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Dog Obesity: Can Dog Caregivers' (Owners') Feeding and Exercise Intentions and Behaviors Be Predicted From Attitudes?

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Dog obesity is a common nutritional disorder affecting up to 40% of the companion animal (pet) dog population in Australia and other developed nations. A clear understanding of factors determining relevant caregiver (owner) behaviors underpins effective treatment for this disorder. The theory of planned behavior can be used to understand factors contributing to human behavior. This article describes research informed by this theory. The research examined relationships between owners' behavioral beliefs and barriers, normative beliefs and perceptions of control, owners' feeding and exercise behaviors toward their dogs, and the body condition scores (BCSs) of dogs. The study recruited a sample of 182 dog and owner dyads. The researcher independently assessed BCSs. Owners completed a questionnaire measuring relevant feeding and exercise beliefs and behaviors. This revealed significant correlations between many psychological variables and BCSs and between psychological variables and specific owner behaviors: for example, the relationship of low levels of intentions to feed appropriately to ambivalent beliefs toward feeding appropriately and low perceived control. Careful consideration of the specific variables identified will permit the development of more effective interventions.
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Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science
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Dog Obesity: Can Dog Caregivers' (Owners') Feeding and Exercise
Intentions and Behaviors Be Predicted From Attitudes?
Vanessa I. Rohlfa; Samia Toukhsatia; Grahame J. Colemana; Pauleen C. Bennetta
a Animal Welfare Science Centre, School of Psychology and Psychiatry, Monash University, Australia
Online publication date: 18 June 2010
To cite this Article Rohlf, Vanessa I. , Toukhsati, Samia , Coleman, Grahame J. and Bennett, Pauleen C.(2010) 'Dog
Obesity: Can Dog Caregivers' (Owners') Feeding and Exercise Intentions and Behaviors Be Predicted From Attitudes?',
Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science, 13: 3, 213 — 236
To link to this Article: DOI: 10.1080/10888705.2010.483871
URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10888705.2010.483871
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JOURNAL OF APPLIED ANIMAL WELFARE SCIENCE,13:213–236, 2010
Copyright © Taylor & Francis Group, LLC
ISSN: 1088-8705 print/1532-7604 online
DOI: 10.1080/10888705.2010.483871
Dog Obesity: Can Dog Caregivers’
(Owners’) Feeding and Exercise
Intentions and Behaviors Be Predicted
From Attitudes?
Vanessa I. Rohlf, Samia Toukhsati, Grahame J. Coleman,
and Pauleen C. Bennett
Animal Welfare Science Centre, School of Psychology and Psychiatry,
Monash University, Australia
Dog obesity is a common nutritional disorder affecting up to 40% of the com-
panion animal (pet) dog population in Australia and other developed nations. A
clear understanding of factors determining relevant caregiver (owner) behaviors
underpins effective treatment for this disorder. The theory of planned behavior
can be used to understand factors contributing to human behavior. This article
describes research informed by this theory. The research examined relationships
between owners’ behavioral beliefs and barriers, normative beliefs and perceptions
of control, owners’ feeding and exercise behaviors toward their dogs, and the body
condition scores (BCSs) of dogs. The study recruited a sample of 182 dog and
owner dyads. The researcher independently assessed BCSs. Owners completed a
questionnaire measuring relevant feeding and exercise beliefs and behaviors. This
revealed significant correlations between many psychological variables and BCSs
and between psychological variables and spec ific owner behaviors: for exa mple, the
relationship of low levels of intentions to feed appropriately to ambivalent beliefs
toward feeding appropriately and low perceived control. Careful consideration of
the specific variables identified will permit the development of more effective
interventions.
Obesity is a common nutritional disorder affecting up to 40% of the companion
animal (pet) dog population in Australia with similar rates in other developed
Correspondence should be sent to Pauleen C. Bennett, School of Psychology and Psychiatry,
Monash University, Building 17, Clayton Campus, Wellington Road, Monash University, Victoria,
3800, Australia. Email: pauleen.bennett@med.monash.edu.au
213
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214 ROHLF, TOUKHSATI, COLEMAN, BENNETT
nations (Colliard, Ancel, Benet, Paragon, & Blanchard, 2006; Lund, Armstrong,
Kirk, & Klausner, 2006; McGreevy et al., 2005). Dog obesity is defined as
being present when dogs are more than 15% above their optimal body weight
(Gossellin, Wren, & Sunderland, 2007). Because of variations in breed and body
size, establishing optimal body weight is difficult (Sloth, 1992). Body condition
scores are therefore often used to provide an operational definition of obesity
(McGreevy et al., 2005). Body condition scores involve using visual information
of overall body shape and palpation of regions of the body known to accumulate
fat in overweight and obese dogs (Burkholder & Bauer, 1998).
