Dogs really are like their owners, at least when it comes to exercise, a new study shows.
Researchers surveyed more than 3,000 dog owners in five countries, including the UK, US and Germany, about their and their dogs’ exercise habits.
Dog owners who spend more time exercising tend to have dogs that exercise more too, experts found.
This could be because dog owners often take their dogs with them when exercising, whether it’s running, biking, or hiking.
But owners who spend a lot of time exercising can also pay more attention to their dog’s need for exercise to stay healthy.
Experts emphasize that owners’ exercise routines can have an impact on their dogs’ exercise routines, which could affect their pets’ risk of obesity.
Obese dogs have shortened life spans, reduced quality of life and a higher frequency of health conditions including arthritis, respiratory problems, heart disease, diabetes and some cancers.
Dog owners who spend more time exercising alone tend to train their dogs more, study shows (file photo)
HOW MANY EXERCISES SHOULD A DOG DO?
The US Department of Agriculture recommends a minimum of 30 minutes of exercise per day, based on kennel dogs.
The American Animal Hospital Association provides guidelines for training obese dogs by starting with a 5-minute walk, three times a day and increasing gradually to a total of 30-45 minutes of walking per day.
How much exercise a dog should do also depends on their size, age and health status. Some need 1-2 hours of exercise per day, others need more than 2 hours, and some – most working breeds – need more.
Flat-faced breeds such as the Pug, Bulldog, and Shih Tzu require as much exercise as other dogs, but often have difficulty breathing because of the shape of their face.
The new study was led by researchers at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada and published today in the journal PLOS One.
‘Results from this survey highlight the need to incorporate exercise strategies into weight loss programs for dogs and encourage dog owners to train their dogs as a precautionary measure to avoid weight gain,’ they said in their paper.
‘To do this, more resources for veterinarians are needed to help implement exercise regimens in their patients.
‘Obesity in dogs has become an increasingly common health problem worldwide.’
For the study, experts analyzed results from a survey of 3,298 dog owners living in France, Germany, the UK, the US and Canada.
The survey included questions about the owners and dogs’ diet and exercise routines, and each owner’s perception of their dog’s weight.
In addition to the relationship between dog exercise and owners, researchers found that owners who were more active were also more likely to perceive their dog’s weight as ideal.
Compared to owners in other countries, owners in Germany tend to train their dogs for longer periods of time and tend to consider their dogs ideal weight.
Interestingly, dog owners in Germany are also less likely to report that their dogs are overweight.
Compared to owners in other countries, owners in Germany tend to train their dogs longer
OBESITY OR EXCESS?
There is currently no universally accepted definition of obesity in dogs, with the terms ‘overweight’ and ‘obese’ often used interchangeably.
This is different from humans who are classified as thin, healthy, overweight or obese based on body mass index (BMI).
A report classifies dogs as overweight when their body weight is more than 15 percent above their ‘optimal’ weight and obese when their body weight exceeds 30 percent of ‘optimal’.
However, there is little evidence for the nature of the ‘optimal’ weight or for the cut-off where weight gain is a problem.
Source: Pegram et al
Meanwhile, among dogs over the age of five, owners were less likely to consider their dog to be of an ideal weight if they were told that their dog was overweight.
This also happens if they try to control their dog’s weight by limiting food intake, and if they give their dog another food, such as treats, every day.
Overall, owners who did any amount of vigorous exercise — defined as physical activity that required vigorous physical effort and made breathing more difficult than normal — were more likely to have a dog that did vigorous exercise.
In addition, owners who engage in moderate exercise for more than five days per week are more likely to train their dogs for 60-90 or more than 90 minutes per day.
Researchers suggest that many owners may be trying to control their dog’s weight through diet, but not through exercise.
‘Results from the survey reveal that feeding practices play a major role in owners’ perceptions of their dogs being overweight,’ said lead author Sydney Banton at the University of Guelph.
‘While many weight loss strategies for dogs focus on feeding, these data highlight the need to incorporate exercise into a weight loss regimen.’
Banton says owners who are more active don’t necessarily do exercise with their dogs, but dog owners who do more exercise on their own are more likely to give their dogs more exercise as well.
Researchers say that owners who ‘humanize’ their dogs (for example, by letting them sleep in their beds or feeding them human food such as chips) are more likely to have obese dogs.
Using food as a positive interaction with dogs – so giving them food as a reward – can also contribute to obesity.
In addition, obese dog owners are more likely to become obese themselves and care less about their own health, previous research has shown.
This suggests that owners’ own health practices can affect their dog’s weight, so a more active lifestyle can benefit both the owner and their dog.
Obese people are twice as likely to have overweight dogs because they feed their pet dogs with fattening food
Overweight people are twice as likely to have an overweight dog, a 2019 study found.
The Danish study author team said this was at least partly because they were guilty of feeding their pets fattening.
Writing in their study, the authors claim this lends credence to the adage ‘like owner, like dog’.
“The prevalence of heavy or obese dogs was more than twice as great among overweight or obese owners (35 per cent) than among thin or normal weight owners (14 per cent),” said researchers from the University of Copenhagen. .
Of the 268 dogs studied, 20 percent were found to be overweight.
Owners of average weight tend to use snacks for training purposes, while overweight owners prefer to give snacks more often.
The study’s lead author, Charlotte Bjornvad, said: “For example, when someone is lounging on the couch and sharing the last bite of a sandwich or cake with their dog.”
The University of Copenhagen study also showed that castration tripled the risk of becoming overweight or obese.
‘Neuterization appears to decrease the ability to regulate appetite in male dogs and, at the same time, may also decrease the incentive to exercise resulting in an increased risk of being overweight,’ Professor Bjornvad said.
Separate research published earlier this year found pet dogs who were overweight from too much food could see their lives shortened by more than two years, a study found.
Researchers tracked more than 50,000 dogs from the 12 most popular breeds over two decades to see how their weight affected their health.
They found every breed, from shih tzus to golden retrievers, to have a shorter lifespan.
Read more: Overweight dogs live TWO less years than healthy dogs