Background: Levels of physical activity (PA) in UK children are much lower than recommended and novel approaches to its promotion are needed. The Children, Parents and Pets Exercising Together (CPET) study is the first exploratory randomised controlled trial (RCT) to develop and evaluate an intervention aimed at dog-based PA promotion in families. CPET aimed to assess the feasibility, acceptability and potential efficacy of a theory-driven, family-based, dog walking intervention for 9-11 year olds.
Methods: Twenty-eight families were allocated randomly to either receive a 10-week dog based PA intervention or to a control group. Families in the intervention group were motivated and supported to increase the frequency, intensity and duration of dog walking using a number of behaviour change techniques. Parents in the intervention group were asked to complete a short study exit questionnaire. In addition, focus groups with parents and children in the intervention group, and with key stakeholders were undertaken. The primary outcome measure was 10 week change in total volume of PA using the mean accelerometer count per minute (cpm). Intervention and control groups were compared using analysis of covariance. Analysis was performed on an intention to treat basis.
Results: Twenty five families were retained at follow up (89%) and 97% of all outcome data were collected at baseline and follow up. Thirteen of 14 (93%) intervention group parents available at follow up completed the study exit questionnaire and noted that study outcome measures were acceptable. There was a mean difference in child total volume of PA of 27 cpm (95% CI -70, 123) and -3 cpm (95% CI -60, 54) for intervention and control group children, respectively. This was not statistically significant. Approximately 21% of dog walking time for parents and 39% of dog walking time for children was moderate-vigorous PA.
Conclusions: The acceptability of the CPET intervention and outcome measures was high. Using pet dogs as the agent of lifestyle change in PA interventions in children and their parents is both feasible and acceptable, but did not result in a significant increase in child PA in this exploratory trial.
Trial registration: ISRCTN85939423.