Obesity is associated with the onset of a number of diseases leading to
poor quality of life and reduced life span (Burkholder & Toll, 2000; Duval,
Budsberg, Flo, & Sammarco, 1999; Kealy et al., 2002; Klinkenberg, Sallander,
& Hedhammer, 2006). Although factors such as increasing age, female gender,
breed (e.g., Labrador retrievers), and being desexed increase the risk of obesity,
the disorder is ultimately caused by inappropriate feeding and exercise behaviors
of caregivers (owners) toward their dogs (Burkholder & Toll, 2000). Studies
supporting this notion have identified specific types of feeding and exercise
behaviors of owners that increase the risk of obesity. For example, owners who
feed additional snacks or feed their dog once per day rather than twice or more
per day are more likely to have an obese dog than those who do not (Burkholder
& Toll, 2000; Kienzle, Bergler, & Mandernach, 1998; Sloth, 1992). Owners who
provide infrequent or low-intensity forms of exercise for their dogs are more
likely to have obese dogs than those who exercise their dogs more frequently
or more vigorously (Crane, 1991; Markwell, Butterwick, Wills, & Raiha, 1991;
Robertson, 2003).
Current obesity treatments have incorporated these findings to provide dog
owners with appropriate feeding and exercise recommendations. Diet and exer-
cise recommendations are often tailored to the dog’s individual needs and often
involve the prescription of high-protein or high-fiber diets designed to increase
satiety. However, such changes lead to successful weight loss in dogs kept in
controlled laboratory conditions (Bierer & Bui, 2004; Blanchard et al., 2004);
when treatments are made available to pet owners, however, only limited success
is achieved. Often, owners discontinue treatment or fail to follow all treatment
recommendations (Gentry, 1993).
According to the theory of planned behavior (TPB), information alone does
not produce or change behaviors unless there are consequent changes in attitudes
(Ajzen, 1991). Instead, TPB proposes that behaviors proximally derived from
intentions are predicted by behavioral attitudes, subjective norms, and perceived
behavioral control. Behavioral attitudes refer to negative or positive evaluations
toward a given behavior. The more positive the attitude, the stronger will be a
person’s intention to perform the behavior. Attitudes are typically derived from
beliefs held about performing the behavior (Ajzen, 1991). For instance, people
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DOG OBESITY AND CAREGIVER (OWNER) ATTITUDES 215
may have a positive attitude about feeding their dogs treats because they believe
that it is important to spoil their dogs with food. Subjective norms refer to the
extent to which an individual believes that “important others” would evaluate a
given behavior positively or negatively and the person’s motivation to comply
with the beliefs of others (Ajzen, 1991). A person who believes other dog owners
would approve of feeding treats and is motivated to comply with the beliefs
of other dog owners more likely will hold strong intentions to feed treats. The
strength of intentions also depends on the degree of perceived behavioral control
(PBC). This refers to an individual’s perceived ability to perform the behavior
(Ajzen, 1991). Owners may have low perceived control over feeding their dogs
treats because the dogs beg for food or steal food from others.
The TPB is a useful model in predicting intentions and behaviors. Among
adults, the TPB explains healthy eating (adequate fruit and vegetables) and exer-
cise behaviors (Godin & Kok, 1996). The TPB has also been useful in predicting
behaviors toward nonhuman animals. For example, in research investigating
stockperson behaviors, attitudes were found to be prime determinants of behav-
iors toward pigs (Coleman, McGregor, Hemsworth, Boyce, & Dowling, 2003;
Hemsworth, Barnett, Coleman, & Hansen, 1989) and dairy cows (Waiblinger,
Menke, & Coleman, 2002). Based on these results, interventions using cognitive
behavior techniques successfully changed attitudes and subsequent behaviors in
stockpersons in the pig and dairy industries (Coleman, Hemsworth, Hay, & Cox,
2000; Hemsworth, Coleman, & Barnett, 1994; Hemsworth, Coleman, Barnett,
Borg, & Dowling, 2002).
Very little research has explored the beliefs of dog owners, but available
research suggests that there are differences in the beliefs of owners of normal
weight dogs compared with owners of obese dogs. Kienzle et al. (1998) found
owners of obese dogs more likely to believe exercise and balanced dog nutrition
were less important than were owners of normal weight dogs. Carciofi et al.
(2005) cited factors such as lack of time to exercise the dog and the cost
of specialized dog foods as barriers preventing compliance with weight loss
treatments. Despite the possible existence of different beliefs between owners
of normal weight and obese weight dogs, research has not investigated whether
these beliefs are related to differences in feeding and exercise intentions and
behaviors.
