You may or may not have heard the term “Lassie Effect,” but did you know that it has two meanings? In the older sense, it refers to a particular breed — like a collie — becoming popular because of a film or TV show.  It’s named after that famous television dog Lassie, of course, but the effect has been seen with other breeds. For example, there was a surge in popularity of a certain breed after the film Beverly Hills Chihuahua was released.

But there’s another meaning to “Lassie Effect,” that’s becoming more popular, and it refers to the positive health benefits that our dogs can have on us by inspiring us to get out and exercise, particularly by getting us to walk more. Walking has a lot of advantages, including weight loss, decreased risk of certain diseases, and promotion of positive mental states.

Having a dog would seem like the easiest way possible to encourage people to walk more, especially given that the Walk is Cesar’s number one method for achieving harmony and balance in the pack. However, studies show that this is not always the case. While people who do walk their dogs regularly are far more likely to meet suggested exercise requirements, here’s the catch: as many of 40% of dog owners do not walk their dogs nearly enough or at all.

Researchers have looked at the factors that contribute to someone walking their dog enough, too little, or not at all. Positive factors that led to people walking included having medium or large dogs, having adopted the dog specifically for a hobby, and (perhaps surprisingly) allowing the dog to lie on the furniture. Negative factors included having small dogs weighing less than 30 pounds, having multiple dogs, playing chase games with them, and allowing dogs to lie on laps.

One of the most interesting and counter-intuitive negative factors is number of people in the household, particularly children: The more people there were, the less likely the dog was to get walked. A likely reason for this was passing of responsibility, with everyone assuming that everyone else was taking care of the dog-walking needs.

If you’re already walking your dog at least twice a day for thirty minutes at a time, then congratulations! You’re doing it right. If you’re not, there are ways you can make the walk more interesting in order to help motivate you. If it’s not a matter of interest but rather difficulty in walking your dog, then there are other steps you can take — and a professional dog walker should always be an option if you’re not physically capable of walking the dog yourself.

While dogs can be good for our health, our participation in their regular exercise is absolutely vital to theirs, both mentally and physically. We can add so much to each other’s lives, as long as we stop coming up with reasons to avoid the Lassie effect and just get out and go.

Do you walk your dogs enough or are there reasons stopping you? Let us know in the comments!


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