Pets / The healthy ways of ‘walkies’

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WE have new smartphone apps thrown at us these days like confetti and it’s unsurprising that there’s an app that monitors a dog’s activity level.

The original intentions of FitBark were good. If a dog is ill or getting old and there’s no time to spend observing its behaviour, this app will help keep track of how much an ailing dog is moving during the day when it’s unsupervised.

However, recent research from the company claims that Australians are among the laziest people on the globe, that obesity and diabetes are rampant in dogs and humans, and that the saviour to all these problems comes in the bone-shaped tech gadget that dangles from a dog’s collar.

Apparently, owning FitBark will make all the difference to this sad state of health affairs. Really?

So how lazy are we? Well, according to this latest research, of 122 countries Australians ranked 35th. At first sight this might look low, however by looking at which countries ranked in the top 10, it becomes clear that 35th out of 122 is possibly not so bad.

The number 1 spot goes to Bangladesh; 2 to Mozambique, followed by Comoros, Benin, Malawi, Greece, Cambodia, Mongolia, Burma and, in 10th place, the Netherlands. According to the Bureau of Statistics 67 per cent of Australians born in Australia exercise regularly, so do 59 per cent of Australians not born in Australia.

Better still, the highest participation rate for sport and physical recreation in Australia was in the ACT with 73 per cent.

Another study in October looked at dog owners and their dog-walking habits. Dr Hayley Christian, of the University of WA, found that dog walkers are not only more likely to be physically active but that walking the dog can help people in their neighbourhood feel safer.

This study included more than 1000 dog owners from Perth and three US cities – San Diego, Nashville and Portland.

“In all four cities, dog owners walked their dog five to six times a week for more than 90 minutes a week,” Dr Christian said.

However, what does need improving is feeding routines; more fruit, vegetables and lean meats for dogs and people. Avoid, or at least reduce, highly processed foods such as dried dog food for dogs and junk food for people to reduce obesity and the risk of diabetes.

Finally, ask yourself: do you really want to be told by some spotty computer geek when, how and why to walk your dog? I don’t!

My dogs do a great job every day in letting me know when it’s time for, and I quote Barbara Woodhouse here, “walkies”.
Heike Hahner is a dog and pet training and psychology consultant,

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