For dog owners around the UK, the daily dog walk should be about exercise for both you and your dog, some downtime, and an opportunity to bond with your canine companion, but new research has found that two-thirds of dog owners are unable to switch-off from screen-time whilst walking the dog.
We recently completed a survey of 1,500 UK dog owners, which found that 63% of owners regularly use their phone whilst out on dog walks to send texts (50%), chat to friends (48%), check work emails (27%), post on social media (26%), shop online (14%), and even to monitor for love interest with use online dating apps (7%).
For our mindfulness experts, Clinical Psychologist Linda Blair and Certified Animal Behaviourist Caroline Wilkinson, co-founders of ‘Mindful Living and Our Dogs’, walks should be an opportunity to unwind, switch off, and engage with our dogs.
“It’s concerning that so many of us are plugged into our phones whilst out walking our dogs. We think smartphones allow us to us ‘stay in touch’, when in truth they prevent us from making meaningful social connections. When we text or email we’re exchanging information but we’re not connecting emotionally. Try leaving your phone at home and look around as you walk. Be curious, appreciate your surroundings, and greet other dog walkers. You will quickly enjoy the increased wellbeing and a growing sense of calm and belonging.” Linda Blair - Clinical Psychologist
It’s not only our own wellbeing that’s affected by our inability to switch off on walks – it could be affecting our four-legged friends too.
The study found that less than half of British dog owners (49%) see dog walks as a way to bond and connect with their dog, which may be leading to a nation of anxious, misbehaving dogs, with 69% pulling on the lead, 49% barking at other dogs, and 27% chasing wildlife.
“Being more mindful of our dogs whilst on walks can have huge benefits. How often have you charged through the on-lead part of your walk, desperate to get to the park to allow your dog off the lead? Try to change your approach; Use the on-lead section of your walk as an opportunity to engage with your dog. Try scattering treats in the grass to engage your dog’s nose, or calmly stroke them to release oxytocin and reduce tension. You and your dog will immediately feel calmer and more engaged.” Caroline Wilkinson, Certified Animal Behaviourist
Gerard Lovell, Managing Director of Forthglade and owner of Labrador Bo, adds: “As a dog owner juggling work and family commitments, I know how difficult it can be to find the opportunity to really switch off. But by leaving your phone at home and being more ‘present’ whilst out on walks can make the world of difference to your own wellbeing, and to the relationship you have with your pet.” The research found that walking the dog can be incredibly positive for our wellbeing, with three-quarters of Brits (73%) saying walking the dog makes them happy, and a further 57% saying it helps them feel positive and energised.
Our research also revealed that walking the dog is great for our social lives, with more than half (59%) saying dog walks help them to get out and meet people, and 45% having made new friends on walks. In fact, one in ten Brits (59%) actually met their partner whilst walking the dog.
Our 5-day guide to more mindful dog walks
If you'd like to ditch the distractions, and get the most out of your dog-walks, check out our 5-day guide to more mindful dog walks here.
Monday 24th June 2019