Dog Ownership, Functional Ability, and Walking in Community-Dwelling Older Adults

Document Type


Publication Date



Human Kinetics

Source Publication

Journal of Physical Activity and Health

Source ISSN




Regular walking improves overall health and functional ability of older adults, yet most are sedentary. Dog ownership/pet responsibility may increase walking in older adults. Goals of this study were to identify factors that influence older adult walking and compare physical activity, functional ability and psychosocial characteristics by dog ownership status.


In this cross-sectional study, older adults (65−95 years of age, n = 1091) completed and returned questionnaires via postal mail. Measures included: Physical Activity Scale for the Elderly, Physical Functioning Questionnaire and Theory of Planned Behavior Questionnaire.


Dog owner/dog walkers (n = 77) reported significantly (P < .05) more total walking, walking frequency, leisure and total physical activity and higher total functional ability than dog owner/nondog walkers (n = 83) and nondog owners (n = 931). Dog owner/nondog walkers reported lower intention and perceived behavioral control and a less positive attitude than dog owner/dog walkers (P < .05).


Dog owner/dog walkers were significantly different than the nondog walker groups in nearly every study variable. Many dog owners (48.1%) reported walking their dogs regularly and the dog owner/dog walkers participated in nearly 50% more total walking than the 2 nondog walking groups, suggesting that pet obligation may provide a purposeful activity that motivates some older dog owners to walk.


Journal of Physical Activity and Health, Vol. 10, No. 5 (July 2013): 646-655. DOI.

Kimberlee Gretebeck and Randall Gretebeck were affiliated with the University of Wisconsin – Madison at the time of publication.