Walking, exercise and frolic!
Each month, we explain a few questions from the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study questionnaire.
Henry Ward Beecher, a social reformer and clergyman, had a particular affinity for dogs. Of them he said: “The dog was created especially for children. He is the god of frolic.”
Questions #34-37 on the baseline questionnaire, and questions on page 43 of the three-year questionnaire are all about walking and exercise – in other words (in the dog world) frolic. These questions ask owners to give detailed information about the duration and intensity of exercise. The three-year survey adds a few more questions, asking owners to indicate specifics such as exercise surface and grade.
One of the objectives of the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study is to gain insight into the relationship between exercise and disease development. Knowing the benefits of walking and other forms of exercise, particularly as it relates to disease incidence, could give us profound insight into how exercise might help our dogs stay healthy.
Walking is gaining popularity as a great way for people of all ages to exercise. Studies in humans show that brisk walking for as little as 15 minutes per day has health benefits. Numerous studies also suggest that walking improves mental well-being, muscular strength and coordination, cardiovascular fitness, healthy weight maintenance, and more.
We know that exercise is good for our dogs, too. Exercise helps with weight control and strength development, as well as providing psychological benefits. However, unlike humans, there simply isn’t much scientific data about the effects of different types of exercise on our canine companions.
It is obvious when we look at our preliminary data that our study population is one energetic group of dogs! At baseline, 51 percent of our study dog owners report that their dogs were very active. About one third of study owners were leash walking their dogs, but more indicated that their dogs were allowed to run off leash on large properties or in dog parks. Sixty-two percent of owners frequently played fetch or other games with their dogs. Other popular activities included swimming, agility training, and hunting. And 3 percent of dogs get 60 minutes or more of aerobic activity at least once a day!
The Morris Animal Foundation Golden Retriever Lifetime Study is providing an invaluable window on the exercise habits of a defined group of dogs, and how different types of exercise may impact lifelong health. Meanwhile, we already know how much our dogs love getting out for a walk or a run, playing at the dog park, or wearing you out with an endless game of fetch as they delight themselves (and you) in frolic.