Given the utility and extensive applicability of the TPB in explaining human
behaviors—particularly those behaviors toward nonhuman animals—the TPB
very likely may provide a useful framework in which to explain dog owners’
feeding and exercise intentions and subsequent behaviors toward their dogs. If
intentions are found to predict behavior in this context, interventions targeting
relevant attitudes and beliefs in dog owners may be designed to more success-
fully treat dog obesity. The aim of this research was to investigate whether
various aspects of the TPB are associated with and able to predict dog owners’
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216 ROHLF, TOUKHSATI, COLEMAN, BENNETT
FIGURE 1 Proposed model of the relationships among dog owners’ beliefs, intentions,
and behaviors and their dogs’ body condition.
beliefs, intentions, feeding and exercise behaviors, and the body condition of
their companion animal dogs. Figure 1 presents a model proposed to explain
these relationships.
METHOD
Participants
The sample comprised 182 dog and owner dyads located in Metropolitan Mel-
bourne. The mean age of participants was 41.89 years (SD D13.83). Most
respondents were female (80.66%). This high proportion of females is consistent
with previous human-companion animal interaction research (Ley, Bennett, &
Coleman, 2008; Marinelli, Adamelli, Normando, & Bono, 2007). The majority
of respondents resided in Melbourne’s outer suburbs (64.2%), although some
respondents lived in inner city Melbourne (18.4%) or on rural properties (12.3%).
Very few respondents lived in regional towns (5%). More than half of all
respondents lived in a two-person household (51.8%), a quarter of participants
lived with children (24.6%), and one third lived alone (29.9%). Half of the
respondents owned one dog and no other pet (54.9%). Those who owned other
pets mostly owned other dogs (48.9%) or cats (26.4%).
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DOG OBESITY AND CAREGIVER (OWNER) ATTITUDES 217
The mean age of dogs in this sample was 4.87 years (SD D3.42) with a
range of 1 to 15 years. Three quarters of the dogs were adult, ages 1 to 6 years.
There were more females (55%) than males (45%). The majority of dogs were
desexed (81.66%) with males no more likely than females to be intact (2D
.003, ND180, pD.954). More than half of the sample was reported to be
pure bred (66.11%), and a total of 52 breeds were recorded. The most common
breeds were Labrador retrievers (nD11), Jack Russell terriers (nD9), and
golden retrievers (nD8). A third of all dogs, cross bred and pure bred, were
described by their owners as being small in size (30.5%), 27.1% were described
as being medium, and 42.4% were described as being large. Dogs described as
small ranged from 2.3 kg to 27 kg (MD8.07, SD D3.81), those described
as medium ranged from 7.4 kg to 46 kg (MD19.10, SD D7.66), and those
described as large ranged from 15 kg to 52 kg (MD34.08, SD D8.16).
Materials
Body condition scoring system. Body condition was independently as-
sessed by a trained veterinary staff member or researcher using a standardized
body condition scoring system (BCS). This system requires that each dog be
assessed using visual information and physical palpation methods to establish
the amount of fat covering the body. BCS has been shown to be a reliable
indicator of obesity. Laflamme (1997) found a 9-point BCS had good interrater
reliability (rD.86) and test-retest reliability (rD.93). BCS has also been
shown to be consistent with alternative measures of body composition such
as dual energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA; rsD.90; Laflamme, 1997).
This study used a 5-point scale; on this scale 1 indicates an emaciated body
condition, 5 indicates obesity, and the midpoint indicates an optimal body
condition (Victorian Government Department of Primary Industries, 2007). Five-
point BCSs have been used in previous studies and produced reliable results.
For example, McGreevy et al. (2005) used Hill’s weight guide chart for dogs, a
similar 5-point BCS, to investigate the prevalence of obesity in dogs in Australian
veterinary practices.
Dog owner attitude questionnaire. A questionnaire was developed to
assess beliefs toward feeding and exercise behaviors using information gained
from a literature review, focus groups, and a panel of experts. The questionnaire
was piloted on a convenience sample of 73 participants and refined according
to the feedback provided. The final version of the questionnaire comprised three
sections. The first section contained 14 items and elicited information about the
respondents (age, gender, place of residence, and living arrangements) and their
dogs (age, sex, sexual status, breed, and perceived size).
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218 ROHLF, TOUKHSATI, COLEMAN, BENNETT
The second section contained nine items and elicited information about the
respondents’ feeding behavior (the main types of food fed, the amount of food,
and the number of meals and snacks fed during the day) and exercise behaviors
toward their dogs (the type, frequency, and average duration of exercise). Amount
of food fed was combined with number of meals and treats to create a composite
measure of feeding behavior. Exercise frequency was combined with average
duration to create a composite measure of exercise behavior. This facilitated
subsequent analyses. Type of food fed and type of exercise were not included
in the composite scores because research has not indicated a clear relationship
between these variables and obesity in dogs.
The third section contained 66 items and elicited owners’ attitudes toward
feeding and exercising their dogs. Each belief category asked questions about
the different aspects of feeding and exercise behavior. Feeding behaviors included
feeding the appropriate amount, type, and number of times per day.Exercise behav-
iors included exercising for the appropriate number of times per week, exercising
for the appropriate duration, and providing the appropriate type of exercise for
the dog. Belief categories were designed to measure the constructs of Intentions,
Behavioral beliefs, Perceived barriers, Normative beliefs, and Control beliefs.
