Christian Roland J. Thorpe Rona Macniven 25

Chapter 4 Dog walking as a catalyst for strengthening the social fabric of the community Lisa J. Wood Hayley E. Christian 51

Chapter 5 Dog walking as physical activity for older adults Roland J. Thorpe Hayley E. Christian Adrian Bauman 75

Chapter 6 "Walk a hound, lose a pound": A community dog walking program for families Rebecca A. Johnson Charlotte A. McKenney 89

Chapter 7 Method development and preliminary examination of dog walking as a form of human and canine physical activity Barbour S. Warren Joseph J. Wakshlag Mary Matey Tracy Farrell Martin T. Wells Angela M. Struble Carol M. Devine Grace Long 105

Chapter 8 Dog obesity, dog walking, and dog health Karyl J. Hurley Denise A. Elliott Elizabeth Lund 125

Chapter 9 Owners and pets exercising together: The metabolic benefits of "walking the dog" Mark B. Stephens Cindy C. Wilson Jeffrey L. Goodie F. Ellen Netting Cara Olsen Christopher G. Byers Mary E. Yonemura 147

Chapter 10 Kids and K-9s for healthy choices: A pilot program for canine therapy and healthy behavior modification to increase healthy lifestyle choices in children Kathy K. Wright Ashley M. Brown 163

Chapter 11 Future directions in dog walking Rebecca A. Johnson Alan M. Beck Sandra McCune James A. Griffin Layla Esposito 181

Index 193

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