Examining How Dog ‘Acquisition’ Affects Physical Activity and Psychosocial Well-Being: Findings from the BuddyStudy Pilot Trial
Department of Kinesiology, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Amherst, MA 01003, USA
Last Hope K9 Rescue, Boston, MA 02109, USA
Department of Exercise and Sports Studies, Smith College, Northampton, MA 01063, USA
Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, University of Massachusetts Amherst, MA 01002, USA
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 7 August 2019 / Revised: 30 August 2019 / Accepted: 4 September 2019 / Published: 7 September 2019
Dog owners are more physically active than non-dog owners, but the direction of the relationship between dog ownership and increased physical activity is unknown. In other words, it is unclear whether acquiring a dog causes a person to become more active, or whether more physically active people choose to acquire dogs. Given that regular physical activity is critical for the prevention and management of numerous chronic diseases, research supporting the hypothesis that dogs make people more active could inform programs and policies that encourage responsible dog ownership. In the BuddyStudy, we used dog fostering to mimic dog acquisition, and examined how taking a dog into one’s home affected physical activity and psychosocial well-being. Nearly half of study participants saw large increases in physical activity and nearly three-quarters saw improvements in mood after fostering for six weeks. More than half met someone new in their neighborhood because of their foster dog. Most participants adopted their foster dog after the six-week foster period, and some maintained improvements in physical activity and well-being at 12 weeks. The results of this pilot study are promising and warrant a larger investigation.