But along with letting you do your bit to help the nation’s animals, adopting a dog also comes with many health benefits, including boosted activity levels, better mood, increased energy and overall improved wellness.
Lower risk of disease
Research published in Nature, the British scientific journal, shows that dog walkers are four times more likely to meet the UK government’s minimum exercise requirements of 150 minutes per week.
Other studies show that regular walking can reduce your risk of developing chronic disease, particularly later in life.
Researchers at the University of Buffalo found that for women aged between 50 and 79, adding just 30 to 45 minutes of physical activity per day reduces the risk of heart failure by 8 to 10 percent.
In addition, a 2023 study from Vanderbilt University Medical Center concluded that walking 8,200 steps a day was the threshold at which a person begins to significantly lower their likelihood of developing various chronic diseases. This includes obesity, sleep apnea, gastroesophageal reflux disease, major depressive disorder, diabetes and high blood pressure.
Further research published in JAMA Internal Medicine notes that for every 2,000 steps a person takes, the risk of heart disease, cancer, and premature death is lowered by 10 per cent.
Unfortunately, a 2017 study conducted at Stanford University shows that UAE residents walk only 4,516 steps per day, less than the global average of 5,000.
Online store ThePetShop also reports that only 5 percent of UAE households have a pet dog. However, pet ownership has risen steadily in the last few years. Encouraged by the pandemic and the global trend for home working, statistics show that pet ownership in the UAE rose by 30 percent from 2020 to 2023.
Dog walkers are becoming an increasingly common sight around the parks, waterfront promenades and walking paths of Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
Mabel Bautista, a 47-year-old Filipina house maid, is one who vastly improved her health through dog walking.
By walking two high energy Saluki cross breeds twice a day, she managed to bring her extreme hypertension under control within just four months. She reduced her blood pressure from a worrying 180/100 to a normal level of 130/90, and she lost six kilograms.
Bautista walks the dogs for an hour in the morning and 30 minutes every evening around Abu Dhabi’s Sas Al Nakhl village. She says that before her employers adopted the dogs, she did zero physical exercise.
“The dogs have changed my life, I’m also eating better now too. I’m now off the medicines I was taking, and I couldn’t have done it without the dogs,” she notes.
Boosts your activity levels
Another dog owner who relished her walks with her furry friend is Reyhana Harper, the co-owner of Iconic Fitness in Dubai. The 39-year-old South African adopted Joey, a four-year-old black and white King Charles Spaniel, from a dog shelter five months ago.
Since then she has walked Joey two to three times a day: once at 5am, once at around 3pm and again at 8pm.
“Our walks are generally 20 minutes long, depending on how many dogs there are in the area or how thirsty or warm he gets,” she said. “We have an awesome lake in JLT, so sometimes we walk around the lake, which is about 1.6km.”
Having a dog is an easy way to be more active in Dubai, where it’s easy to live a sedentary lifestyle.
“Our walks are a great chance to disconnect and just enjoy being with my dog. Joey is really good at playing fetch and running and we are super lucky that he was already trained when we rescued him,” says Harper.
She also notes that it forcespeople to become more active, and encourages healthy habits.
Harper says: “Since we rescued Joey, I spend less time on my phone and computer and we spend a lot of time playing. I’m so much more relaxed. I laugh more and Joey is such a cutie, his personality is so playful which makes it more fun. We run together in the mornings and he keeps me accountable. He’s always excited to get going.”
Leslie Strange, from Canada, lives in Dubai’s JVC neighbourhood. The 37-year-old continues her dog walking all the way through the summer.
“In the summertime, I usually go on three to four walks a day with my dog, and that’s also on top of the walks my husband does with her,” she says.
“I wake up early so that I can go for a run, and then I go back and get my dog and take her on a 30 to 45 minute walk. It’s cooler in the mornings so I try to give her a good amount of exercise before I go to work.”
Encourages healthy habits
During the day, she and her husband take their three-year-old Saluki mix Sophie for short walks of up to 15 minutes so her paws don’t burn. In the evenings they take her our for another 30 to 45 minutes.
“During the winter months, I take my dog running with me, anywhere between five to 10 kilometers a day,” she says. “We are able to get out and explore more during the cooler months and we have pretty much explored everywhere in JVC. My husband and I try to combine errands with walking the dog. For example, we will walk to the dry cleaners or grocery store if there are only a few items.”
She says that having a dog is naturally motivates you to be more active.
“My dog absolutely helps me get out much more than I normally would,” she said. “I’m a runner, so that wouldn’t change, but if I didn’t have my dog, I would just come home from work and do nothing. Having a dog makes you want to spend more time outside. I would walk my dog everywhere if I could, especially if there were more sidewalks.”