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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Physical activity and welfare of guide dogs and walking activity of their partners

  • Author(s): Yamamoto, M
  • Yamamoto, MM
  • Hart, LA
  • et al.

© ISAZ 2015. Appropriate physical activity is beneficial for physical and psychosocial wellbeing, and it is recommended for people to have 30 minutes of activity on most days of the week, to yield 150 minutes per week. Getting sufficient physical activity particularly challenges people with visual disabilities, and few health-promotion interventions have focused on adults with this disability. Recently, dog walking has been promoted in communities as a way to increase people’s physical activity. We surveyed guide-dog partners to assess whether their guide dogs facilitated walking. We also assessed the welfare of these dogs, including their physical activity and social interactions with other dogs and people, especially as there is some concern that these dogs have too little freedom. For comparison, we assessed large and small companion dogs and their handlers, as well. A web-based survey was conducted among people living with guide dogs or companion (pet) dogs: large companion dogs (51 lb or more) and small companion dogs (50 lb or less). Guide-dog partners walked significantly more than handlers of either small or large companion dogs (Guide-dog partners met the healthy standard of 150 min per week of walking, at a level 10 times more than owners of large companion dogs). Guide dogs walked with their partners more frequently and for longer durations per day than owners of companion dogs. Guide dogs with their handlers met more people outside of their homes than did owners of companion dogs, but the groups did not differ in the number of dogs they greeted outside of the house. The frequencies of going to off-leash areas did not differ among the three groups. The findings indicate that having a dog as a guide can lead to a higher amount of walking among guide-dog partners, and that guide dogs have a higher quality of life, in terms of quantity of physical activity and social interactions, compared with large or small companion dogs.

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