WHO’S WALKING WHO? THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN PULLING ON LEAD AND PET DOG WELFARE IN THE UK AND IRELAND

Lesley Townsend*, LM Dixon, Margo Chase-Topping, Louise Buckley

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstract

Abstract

Walking may be integral to pet-dog welfare, providing exercise, social exposure, outlets for species-specific behaviours and being positively correlated with owner attachment, despite these probable benefits an estimated 40% of dogs are never walked. One previously unexplored reason for this may be pulling on lead, whereby the dog walks in a manner, or position, or both, that creates pressure on the lead, causing it to become tense and taut. This study aimed to investigate the nature and scope of lead-pulling behaviour amongst pet-dogs and identify potential associated welfare risks. Between February and March 2019, we surveyed pet-dog owners (n=2,886) in the UK and Ireland online, regarding owner and dog demographics, dog-walking practices, training methods and equipment. Univariate analysis evaluated associations between the independent variables and pulling intensity (p < 0.05) — the force with which the dog pulled on lead. Binary logistic regression identified predictors of pulling frequency (p < 0.05) — how often the dog pulled. Of dogs 82.7% (n=2,093) pulled on lead and 30.9% (n=770) with moderate to severe/worst imaginable intensity. Over the 30 day study period, dogs that pulled received shorter walks (mean (± standard deviation): (47.6 minutes (± 22.6)), than dogs that did not (50.2 minutes (± 27.7)). As pulling intensity increased, walk frequency decreased, from (51.4 times, (± 38.2)) for no pulling, to (42 times, (± 22.4)) for severe/worst imaginable pulling. At risk groups were dogs aged 6–23 months (p <0.001), small (5–10 kg) (p <0.001), medium (11–25 kg) (p <0.001) and large (26–40 kg) dogs (p <0.001), and dogs owned by younger (p <0.001), less experienced owners (p = 0.014) or owners of one dog (p = 0.04). Head-collars, front, and back-connection harnesses were associated with increased lead-pulling (p ≤0.046). Training classes including loose-lead walking exercises increased the odds of pulling frequency by 2.5 times (p <0·001). However, a cross-sectional study such as this can only provide correlational results; although certain factors were associated with lead-pulling, we cannot infer causality. This study is, to our knowledge, the first to explore lead-pulling behaviour. The results indicate that it is a widespread, undesirable behaviour with potentially serious welfare implications and that further research on the most effective, welfare-centred lead-walking training methods, equipment and practices is essential. Fostering enjoyable, symbiotic dog-walking experiences could increase enrichment and exercise, whilst reducing stress and aversion for pet-dogs and improving owner attachment, all of which contribute to higher welfare.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPrint publication - Jul 2020
EventRecent advances in animal welfare science VII: UFAW Animal Welfare Conference - University of Birmingham
Duration: 1 Jul 2020 → …
https://www.ufaw.org.uk/ufaw-events/recent-advances-in-animal-welfare-science-vii

Conference

ConferenceRecent advances in animal welfare science VII
Period1/07/20 → …
Internet address

Keywords

  • Dog welfare
  • Behaviour
  • lead walking
  • Survey

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    Townsend, L., Dixon, LM., Chase-Topping, M., & Buckley, L. (2020). WHO’S WALKING WHO? THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN PULLING ON LEAD AND PET DOG WELFARE IN THE UK AND IRELAND. Abstract from Recent advances in animal welfare science VII, .