Dog owners were asked to respond to questions on a 7-point scale with
1 indicating extremely unlikely,strongly disagree, or not at all in my control,
and 7 indicating extremely likely,strongly agree, or completely in my control.
Intentions referred to the perceived likelihood of performing the behavior ap-
propriately in the future. Behavioral beliefs and Perceived barriers referred to
the importance of the behavior, perceived lack of knowledge, and perceived
difficulties due to specific barriers such as time and cost. Normative beliefs
referred to dog owners’ beliefs about the opinions of veterinarians and other
dog owners as well as their motivations to comply with the recommendations
of these referent groups. Control beliefs referred to dog owners’ perceived
ability to control specific behaviors. These Control beliefs served as a global
measure of PBC in comparison with specific difficulties and obstacles measured
by Perceived barriers items. Responses in feeding and exercise behaviors and
belief category were combined for the analyses. Summary variables were created
using composite scores to reduce the number of items for subsequent analyses.
Principal components analyses using Varimax rotation and Kaiser normalization
(Tabachnick & Fidell, 2007) were conducted on items referring to Behavioral
beliefs and Normative beliefs. Cronbach’s alphas were calculated for question-
naire subscales measuring Intentions and Control beliefs.
Procedure
Two methods of recruitment were employed. The first method involved partic-
ipants recruited from veterinary clinics by a qualified staff member (nD68).
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DOG OBESITY AND CAREGIVER (OWNER) ATTITUDES 219
The second method involved the recruitment of participants from community
events (Microchipping Days, Obedience and Dog shows), and charity events
(Royal Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Million Paws Walk) by the
researcher (nD114). There were no significant differences between the sample
recruited by veterinary staff and the sample recruited by the researcher on BCSs
(t(171) D 1.55, pD.123), Intentions to feed appropriately (t(179) D1.95,
pD.053), and Intentions to exercise appropriately (t(178) D .32, pD.747),
so the two groups were combined for all analyses.
After participants had provided informed consent, BCSs were assessed and
recorded on the questionnaire, which was subsequently given to participants to
complete and return in a reply paid envelope.
Data Analysis
Pearson product-moment calculations were performed to explore relationships
between feeding and exercise intentions, beliefs, self-reported behaviors, and
BCS. Multiple regressions using the Enter method were performed to determine
which factors best predict feeding and exercise intentions, behaviors, and BCS.
Mahalanobis distance was employed to identify multivariate outliers, which were
subsequently deleted from the model as recommended by Tabachnik and Fidell
(2007).
RESULTS
Self-Reported Feeding Behaviors
Figure 2 presents the percentages of respondents feeding various amounts of
food to dogs described by their owners as being small, medium, or large. Dogs
described by their owners as small were mostly fed 0.5 to 1 cup per day; those
described as medium, 1.5 to 2 cups per day; and those described as large, 3.5 to
4 cups per day. Each distribution, however, had a large range, and there was a
large degree of overlap between the three distributions. For example, some dogs
described as being small were fed the same amount as dogs described as being
medium or large.
Most people fed dry food exclusively (41.2%) or a variety of foods (39.0%).
Fewer people fed exclusively home-prepared food (8.2%), canned food (7.1%),
fresh meat and bones (2.7%), or processed meats (1.6%). Of the various brands
of food fed to dogs, 39.3% were supermarket brands and 60.7% were premium
varieties.
Feeding of treats was very common among participants. Approximately half
(55.5%) the respondents fed their dogs 1 to 2 treats per day, almost 15% (14.8%)
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220 ROHLF, TOUKHSATI, COLEMAN, BENNETT
FIGURE 2 Percentage of respondents feeding various amounts of food to dogs reported
by their owners to be small, medium, and large dogs.
fed 3 to 4 treats per day, and almost 5% (4.9%) fed up to 10 treats per day.
Fewer than 25% of the sample reported that they did not feed their dogs treats
every day (13.2%) or that they never fed their dogs treats at all (11%). Table 1
presents the percentage of respondents who reported feeding different types of
treats to their dogs. These categories are not mutually exclusive, so the overall
percentage is greater than 100. Dog biscuits were the most common treats used,
followed by bones, chews, and human foods.
