Why Do Some Owners Not Walk Their Dogs?

There are two factors that explain why some people don't walk their dog.

Dogs like walking, so why do some dog owners not walk their dogs?

By Zazie Todd, PhD

In an earlier post, I looked at whether people could be encouraged to take more physical exercise by focusing on the benefits to their dog of going for a walk. It seems they can. But it surprises me that some people don’t walk their dog every day. To me, taking a dog for a walk is one of the lovely things about having a dog, but apparently not everyone feels that way.

A study by Hayley Cutt looks at the reasons why. Public health officials are always looking for ways of encouraging people to exercise, and as Cutt puts it, “one such under-used resource lies patiently, wagging its tail in eagerness to be physically active.”

Participants in this study were a subset of people taking part in a longitudinal survey of a neighbourhood in Perth, Australia. The dog-owners were asked to complete a questionnaire about their dog, how often they walked the dog, and the quality of their relationship.

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The study used the framework of the Theory of Planned Behaviour, which psychologists have found a very useful way of looking at the relationship between attitudes and behaviour.

On average, dog owners reported walking the dog four times a week for a total of 134 minutes. This isn’t necessarily the total time the dog was walking for, since some people said that at times their partner walked the dog instead.

Not surprisingly, owners who walked their dogs spent significantly more time walking each week than those who didn’t, and also got significantly more total physical exercise. The proportion of dog owners who did not walk their dog at all was 23%.

The two main factors which meant that owners were not likely to walk their dog were that they felt the dog did not provide motivation to walk more, and that the dog did not provide social support to walk more. A dog can provide social support through companionship, but also because it makes walking more sociable – other people are more likely to talk to someone with a dog. 

Although most owners felt attached to their pet, attachment was not enough to encourage them to walk the dog. The authors suggest that further research investigates whether aspects of the dog – such as size and breed – are related to the perceived motivation and social support to walk the dog.

This intrigues me because they did find that owners of toy or small dogs were the least likely to take them for walks. I wonder if owners of medium and large dogs are more likely to feel that their dogs need exercise, and hence feel more motivation to walk them?

How about you? What makes you feel motivated to walk your dog?

Zazie Todd, PhD, is the author of Wag: The Science of Making Your Dog Happy. She is the founder of the popular blog Companion Animal Psychology, where she writes about everything from training methods to the human-canine relationship. She also writes a column for Psychology Today and has received the prestigious Captain Haggerty Award for Best Training Article in 2017. Todd lives in Maple Ridge, BC, with her husband and two cats.

Useful links:
P.S. How to encourage people to walk their dog. Walking the dog is just one way pets help people make friends

Cutt, H. Giles-Corti, B. and Knuiman, M. (2008) Encouraging physical activity through dog-walking: Why don’t some owners walk with their dog? Preventive Medicine, 46, 120-126.
Photo: Jan Faukner (Shutterstock.com)

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  1. Some owners are lazy to say the least. Often it is the work schedule that won't allow them to walk their dogs. I work a 9-5 shift but I wake up 4 in the morning to walk my dog.

    1. Good for you! This is how everyone should be.

  2. Thanks for your comment. It's not as simple as saying it's lazy, as this study shows. It's a topic I'll be returning to as the reasons why some people walk their dogs and others don't are quite complex. Also we have to remember that some owners struggle to walk their dogs because they have yet to teach them to walk nicely on a lead without being reactive - and that's where dog trainers such as yourself come in.

    Your lucky dogs must be getting a four walk each morning given that timing?!!

  3. Dogs do need exercize,I think in turin its a law that you have to walk your dog,and other placves in the world

    I know some people have big spaces for their dogs to run around in at home, but for those who don't i think it should be a law,
    I live next door to a young husky that is rarely walked and if she is , its a very short walk,she seems to walk nicely on the lead.she spends all day inside, never in the back yard ,
    I think not having the motivation to walk a big dog , unless its got bad behaviour, is not caring for your dog,
    It should nt be a case of "are the owners of big dogs more likely to feel they should walk their dogs "
    They should be walking them, and why get a dog if you can't,
    I understand there are exceptions,if a dog is too strong for the owner , and too aggressive etc,then other measures have to be taken
    I get distressed about the husky and god knows what she feels

    1. Yah how can I get my mom to walk her dogs? she has not walked her 5 year old pitbull at all but only the few times I visit. or her 4 year old mutt. for years she never walks them. also a 10 year old lab all kept in a 2 bedroom house that has not enough room for 1 dog. she is edge on the breakdown I tried to bring this up to her attention but shutdowns quickly and just says "No". this is just the tip of the iceburg

  4. I have a very large multi level yard and my 3 year old dog spends hours out there running around the hills, chasing critters, barking at deer on the other side of the fence. My kids play fetch at least 3 times a week with her until she is pooped, (yet never too tired to chase another ball down).
    So I only walk her 2-4 times a week and in the winter sometime not for months. But she seems quite happy. I take her out in the car with me places and she gets a lot of attention.
    But she does love to go for walks. I do not enjoy walks myself. My son likes to walk and he is the one who gets me to do it with him. I do not like to chat with people and we walk late at night for the peace and quiet. I do not like to have my dog interact with other dogs. It is too fraught with possible danger. Just about every house in my neighborhood has a dog.

  5. I think don't having motivation to walk a big dog , unless its got bad behaviour, is not caring for the dog

  6. I have a HUGE field behind where I live and still my neighbours cannot walk their 2 or sometimes 3 dogs. Makes me sad.

