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Do you Believe in Dog? (2018). Powered by Blogger.

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It started when two canine scientists decide to become pen pals in an era of digital media...


18 September 2018

How active is the average dog? And do extreme weather events affect their activity? 

Researchers are appealing to dog owners around the world for help.

How active is your dog? Emily Hall wants to know, and needs your help to find out! Emily Hall is a vet and PhD student investigating risk factors for canine heatstroke and how environmental conditions affect dog’s ability to exercise.  Together with Dr Anne Carter (Senior Lecturer in Animal Biology) and Dr Mark Farnworth (Associate Professor in Animal Welfare) at Nottingham Trent University, Emily is asking dog owners around the world to share information about their dog’s normal exercise routine via an online survey. Dogs of any age, any breed and any health status can participate. Live with more than one dog? Simply re-start the survey to add additional dogs’ details too. 

Please share the survey link here, open until 31st December 2018:

What did your dog do today? How about your neighbour's dog? From the moment they woke up, to the point at which they curled up in their bed (or perhaps your bed), how did they spend their day? Did they go out for a walk, or a run? Did they chase a ball, or a cat? Did they compete in a canicross race, or train for an agility competition? Did they do as much as they were doing this time last year? Do you know what they will be able to do this time next year?

Surprisingly, we don’t know very much at all about dog activity levels.

Google “how much exercise does a dog need every day”, and one site will tell you this varies from dog to dog. Another site goes as far as to provide breed specific information on just how much your dog should be doing. For example, a Beagle apparently needs over two hours of exercise daily to keep them physically and mentally fit. A canine charity suggests how many walks a dog should ideally have a day. So who do you trust, and which one is right for your dog?

None of these popular, well-respected websites list any evidence base, such as references or sources of information to support these statements.

Go a step further with a search to Google Scholar. Search “dog OR canine AND activity levels”. The results explore how dog ownership impacts human activity levels, walking and general health. The only results relating to the dog’s activity levels, explore the use of wearable technology for measuring step count and distance travelled. We just don’t know how much exercise the average dog is getting, so we have absolutely no idea how age, breed, health status or external factors such as location or weather, impact the dog’s ability to exercise.

Amongst the articles on how dog ownership impacts human health, we see at one point the British tabloids reported the National Health Service was prescribing dog walking to help people keep fit, following a study showing that older people walked more if they own a dog. Sounds good? Perhaps, until you explore the study design. Participants were required to confirm their ability to walk unaided for a minimum of 10 minutes continuously. Ok, sounds reasonable? For the dog owning participants, they had to confirm the same criteria applied to their dog. So sadly, this study is flawed because it excludes all the dog owners who don’t have an active dog. 

The key problem with suggesting dog ownership to improve human health and physical activity levels, is the lack of evidence for normal canine activity levels. Confounding that, we also have no idea how canine factors such as breed, age or health impact activity levels. To complicate things further, increasingly frequent extreme weather events such as record breaking heatwaves like those seen in parts of Australia in 2017 — and the UK, Canada and Japan in 2018 — may also impact a dog’s ability to exercise. We just don’t know. 

In planning our next research project, we hit this wall. To get past it, we need to know: how active are our dogs? What affects their ability to be active? It’s always interesting when some of these really fundamental questions have been overlooked in the field of canine science, and we’re excited to learn more.

Participate in the online survey

Through our online survey we are investigating activity levels in dogs of every age, every breed, from all over the world. We are asking owners to share their dog’s health status so we can investigate if certain health problems impact a dog’s ability to exercise. It may sound obvious that a dog with a painful hip won’t want to walk as far as a healthy dog, but what about a dog with long-term itchy skin, or epilepsy? Does their disease impact their exercise routine? 

We also want to know how the weather affects dogs. How are the heatwaves affecting dog’s activity levels? Are they exercising at all, or is the risk of heatstroke too great? At the other extreme, what happens when it snows? Do some dogs love the snow and exercise more, or do they get too cold and refuse the leave the house!
We would like all dog owners to complete the survey, no matter how old, young, or healthy your dog is. The survey can be completed as many times as required, so if you have more than one dog, re-start the survey for each individual dog. If you feel a question doesn’t apply to you, leave it blank, or leave a comment. 

Please access and share the survey using this link: 

The results

The survey doesn’t close until the end of 2018, so you’ll need to be patient while we crunch the numbers, but all results will be shared via the project blog, at 

Any questions, please get in touch via

Emily Hall
Nottingham Trent University, UK

Images via Flickr: froderamone / carterse / blumenbiene
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