TABLE 1
Percentage of Type of Treats Fed by Owners
Type of Treat %
Dog biscuits 24.17
Bones 22.53
Chews 20.33
Human foods 18.68
Rawhide 14.29
Liver treats 13.19
Other (Dentabone) 4.95
Variety of foods 3.85
Dog chocolate (carob) 3.30
Dry food 1.65
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DOG OBESITY AND CAREGIVER (OWNER) ATTITUDES 221
TABLE 2
Percentage of Type of Exercise Provided by Owners
Type of Exercise %
Walk on lead 76.37
Walk off lead 34.62
Play games 23.63
Take for a swim 3.85
Run on lead 3.85
Self-Reported Exercise Behavior
The mean number of times per week owners reported exercising their dogs is
6.74 (SD D4.52), with a range of 0 to 28. Only 7 respondents reported that they
did not exercise their dogs at all. The most popular form of exercise (Table 2)
was walking on lead. Off-lead exercise and playing games were also popular
with many owners who reported providing more than one type of activity.
The length of exercise sessions ranged from less than 15 min to more than
60 min. One third of respondents reported exercising their dogs between 15 to
30 min (32.4%), more than one third reported exercising their dogs between 30
to 45 min (37.4%), fewer than 20% (18.7%) exercised between 45 to 60 min,
and very few respondents exercised their dogs for more than 60 min (3.8%).
Only 6% of respondents exercised their dogs for less than 15 min per session.
Body Condition Scores
Figure 3 shows that most dogs were ideal weight (43.4%) or overweight (46.25%)
according to the BCS system. Very few dogs were underweight (2.3%), and no
FIGURE 3 Percentages of dog body condition scores.
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222 ROHLF, TOUKHSATI, COLEMAN, BENNETT
dogs were emaciated. Almost 10% of the sample was defined as obese (8.1%)
by a trained assessor. Owners were also asked to indicate their perceptions
of their dogs’ body condition. Many owners with overweight or obese dogs
underestimated the body condition (39.39%), even though the score provided by
the trained assessor was reported on the final page of the questionnaire the owner
completed. Very few people with optimal or underweight dogs were inaccurate
in estimating the dog’s BCS (1.38%).
Summary Variables
As described previously, principal components analyses were used to group
many of the questionnaire responses into subscales. A summary of each subscale
derived from the questionnaire is presented in Table 3.
From Tables 3 and 4, it can be seen that all but one subscale attained
acceptable reliability (DeVellis, 2003). Mean Intentions to feed and exercise
appropriately were high (MD6.27, SD D.887; MD6.03, SD D1.02). Most
dog owners believed that, in the future, there was a strong likelihood that they
would feed and exercise their dogs appropriately. Mean Control beliefs were
also high for feeding and exercise behaviors (MD6.36, SD D.852; MD6.23,
SD D.900). Most owners believed that they had a high degree of control over
their feeding and exercise behavior.
Table 3 indicates that the mean level of Motivation to comply with vet-
erinarians’ feeding recommendations was high (MD5.44, SD D1.30). This
contrasts to a relatively low mean level of Motivation to comply with the feeding
recommendations of other dog owners (MD2.75, SD D1.19). In comparison,
Table 4 shows that the mean level of Motivation to comply with the exercise
recommendations of veterinarians was relatively low (MD3.22, SD D1.41)
and mean level of Motivation to comply with the exercise recommendations of
other dog owners was high (MD5.37, SD D1.40).
Relationships Among Feeding and Exercise Intentions,
Beliefs, Behaviors, and Body Condition Scores
A number of significant relationships (Table 5) were found among Intentions, Be-
havioral beliefs, Normative beliefs, and Control beliefs. Intentions to feed appro-
priately correlated significantly with all but one feeding-related belief. A number
of positive correlations were found between Amount fed and owner beliefs but
these were only weak. Amount fed positively correlated with Owner centered
(rD.19) and Dog centered (rD.18) barriers, indicating that the more owners
reported feeding their dogs, the more they believed barriers prevented them from
feeding appropriately. Motivation to comply with the feeding recommendations
of other dog owners also positively correlated with Amount fed (rD.16).
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TABLE 3
Summary of Subscales Derived From Questionnaire Items Referring to Feeding Behaviors
Subscale Statistics
Feeding Subscales Questionnaire Items Included in Subscale Alpha M SD
Intentions .71 6.27 .887How likely is it that you will feed your dog the appropriate amount in the future?
How likely is it that you will feed your dog the appropriate type of food in the future?
(In the future) how likely is it that you will feed your dog the appropriate number of times
during the week?
Behavioral beliefs
Ambivalence about
knowledge
.60 1.96 .809I don’t know how much to feed my dog.
I don’t know what type of food to feed my dog.
I don’t know how many times in a day I should feed my dog.
It’s important that I feed my dog the appropriate type of food.a
It’s important that I feed my dog the appropriate number of times a day.a
Feed to please .58 2.02 1.05It’s important that I feed my dog whenever he/she likes.
It’s important that I feed my dog whatever he/she likes.
It’s important I feed my dog as much as he/she wants.
Owner-centered/
External barriers
.76 1.98 1.07My dog is overfed because he/she always wants food.
My dog isn’t given the appropriate type of food because others feed the dog.
I feed my dog inappropriate types of food because he/she likes that kind of food.
