Leeds reseachers unleash paw-fect way to enjoy walkies

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Academics have come up with the paw-fect solution to getting the most out your pooch’s walkies.

A new study by the team at Leeds Beckett University has found that dog walkers want their four-legged friends to have fun, freedom and space to enact their ‘dog-ness’ when they go for a walk.

A lady walking her dog in the grounds of Temple Newsam House, Leeds.

A lady walking her dog in the grounds of Temple Newsam House, Leeds.

They discovered dog walkers commonly thought of the walk as something they did for their dog.

Each respondent believed that dogs possess their own unique personality, likes and dislikes.

The study, published in Social and Cultural Geography journal, highlights a delicate balance between “listening” to what a dog wants and needs from a walk and acting out a human’s interpretations of what is best for themselves, their dog and others within the communal space.

Dr Thomas Fletcher, who led the study, said: “The study reveals that humans walk their dogs in large part because they feel a deep-rooted emotional bond with them and hold a strong sense of obligation to ensure they stay fit and healthy.

“Perhaps more interestingly, humans also walk their dogs because they believe their dogs have fun and are able to be more ‘dog-like’ while out on a walk.”

People taking part in the study were asked to discuss their dog’s personality, what their dogs meant to them and how their relationships have developed.

Dr Fletcher added: “The walk was seen as an invaluable opportunity for dogs ‘to be dogs’.

“There was widespread belief that dogs are happiest when out in the open, and it is here that they are able to best demonstrate their ‘dog-ness’. This was important because, despite the respondents acknowledging that their dogs had been domesticated, they also took pleasure from seeing them behave ‘like dogs’.”

The study was led by Dr Thomas Fletcher, Senior Lecturer and Researcher within the Institute for Sport, Physical Activity and Leisure at Leeds Beckett University with Dr Louise Platt, Senior Lecturer at Manchester Metropolitan University. The aim of the study was to examine how humans share spaces with their animal counterparts, and how walking experiences with animal companions are negotiated.

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