News, stories and reports from Forestry Commission Scotland and the National Forest Estate

Dog owners should visit local woodlands and green space to boost health

New research has shown how dog owners can keep themselves and their dogs happier and healthier by walking more often in woods around towns and cities. 

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In 2016 Forestry Commission Scotland, The Kennel Club and Paths For All commissioned research in communities near urban woodland in Glasgow. The work focused on providing low cost, sustainable and accessible health benefits for both people and dogs.

The research found that dog owners might not be giving their dogs the daily exercise they need to stay fit and healthy because they may not know about nearby greenspaces or might not feel that they would be welcome to walk their dogs there.

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It found that with less active people, only 25 per cent of dogs are walked every day, most often along streets and with dogs being on lead most (28 per cent) or all (33 per cent) of the time.  Less than half of dog owners (38 per cent) know about the woodlands on their doorsteps, and only 11 per cent have ever visited them.  When dogs are walked, the walks only last on average 36 minutes, compared to active dog walkers who exercise their pets for around an hour a day.  36 minutes of exercise is less than most dog breeds need daily to keep them fit and healthy.

Most woodlands are just on our doorstep, with perfect paths and tracks for taking a stroll. Many people opt to walk their dogs round the streets forgetting that their local woodland is a great place to take their canine on an adventure. 

A pilot study to implement these research findings will take place at two sites in Glasgow in the autumn and will include a partnership with local vets to promote walking in local woods. We have also published guidance for land managers advising how to improve local sites for daily dog walking and destination sites for longer leisure visits.