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A community-based social networking intervention to increase walking in dog owners

By Deirdra Murphy, Cynthia Ferrara, Jessica Oleski, Emily Panza, Laura Bowen, Brianne Bozella, Kimberly Gada, Clara Savage, Stephanie C. Lemon, Kristin L. Schneider

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Roughly 40% of U.S. households own a dog and while dog ownership is associated with greater engagement in physical activity, up to 60% of dog owners do not achieve the recommended 150 minutes of weekly physical activity. The present study aims to develop and test a dog walking intervention addressing individual, interpersonal, and community factors. The study represents collaboration between UMass Medical School, UMass Lowell and their community partners, Common Pathways and the Greater Lowell Health Alliance. The developmental phase uses a community-based participatory research approach by creating community advisory boards and conducting focus groups with residents to ensure community perspectives are represented throughout intervention development. Information gathered from the developmental phase will inform the intervention.

The intervention phase will determine the feasibility and efficacy of a multi-component dog walking intervention using a group randomized controlled trial. The intervention uses a social networking website, newsletters, pedometers, neighborhood walks, and community events to educate owners on the benefits of walking, create a supportive environment, and increase the "dog friendliness" of a community. Communities in Worcester and Lowell will be randomized to the intervention or control condition. Outcome measures include pedometer steps, time spent walking the dog, social support for exercise, and sense of community.

This study is one of the first studies to test whether increasing dog walking in dog owners can increase owner physical activity via a social networking website. If successful, we will assess the extent to which the community can sustain the intervention.


Megan Kendall

Purdue University

Date 11 April 2011
Publisher University of Massachusetts Medical School
URL University of Massachusetts Lowell
Language English
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal-assisted activities
  2. Animal-assisted therapies
  3. Animal welfare
  4. Dogs
  5. Health
  6. Interventions
  7. Mammals
  8. Pet ownership
  9. physical activity
  10. Walking