News | Thursday, 12th January 2017
Walking the dog strengthens the human–animal bond
New research reveals the complexity of dog walks
Dog walkers want their dogs to have fun, freedom and space to enact their ‘dog-ness’ when they go for a walk, a new study shows.
Conducted by Manchester Metropolitan University’s Dr Louise Platt and Dr Thomas Fletcher, Senior Lecturer and Researcher within the Institute for Sport, Physical Activity and Leisure at Leeds Beckett University, the aim of the study was to examine how humans share spaces with their animal counterparts, and how walking experiences with animal companions are negotiated.
The research found that there was not a one-way flow of power where the human is dominant. The dog walk is where humans and dogs negotiate power within their relationship.
Dr Platt, Senior Lecturer in Festivals and Events Management, said: “We wanted to understand how the walk was shaping people’s relationships with their pets. Of course, some people do not walk their dogs and this is an avenue we haven’t yet examined, but for those that do, the walk was an important opportunity to allow their dogs a sense of freedom and a space to be ‘dog-like’.
The complexity of the dog walk
“The research was inspired after Dr Fletcher and I met and both discovered that we had been thinking about the spaces we were walking our dogs in and the people that we met whilst out and about with our respective pets. We shared funny anecdotes or observations that we had made on our daily ritual of walking and soon realised there was real scope to conduct a more detailed study with local dog walkers in the Leeds and Manchester areas.”
Twelve people in Northern England, between the ages of 28 and 66 and who walk with dogs, took part in in-depth interviews as part of the research.
Respondents were asked to broadly discuss their dog’s personality, what their dogs meant to them and how their relationships with their dogs had developed and been negotiated. Respondents were asked to reflect on what walking meant, how it featured in their lives, how it was experienced and how they attempted to understand the relationship between themselves and their dog.
Louise added: “There was a real sense that within the domestic setting, the participants were really aware of the power relation between animal and human but saw the walk as a real opportunity to ‘listen to’ the needs of the dog. The often taken-for-granted activity was more complex than is first presumed.”
NOTES FOR EDITORS
Paper: (Just) a walk with the dog? Animal geographies and negotiating walking spaces. Thomas Fletcher and Louise Platt. Social & Cultural Geography (Vol. 0 , Iss. 0,0) http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14649365.2016.1274047
For further information or to speak to the researchers, please contact Maryam Ahmed in the Manchester Metropolitan University press office on MAhmed@mmu.ac.uk