Community Living – Benefits of an Urban Dog -Friendly Park

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Dog-friendly parks have been established in many urban communities worldwide as a simple way to promote healthy living among humans and their canine companions. The purpose of having a community-driven dog-friendly park was derived from the need for dogs (and their owners) to run free, without leashes, enabling these canines to express various species-specific behaviours. Many owners may have a limited-sized home compound; hence, the dogs would otherwise spend their entire outdoor life on a leash.

In a primarily physically inactive society where many people remain indoors, dog walking in designated dog-friendly parks may be an opportunity to engage people in low-impact physical activity and improve the social bond between dog owners together with their canine companions and local communities who may also utilise these urban green parks. As such, accessibility and the positive impact of green space on health are quickly gaining importance in national and local health and city planning policies worldwide (Schipperijn et al., 2010; Weston et al., 2014). Dog owners and their dogs have been documented to gain numerous health benefits from the recreational activities facilitated by dog walking and from time spent in a dog-friendly designated urban green park (Richards et al., 2014; Evenson et al., 2016; Christian et al., 2018; Zijlema et al., 2019). Dog owners and their canine companions have been reported to have a higher frequency of leisure walking while spending more time outdoorsin designated urban green dog-friendly parks (Cutt et al., 2008; Zijlema et al., 2019). This correlation is significantly stronger among dog owners living not more than 400m from these urban green spaces(Grahn and Stigsdotter, 2003; Schipperijn et al., 2010; Zijlema et al., 2019). Therefore, improving the routes to and from dog-friendly parks so owners can safely walk or jog with their dogs can promote physical activity during the experience (Evenson et al., 2016).

Dogs are also a unique motivator for sustained physical activity despite psychological and practical barriers such as time constraints or bad weather (Gobster, 2005; Temple et al., 2011). Dog owners may feel responsible for exercising their dogs while increasing theirintention to walk (Cutt et al., 2008; Westgarth et al., 2017). Therefore, dog owners utilising urban green dog-friendly parks have been documented to remain active through the dog’s positive effect on the owner’s motivation and social support for walking (Cutt et al., 2008), further improving both parties’ mental and physical health and welfare (Westgarth et al., 2017).

Dr. Sumita Sugnaseelan
DVM (UPM), PhD (Animal Welfare) (Cambridge)
Dept. Animal Science, Faculty of Agriculture UPM


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