  7. I can't walk my do as every time he gets the sent of another dog he fits and keeps on fitting for hours!! not all people who don't walk their dog's are lazy some just can't for their health and find other ways to keep them healthy,

  8. I take both my dogs on daily walks in the summer, but both, although they get along with each other they don't like other dogs so I have to drive them to a nearby friends property to do walks in the woods, dogs parks and such are too stressful for both dog and me. Now, in winter no I do not do daily walks it's too can't cold for me but to make up I commit to already 2 hours of play in our finished open basement. We play fetch, hide n seek, puzzles you name it I know they have had enough when they lay on the floor with their tongues hanging out. But yeah there are many reasons, except maybe some owners just don't understand the importance. I myself didn't see it with my first dog but after two years did some reading and got him on his routine.

  9. After years of city/leashed dog walks (piddle walks don't count) four times a day for exercise and human de-stressing, our current dogs walk four times a day off leash on rural private property. They sniff, they track, they explore, they have a path they explore with at least one of their people with them at all times. Till the temperatures climb above 85 degrees F. then short "business only" walks are the norm except at dawn and dusk.

    In some places, I was unable to walk my puppy outside a fenced yard (Parvo epidemic in the area and a new puppy). In others, I would have LOVED to be able to take my dog on long walks, but had to drive to a safe place away from the aggressive dogs in part of our neighborhood. In another case, I had to wait till the irresponsible dog owners next door went to work to walk my dog safely (they let one of their dogs roam free and she attacked my dog on a leash.) Most of all, walking my dog has always been a pleasant habit instead of a chore when in a safe environment away from aggressive animals, broken glass and bad traffic situations.

  10. There is nowhere to walk my dog nearby. My neighbourhood has no side walks and people drive crazy down the roads! Not risking that. The local lake does not allow dogs, and there really isn't anywhere else to take my dog on a nice walk in the area. However, she does have a big yard to play in, and I take her out several times a day to play fetch or to have some fun time with the sprinkler (She loves to chase it!). Overall, I would say that my dog is living a good life. She is happy, healthy, energetic, and getting plenty of exercise and attention. I most certainly do care for my dog!

  11. I don't walk my dog because I don't like strangers talking to me. Sometimes weird people go on telling me how to raise my dog. Yes, I know they are fellow dog owners but I don't enjoy being told how to own a bloody dog. Instead of having an enjoyable time walking my dog I end up being lectured by these random know-it-alls. Spare me the trouble. My dog exercises a lot in our huge yard.

  12. I'm afraid I believe that all dogs should be walked daily (probably twice daily or more). Obviously length and type of walk needed will vary based on their breed/age/ health etc but I don't think the type or length of walk should be determined by the owners needs on a regular basis (it should be based on the dogs needs). Basically I think if you haven't got time or ability to give the dog the kind of walks it needs then don't get that breed of dog (owning a dog is not a right, and not everyone's circumstances are suited to owning a dog.) My 2 dogs get out for 2 walks a day each. They are 2 very different dogs so for their afternoon walk they get taken out separately. The younger uninjured jack russel gets about an hour walk which includes off-lead and the older crossbreed who has spondylitis get about 40minutes all of which is on-lead. Then later on they get about 20 mins together too.
    They used to get out only when my husband was there to help due to behavioural issues but i got a trainer to help me get to the point where i could walk them confidently on my own. Now that their walks are more spaced out in the day and also longer and more based on the dog's individual needs they seem happier and more content. ... The point being that they were happy before but now that their walks are better they seem even more happy. So just because a dog doesn't seem bored/ desperate to get out, doesn't mean it's needs are being properly met.

    I guess my motivation to walk the dogs when I'm sore/tired or its horrible weather is the same as my motivation to feed them daily- it needs done for them to feel right. The majority of the time however it's just a pleasure to actually walk them and enjoy their company.

  13. My dog an insanely cute Pomeranian. Often compared to Boo. I'm extremely shy and don't like talking to strangers. I also don't really like being around kids. Our neighbor kid stalks our dog and insists on petting him for a half hour and I feel like I'm forced to oversee them. I also get stopped by everyone on walks so they cab squeal at my dog and my dab is extremely friendly while I'm not friendly at all. 30 minute walk lasts for 1 hour. Most days I don't have the emotional energy to deal with kids and strangers stopping me all the time. My husband works 6 days a week and is only home for am hour before he goes to bed so I'm left with caring for our dog. I know I don't have the temperament for a dog but my husband would get heartbroken if I was to insist on giving him to a better family.

  14. My family bought me a dog because I'm alone a lot due to agrophobia an d PTSD. I can only go out if someone is with me so my dog doesn't go for a walk for most days. I would be lost without him and he is not overweight

  15. My dog is very happy cuddling up with me on the sofa for most of the day but spends a good half hour out in they backyard chasing squirrels and amusing himself. He gets a walk 2-3 days a week and goes on a play date with another dog once a week.

  16. I have to watched my mom's and her husband's dogs quite often, and am not allowed to take them for walks. They seriously never leave the house unless to go to the bathroom and they bark at everything they can see or hear outside. I think the typical person doesn't walk their dog either from laziness, or they think their dog will be unfriendly with people.

  17. I don t really walk my dogs in leash.i have a big yard where we play and every day they go out of the yard and go to explore everyehere alone and interract eith other dogs. They never really enjoyed the leash cause they like to run free.

  18. If you wont care for a dog the way it needs to be you shouldnt have one.

  19. I walk my dog on average 4 times a week. She is extremely reactive and aggressive to dogs and very strong so it is very stressful and even sometimes dangerous for me to walk her. We are getting help and training her but it is a looooooooong process. So in the mean time, it’s as many walks as I can handle.

  20. If you are too lazy to walk your dog, get a cat. My neighbor only lets
    her dog pee for less than a few minutes

    outside and no walks. I walk my Jack Russel 2x a day for 30 minutes or more in all weather and no matter how Im feeling.


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