My dog isn’t fed the appropriate number of times per day because others feed him/her.
Dog-centered barriers .75 2.61 1.02I feed my dog inappropriate food because I like to spoil him/her.
My dog is overfed because I indulge him/her.
I feed my dog inappropriate food because the other food is too expensive.
(continued )
223
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TABLE 3
(Continued)
Subscale Statistics
Feeding Subscales Questionnaire Items Included in Subscale Alpha M SD
Normative beliefs
Beliefs about others .82 2.35 1.01My vet believes that I feed my dog too much.
Other dog owners believe that I feed my dog too much.
My vet believes that I don’t feed my dog the appropriate type of food.
My vet believes that I should feed more frequent meals during the day.
Other dog owners believe that I should feed more frequent meals during the day.
Other dog owners believe that I don’t feed my dog the appropriate type of food.
Comply with vet .80 5.44 1.30I would like to feed my dog the amount that is recommended to me by my vet.
I would like to feed my dog the type of food that is recommended to me by my vet.
I would like to feed my dog as often as is recommended to me by my vet.
Comply with other
dog owners
.76 2.75 1.19I would like to feed the amount that is recommended to me by other dog owners.
I would like to feed my dog the type of food that is recommended to me by other dog owners.
I would like to feed my dog as often as is recommended to me by other dog owners.
Control beliefs .78 6.36 .852Overall, how much control do you feel you have over the amount you feed your dog?
Overall, how much control do you feel you have over the type of food you feed your dog?
Overall, how much control do you feel you have over the number of times you feed your dog
during the day?
aItem is reverse scored.
224
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TABLE 4
Subscales Derived From Questionnaire Items Referring to Exercise Behavior
Exercise Subscales Questionnaire Items Alpha M SD
Intentions .89 6.03 1.02How likely is it in the future that you will exercise your dog for the number of times per week?
How likely is it in the future that you will provide your dog with the appropriate type of exercise?
How likely is it in the future that you will exercise your dog for the appropriate length of time?
Behavioral beliefs
Value exercise .76 6.39 .607It is important that I exercise my dog the appropriate number of times a week.
It’s important that I give my dog the appropriate type of exercise.
It’s important to me that my dog is fit.
My dog doesn’t need exercise.a
It’s important that I exercise my dog for the appropriate length of time.
Lack of knowledge .82 2.51 1.37I don’t know how often I should exercise my dog.
I don’t know the appropriate length of time my dog should be exercised.
I don’t know what type of exercise to give my dog.
Dog centered .78 4.77 1.32It’s important that I exercise my dog as frequently as he/she likes.
It’s important that I exercise my dog for as long as he/she likes.
It’s important that I give my dog the type of exercise that he/she likes.
Owner-centered
barriers
.67 2.11 .831I don’t exercise my dog frequently enough because I don’t like to.
I don’t exercise my dog for long enough because I don’t like to.
I don’t give my dog the appropriate type of exercise because I don’t like to.
I don’t give my dog the appropriate kind of exercise because he/she doesn’t like that type.
I don’t exercise my dog as frequently as I should because he/she is badly behaved.
I don’t exercise my dog as frequently as I should because I don’t have time.
I don’t give my dog the appropriate type of exercise because I don’t have access to the
appropriate areas.
External barriers .76 2.01 .895My dog isn’t exercised frequently enough because others exercise the dog.
My dog isn’t given the appropriate type of exercise because others exercise the dog.
My dog isn’t exercised long enough because others exercise the dog.
(continued )
225
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TABLE 4
(Continued)
Exercise Subscales Questionnaire Items Alpha M SD
Normative beliefs
Beliefs of others .94 2.40 1.24My vet believes that I don’t exercise my dog for the appropriate length of time.
Other dog owners believe that I don’t exercise my dog for the appropriate length of time.
My vet believes that I don’t exercise my dog as frequently as I should.
Other dog owners believe that I don’t exercise my dog as frequently as I should.
My vet believes that I don’t give my dog the appropriate type of exercise.
Other dog owners believe that I don’t give my dog the appropriate type of exercise.
Comply with vet .90 3.22 1.41I would like to exercise my dog for the length of time that is recommended to me by my vet.
I would like to exercise my dog as frequently as my vet recommends.
I would like to give my dog the type of exercise that is recommended to me by my vet.
Comply with other
dog owners
.90 5.37 1.40I would like to give my dog the type of exercise that is recommended to me by other dog owners.
I would like to exercise my dog for the length of time that is recommended to me by other dog
owners.
I would like to exercise my dog as frequently as other dog owners recommend.
Control beliefs .83 6.23 .900Overall, how much control do you feel you have over the type of exercise you give your dog?
Overall, how much control do you feel you have over how frequently you exercise your dog?
Overall, how much control do you feel you have over the length of time you exercise your dog?
aItem is reverse scored.
