From NY Times:
Researchers commonly use the term the “Lassie effect” to describe the wide-ranging health benefits of walking a dog. The name refers to the television collie that nobly saved Timmy’s and so many other people’s lives week after week on her popular show.
But even though walking the dog can have lifesaving health benefits for owners and pets, a surprisingly large number of dog owners rarely, if ever, walk or otherwise exercise their dogs, research shows. Scientists who had studied the Lassie effect remained puzzled about why someone would forgo an activity that is good for them, potentially imperiling the well-being of both owner and pet.
But a new study provides clues about why people do or do not walk their dogs. The findings may help researchers promote activities and initiatives that increase dog walking and spread the Lassie effect.
For many of us who own dogs, the idea of not walking with them can seem anathema. They are such reliable and insistent training partners. Undeterred by sleet, heat, wind, cold or work deadlines, they wag their tails and drool when we pull out our sneakers and do not mind (indeed prefer) that our shorts come from the dirty-laundry pile rather than a drawer. They motivate many of us to exercise when we might otherwise choose to remain still.
The health impacts of this exercise can be considerable. Recent studies have found that people who own and walk a dog are much more likely than other people to meet the standard recommendation of 150 minutes of exercise per week. Dog walkers also have lower risks for high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, arthritis and other common medical conditions.