“Slower, Shorter, Sadder” is the title of a study of English dog owners who describe how their walks have changed after a diagnosis of osteoarthritis in their dogs. The development of canine osteoarthritis can lead to big changes in dog walking routines.
Most of the owners surveyed reported that before the diagnosis, walking distance, speed, and location were chosen to satisfy the needs and enjoyment of both the people and their dogs. After the diagnosis, walks became slower, shorter, and limited to locations that owners perceived to be easy on their dogs’ joints.
Many of these dedicated dog owners reported a sense of guilt if they went for additional walks without their dogs, and they also felt less enjoyment walking without their dogs. Less dog walking also led to an overall reduction in exercise for the humans as well.
The authors of the study note that dog walks can be divided into the categories of functional and leisure. While functional walks were still a necessity, the quality of leisure walks changed once a dog developed osteoarthritis.
In some cases, leisure walks that involved getting in and out of cars were no longer taken. In other cases, owners became more aware of things to avoid, like steps and rugged terrain. Some tried to maintain walking routines by picking up their dogs or putting them in wheeled carts.
Human health advocates often recommend dog ownership and dog walking as a way for us to get more exercise, but as the authors point out, we may need to seek out other forms of exercise when the health of our dogs changes.