226
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TABLE 5
Pearson’s Correlations Among Dogs’ Body Condition Scores (BCS) and Subscales Measuring Feeding and Exercise Beliefs and Behavior
BCS F1 F2 F3 F4 F5 F6 F7 F8 F9 F10
BCS .06 .32** .15* .30** .20** .12 .28** .06 .14 .17*
(F1) Amount fed .07 .19* .18* .05 .02 .07 .07 .16* .02
(F2) Intentions .44** .37** .55** .28** .42** .12 .23* .50**
(F3) Owner-centered barriers .49** .53** .31** .61** .02 .37** .56**
(F4) Dog-centered barriers .40** .21** .48** .03 .29** .37**
(F5) Ambivalent beliefs
toward knowledge
.21** .53** .08 .22** .52**
(F6) Dog-centered feeding .27** .14 .24** .26**
(F7) Beliefs about others .07 .37** .48**
(F8) Comply with vet .02 .02
(F9) Comply with other dog
owners
.33**
(F10) Control beliefs
(E1) Exercise amount
(E2) Intentions
(E3) Owner-centered barriers
(E4) External barriers
(E5) Importance
(E6) Lack of knowledge
(E7) Dog-centered exercise
(E8) Beliefs about others
(E9) Comply with vet
(E10) Comply with other dog
owners
(E11) Control beliefs
(continued )
227
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TABLE 5
(Continued)
E1 E2 E3 E4 E5 E6 E7 E8 E9 E10 E11
BCS .06 .13 .10 .14 .10 .12 .12 .22** .14 .01 .21
(F1) Amount fed .02 .00 .01 .01 .08 .05 .01 .03 .03 .10 .10
(F2) Intentions .24** .49** .37** .33** .42** .30** .00 .37** .11 .10 .27**
(F3) Owner-centered barriers .19* .30** .28** .36** .21** .34** .10 .28** .18* .06 .31**
(F4) Dog-centered barriers .10 .20** .27** .25** .19* .31** .12 .26** .11 .01 .21**
(F5) Ambivalent beliefs
toward knowledge
.12 .36** .30** .23** .40** .49** .09 .35** .14 .06 .34**
(F6) Dog-centered feeding .03 .13 .17* .08 .16* .21** .17* .16* .18* .03 .01
(F7) Beliefs about others .09 .24** .29** .31** .26** .40** .07 .57** .28** .04 .22**
(F8) Comply with vet .12 .02 .06 .11 .17* .12 .12 .09 .14 .74** .11
(F9) Comply with other dog
owners
.17* .17* .16* .10 .09 .20** .11 .25** .62** .04 .18*
(F10) Control beliefs .15 .26** .27** .33** .27** .30** .07 .35** .24** .01 .44**
(E1) Exercise amount .49** .43** .26** .35** .36** .05 .41** .12 .07 .20**
(E2) Intentions .58** .34** .60** .45** .10 .44** .14 .10 .43**
(E3) Owner-centered barriers .39** .49** .57** .08 .57** .21** .01 .34**
(E4) External barriers .34** .24** .03 .40** .14 .05 .32**
(E5) Importance .28** .22** .38** .00 .28** .13
(E6) Lack of knowledge .02 .47** .21** .08 .32**
(E7) Dog-centered exercise .01 .28** .15* .04
(E8) Beliefs about others .33** .08 .27**
(E9) Comply with vet .21** .19**
(E10) Comply with other dog
owners
.11
(E11) Control beliefs
*p<.05. **p<.01.
228
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DOG OBESITY AND CAREGIVER (OWNER) ATTITUDES 229
The more owners reported feeding their dogs, the more motivated they were
to follow the recommendations of other dog owners. Exercise Intentions and
Exercise amount correlated with all but a few beliefs. Dog-centered behavioral
beliefs and Motivation to comply with other dog owners and veterinarians failed
to significantly correlate with Exercise Intentions and Exercise amount.
BCS correlated mostly with feeding-related variables. BCS was negatively
correlated with Feeding Intentions (rD .32), indicating that weak intentions
to feed appropriately were associated with greater BCS scores. Dog-centered
barriers to feeding positively correlated with BCS (rD.30), indicating that the
more owners believed that barriers relating to the dogs prevented them from
feeding appropriately the greater the dogs’ BCS. Ambivalent beliefs toward
feeding knowledge positively correlated with BCS (rD.20). The more owners
held ambivalent beliefs toward knowledge of appropriate feeding, the more likely
they were to own dogs with greater BCS.
A number of other relationships were found among Feeding and Exercise
beliefs and Intentions. Many beliefs about feeding correlated with each other.
For example, Ambivalent beliefs about knowledge was strongly correlated with
beliefs about Owner-centered barriers (rD.53). The same can be observed
among exercise beliefs. For example, beliefs about Lack of knowledge correlated
with Normative beliefs about others (rD.47). A moderate positive correlation
was found between Feeding and Exercise Intentions (rD.49). Owners who
intended to exercise their dogs appropriately were also more likely to intend to
feed their dogs appropriately.
