Pets and Health
Investigating the human health benefits of life with pets
Pet ownership is associated with a number of physical, mental and emotional health benefits. Our current Pets and Health study investigates the health and developmental benefits of companion animals for young children.Our multidisciplinary, international team has led research and reviews in the areas of:
- Dog ownership, dog walking and physical activity in older adults, adults and children
- Dog ownership, dog walking and children’s independent mobility and outdoor play
- Dog walking interventions to facilitate increased physical activity in adults and children
- Creating supportive physical and policy environments for dog walking
- Pet ownership, dog walking and social capital, sense of community, social support, social connections and perceptions of safety
- Pet ownership and gastroenteritis in children
- Pet ownership and cardiovascular risk
- Tools and surveys: Dogs And Physical Activity (DAPA) Tool
The overall aim of this study is to see whether active play and walking with the family dog facilitates improved developmental outcomes in young children.
Through this research, we will pilot test companion animal-based interventions for improving young children’s health and developmental outcomes.
Our research is supported by funding from the US Human Animal Bond Research Institute.
For prospective PhD students, the Pets and Health study offers a number of opportunities with research topics including the:
- associations between dog ownership, physical activity, sedentary behaviour, overweight/obesity and developmental outcomes in children
- relationship between family dog ownership and dog-facilitated physical activity from dog-centred active play or walking, within different child age groups (e.g. early years, primary school, adolescents)
- influence of socio-demographic, social and physical environment factors and the collection of new data for older age groups of children as well as qualitative research with parents and children on the motivators and barriers to dog walking and play with dogs
- determination of strategies for increasing dog-facilitated activity and improving the child and family health benefits of having a family dog
- examination of the potential of dog walking to contribute to owners’ overall levels of physical activity and increase the proportion of people who meet the recommended level of physical activity
Overall, the project is likely to have significant implications for health promotion policy and will involve working closely with industry partners, nationally and internationally.
Students interested in applying for a PhD opportunity within this project will be required to:
- conduct quantitative and qualitative research
- undertake statistical analysis (SPSS and/or SAS)
- have excellent writing skills
- work as part of a team
- have good interpersonal communication skills
Students are encouraged to arrange a time to meet and discuss potential topics with Associate Professor Hayley Christian.
If you would like to learn more about this project, explore the readings below:
- Christian, H, Bauman, A, Epping, JN, Levine, GJ, McCormack, G, Rhodes, RE, Richards, ER, Rock, M, Westgarth, C, 2016. Encouraging dog walking for health promotion and disease prevention - Invited State of the Art Review. American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine. Doi: 1559827616643686.
- Westgarth, C, Christley, RM, Christian, HE. 2014. How might we increase physical activity through dog walking?: A comprehensive review of dog walking correlates. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 11 (1), 83.
- Christian, H, Westgarth, C, Bauman, A. Richards, E, Rhodes, R, Evenson, K, Mayer, J, Thorpe, R, 2013. Dog ownership and physical activity: A review of the evidence. Journal of Physical Activity and Health. 10, 750-759.
- Levine, G, Allen, K, Braun, L, Christian, H, Friedmann, E, Taubert, K, Thomas, S.A, Wells, D, Lange, R, 2013. Pet Ownership and Cardiovascular Risk: A Scientific Statement from the American Heart Association. Circulation. doi: 10.1161/CIR.0b013e31829201e1
- Cutt, H, Giles-Corti, B, Knuiman, M, Burke, V, 2007. Dog ownership, health and physical activity: A critical review of the literature. Health & Place. 13, 261-272.
Walking the dog keeps owners healthy and neighbourhoods feeling safe
An international study carried out by Dr Hayley Christian from The University of Western Australia (UWA) has found dog walkers are not only more likely to be physically active but that walking the dog can help people in their neighbourhood feel safer.Read more
Best friend forever: Here’s why walking your dog ensures you stay fit
New research suggests that not only does walking the dog help owners to be more physically active, but it also leads to increased feelings of safety within the neighbourhood. Led by Dr Hayley Christian from The University of Western Australia (UWA), the research is the first international study of its kind to consistently examine a possible link between dog walking, physical activity and people’s feelings of safety in their community.Read more
Study finds dogs can make neighbours and owners feel safer
University of Western Australia’s Hayley Christian has found dog owners are not only physically active on more days of the week but the presence of dogs has neighbours feeling the area is more secure. Dr Christian, of the School of Population Health, said dog walkers out in the neighbourhood became the “eyes and ears on the street”.Read more
Bondi Vet Chris Brown drops in to Pet Lovers Cafe to launch community pet campaign
UWA human-animal research expert Hayley Christian said research showed pet owners received a broad range of health benefits from their companion animals.Read more
Our collaborators for the Pets and Health study include researchers from the following institutes.