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Habitus and responsible dog-ownership: reconsidering the health promotion implications of 'dog-shaped' holes in people's lives

By C. Degeling, M. Rock, W. Rogers, T. Riley

Category Journal Articles

Responsible dog ownership has been identified as a point of intervention to promote physical activity, based upon an expectation of dog walking in public space. Nevertheless, quantitative research has found variability among owners in their dog walking. In this study, we explore the implications for health promotion of such variability. We do so by drawing on the concepts of habitus and social capital to analyse qualitative interviews. Participants were recruited from a social network in a cosmopolitan city with a policy framework intended to ensure equitable access to public space for dog walkers. The analysis confirms dog ownership can promote both physical activity and social capital, to the extent of mutual reinforcement. Yet we identified patterns of care in which dogs could influence people's emotional well-being without promoting physical activity. In particular, some owners were not capable of extensive dog walking but still benefited emotionally from dog ownership and from interpersonal interactions facilitated by dog ownership. Some participants' dogs, however, could not be walked in public without risking public safety and social sanctions. Responsible dog ownership can therefore also entail not exercising dogs. Contra to the emerging ideal in health promotion, a 'dog-shaped hole' in someone's life does not always take the form of a walking companion.

Date 2015
Publication Title Critical Public Health
Volume 26
Issue 2
Pages 191-206
ISBN/ISSN 0958-1596
Publisher Taylor & Francis
DOI 10.1080/09581596.2015.1026876
Language English
Author Address Centre for Values, Ethics and the Law in Medicine, School of Public Health, The University of Sydney, Sydney,
Additional Language English
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animals
  2. APEC countries
  3. Australasia
  4. Australia
  5. Canidae
  6. Canine
  7. Carnivores
  8. Commonwealth of Nations
  9. Countries
  10. Developed countries
  11. Dogs
  12. Health Promotion
  13. Humans
  14. Mammals
  15. Men
  16. Oceania
  17. OECD countries
  18. open access
  19. peer-reviewed
  20. physical activity
  21. Primates
  22. safety
  23. social interactions
  24. support
  25. systems
  26. vertebrates
  1. open access
  2. peer-reviewed