NewsIs Science On Your Kids' Side in Getting a Dog

Is Science On Your Kids’ Side in Getting a Dog

The Impact of Dog Ownership on Children’s Physical Activity

Kristina Kamburova Photography/Getty Images

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Kristina Kamburova Photography/Getty Images

Research indicates that children with dogs experience increased physical activity levels, particularly young girls.

Kristina Kamburova Photography/Getty Images

A recent study reveals a strong association between owning a family dog and a significant rise in physical activity among younger children, with girls showing the most substantial increase. This discovery adds to the mounting evidence highlighting the health benefits of dog ownership for individuals of various ages.

During the study, researchers in Australia monitored 600 children from preschool age over a three-year period. By utilizing monitors to track the children’s physical activities, such as duration, intensity, and speed of movement, and collecting parental reports on their activities and dog ownership status, the researchers gathered valuable insights.

Among the participants, half did not have a dog. 204 children had a dog throughout the study, while 58 children acquired a dog during the research period, and regrettably, 31 children lost a dog. This created an organic experimental setup for the researchers to analyze the impact of dog ownership on the children’s activity levels.

Unsurprisingly, both boys and girls in the study engaged more frequently in activities like walking the dog and playing in the yard after acquiring a pet dog. However, the effect was notably more pronounced among girls.

“Our findings indicate that introducing a dog into the household led to an additional 52 minutes of light-intensity physical activity per day for young girls. This increase is quite significant and could have a meaningful impact on their overall health and well-being,” explained Emma Adams, the lead researcher and a doctoral candidate at Telethon Kids Institute and the University of Western Australia. Conversely, girls who experienced the loss of a dog during the study exhibited a substantial decrease in their daily light-intensity physical activity by 62 minutes.

The study’s results are published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity.

“This new study is particularly noteworthy as it is the first longitudinal study I have come across, designed to investigate how acquiring a dog influences changes in physical activity,” remarked Katie Potter, an assistant professor of kinesiology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, specializing in utilizing the human-animal bond to promote physical activity.

Potter acknowledged that while research in this area is limited, other studies have also indicated that dogs might have a pronounced impact on girls’ activity levels.

“The reasons behind this phenomenon, such as how girls and boys interact differently with their dogs, remain unclear. Thus, further exploration is necessary,” Potter emphasized. Studies have shown that as they age, girls tend to experience a more significant decline in physical activity compared to boys.

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