Background: Dog ownership may be an effective tailored intervention among adults for promoting physical activity. This study examined the relationship between walking, physical activity levels, and potential psychological mediators between people who owned dogs and those who did not own dogs in the Capital Region District of Greater Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. Data were collected in September 2004; analyses were conducted in January 2005.
Methods: A random sample of men (n=177) and women (n=174) aged 20 to 80 years participated. Questionnaires were mailed out in 2004 to collect information about demographics, dog ownership, leisure-time walking, physical activity levels, and theory of planned behavior (TPB) constructs.
Results: The analyses revealed that dog owners spent more time in mild and moderate physical activities and walked an average of 300 minutes per week compared to non-dog owners who walked an average of 168 minutes per week. A mediator analysis suggests that dog obligation acts as a mediator between dog ownership and physical activity. Moreover, the theory of planned behavior constructs of intention and perceived behavioral control explained 13% of the variance in walking behavior with an additional 11% variance in walking behavior being explained by dog obligation. Regarding intention to walk, the TPB explained 46% of the variance in intention to walk with dog obligation adding an additional 1% variance.
Conclusions: In this group of Canadians, those who owned a dog participated in more mild to moderate physical activity than those who did not. Acquiring a dog should be explored as an intervention to get people more physically active.