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Built Environments Supporting Dog-Walking

Updated: Jun 23, 2020

Results from “Supportive neighbourhood built characteristics and dog-walking in

Canadian adults”.

McCormack, G.R., Graham, T.M., Christian, H., Toohey, A.M., & Rock, M.J.


Dog-walkers and their environment

Dog-walking is a key part of dog-ownership and results in health benefits for both the dog and the owner (1). Despite one third of Canadians owning dogs, only two thirds of dogs are walked regularly (2). Evidence suggests that in urban neighbourhoods, aspects of the built environment can either support (e.g. off leash dog parks) or deter dog-walking (e.g. presence of wildlife) (3). Additionally, some built features, like pathway quality and traffic safety, may affect general walking behaviours of all residents in a neighbourhood, not only dog-owners (4). Understanding how both non-dog-walkers and dog-walkers perceive their neighbourhood environment and walkability may better inform planning interventions with the goal of encouraging more frequent dog-walking. In 2016, a Canadian study estimated the perceived differences of the neighbourhood built environment between dog-walkers and non-dog-walkers, as well as the association of such perceptions on how often they walked their dog.

Do dog-walkers perceived neighbourhoods differently?

Interviews were completed with a sample of Canadian adults who owned dogs and who did not own dogs. Non dog-owners were found to have more positive perceptions of street connectivity, pedestrian infrastructure, and walkability of the neighbourhood. Dog-owners, regardless of whether they walked their dogs or not, shared similar perceptions of their neighbourhood built environment. However, this perception of their environment did not affect their likelihood to walk their dog. For owners that do walk their dogs, findings estimated that perceived neighbourhood aesthetics and overall walkability would encourage more dog-walking, specifically, a greater likelihood of walking their dog more than four times a week. While efforts to create built environments more supportive of dog-walking may not encourage dog owners to begin walking their dogs, evidence suggests it may support more regular walking by those that already walk their dogs.

Suggested Citation: McCormack, G. R., Graham, T. M., Christian, H., Toohey, A. M., & Rock, M. J. (2016). Supportive neighbourhood built characteristics and dog-walking in Canadian adults. Canadian Journal of Public Health, 107(3). doi:10.17269/cjph.107.5360

Written by: Emma Chong, BKin; Posted August 9, 2019


(1) Soares J, Epping J, Owens C, Brown D, Lankford T, Simoes E, et al. Odds of getting adequate physical activity by dog walking. J Phys Act Health 2015; 12 (6 Suppl 1):S102–9. PMID: 24733365. doi: 10.1123/jpah.2013-0229.

(2) Christian HE, Westgarth C, Bauman A, Richards EA, Rhodes RE, Evenson KR, et al. Dog ownership and physical activity: A review of the evidence. J Phys Act Health 2013;10(5):750–59. PMID: 23006510.

(3) Cutt HE, Giles-Corti B, Wood LJ, Knuiman MW, Burke V. Barriers and motivators for owners walking their dog: Results from qualitative research. Health Promot J Austr 2008;19(2):118–24. PMID: 18647125.

(4) Saelens BE, Handy SL. Built environment correlates of walking: A review. Med Sci Sports Exerc 2008;40(7 Suppl):S550–66. PMID: 18562973. doi: 10.1249/ MSS.0b013e31817c67a4.


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