‘It was not just a walking experience’: reflections on the role of care in dog-walking

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Abstract

Research into physical activity and human health has recently begun to attend to dog-walking. This study extends the literature on dog-walking as a health behaviour by conceptualizing dog-walking as a caring practice. It centres on qualitative interviews with 11 Canadian dog-owners. All participants resided in urban neighbourhoods identified through previous quantitative research as conducive to dog-walking. Canine characteristics, including breed and age, were found to influence people's physical activity. The health of the dog and its position in the life-course influenced patterns of dog-walking. Frequency, duration and spatial patterns of dog-walking all depended on relationships and people's capacity to tap into resources. In foregrounding networks of care, inclusive of pets and public spaces, a relational conceptualization of dog-walking as a practice of caring helps to make sense of heterogeneity in patterns of physical activity among dog-owners.

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