Dog ownership and physical activity in later life: a cross-sectional observational study

Prev Med. 2014 Sep;66:101-6. doi: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2014.06.004. Epub 2014 Jun 12.


Objective: To examine whether dog ownership amongst community dwelling older adults (≥ 65 years) is associated with objectively measured physical activity (PA).

Methods: We used data from the Physical Activity Cohort Scotland (PACS) which consists of 547 people aged 65 and over, resident in the community in Tayside, Scotland. The data was collected in 2009-2011. We assessed whether dog ownership is associated with objectively measured physical activity (accelerometry counts).

Results: The physical activity (PA) counts of 547 older people (mean age 79 (standard deviation (SD) 8 years, 54% female) were analysed. Linear mixed models showed that dog ownership was positively related to higher PA levels. This positive relationship remained after controlling for a large number of individual and contextual variables, including attitude towards exercise, physical activity intention and history of physical activity. Dog owners were found to be 12% more active (21,875 counts, 95% Confidence Interval (CI): 2810 to 40,939, p<0.05) than non-dog owners.

Conclusion: Dog ownership is associated with physical activity in later life. Interventions to increase activity amongst older people might usefully attempt to replicate elements of the dog ownership experience.

Keywords: Accelerometry counts; Dog ownership; Later life; Physical activity.

Publication types

  • Observational Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Accelerometry
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Animals
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Dogs*
  • Exercise*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motor Activity
  • Ownership*
  • Pets*
  • Scotland
  • Socioeconomic Factors