Predicting Feeding Intentions
Eight composite variables accounted for 39.7% of the variance in Feeding
Intentions (F(8, 169) D15.56, pD.001). From Table 6, it can be seen that only
two variables made significant unique contributions to the model. The strongest
predictor was ambivalent beliefs about knowledge (ˇD .32). Respondents
who believed they lacked knowledge of appropriate feeding behavior and that
feeding appropriately was not important were less likely to intend to feed their
dogs appropriately. The second predictor was Control beliefs. Respondents who
believed they have control over feeding their dogs appropriately were more likely
to hold strong intentions to do so (ˇD.25).
Predicting Amount Fed
The reported size of the dog made a large contribution to the prediction of
feeding behavior (ˇD.45), which indicated the following: The larger the dog
was perceived to be, the greater the amount the dog was fed (F(1, 158) D40.15,
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230 ROHLF, TOUKHSATI, COLEMAN, BENNETT
TABLE 6
Summary of Multiple Regression Analyses of Feeding and Exercise Intentions,
Beliefs, Barriers, Behaviors, and Body Condition Score
ˇT P Adjusted R2
Feeding variables
Intention
(Constant) 6.89 .001
Ambivalent beliefs toward knowledge .32 4.15 .001
Control beliefs .25 3.26 .001
.397
Behavior
Step 1
(Constant) 2.42 .02
Dog size .45 6.34 .001 .198
Step 2 R2change .012
Body condition score
(Constant) 4.83 .001
Food Dog Size .222 2.25 .03
.103
Exercise variables
Intentions
(Constant) 1.10 .27
Owner-centered barriers .21 2.50 .01
Value exercise .37 5.10 .001
Control beliefs .17 2.70 .01
.465
Behavior
(Constant) 1.03 .31
Intention .273 2.96 .001
.271
Body condition score
(Constant) 3.72 .001
.024
pD.001). After controlling for the reported size of the dog, nine additional
variables only improved the model by 1.2% (F(10, 149) D5.24, pD.001).
The reported size of the dog remained the sole contributor to the model (ˇD
.47).
Predicting Exercise Intentions
Although nine variables accounted for 46.5% of the variance in Exercise Inten-
tions (F(9, 165) D17.77, pD.001), only three variables made a significant
contribution to the model. The strongest predictor was the Importance placed
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DOG OBESITY AND CAREGIVER (OWNER) ATTITUDES 231
on exercise (ˇD.37). The more respondents valued exercise, the more likely
they were to hold strong intentions to exercise. The second strongest predictor
was Owner-centered barriers (ˇD .21). The more respondents thought that
exercising their dogs was hampered by barriers such as time, dislike of exercise,
and little access to appropriate areas, the less likely their intent to exercise their
dogs appropriately. The last predictor related to Control beliefs (ˇD.17). The
more respondents felt in control of the behavior, the more likely they were to
intend to exercise their dogs appropriately.
Predicting Exercise Amount
Ten variables accounted for 27.1% of the variance in exercise behavior (F(10,
163) D7.43, pD.001). Only Intentions to exercise appropriately made a unique
contribution to the model (ˇD.273). This indicated that the stronger owners’
intentions, the more they reported exercising their dogs.
Predicting Body Condition Scores
Feeding variables significantly predicted 10.3% of the variance in dogs’ BCSs
(F(12, 138) D2.43, pD.007). Only the interaction between feeding behav-
ior and reported dog size made a significant contribution to the model (ˇD
.222). Exercise behaviors, intentions, and beliefs did not significantly explain
the variance in BCS. Only 2.4% of the variance could be accounted for by these
variables (F(11, 153) D1.37, pD.190).
DISCUSSION
According to the theory of planned behavior (TPB), many behaviors, includ-
ing behaviors toward animals (Coleman et al., 2003), are predicted primarily
by intentions. Intentions are determined by Behavioral attitudes, Subjective
norms, and PBC; they can be elicited through investigating Behavioral beliefs,
Normative beliefs, and Control beliefs. The aim of this project was to use
the TPB to examine relationships among these beliefs, feeding and exercise
intentions, feeding and exercise behaviors, and BCSs. In particular, the study
aimed to identify the beliefs that best predicted dog owners’ feeding and exercise
intentions and behaviors. The findings suggest that intentions to feed and exercise
appropriately were best predicted by specific Behavioral beliefs, Control beliefs,
and not Normative beliefs. Further to this, intentions did not predict feeding
behaviors but did predict exercise behaviors. BCSs were best predicted by the
interaction between the reported size of the dog and the amount of food fed.
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232 ROHLF, TOUKHSATI, COLEMAN, BENNETT
Ambivalent beliefs toward feeding, together with control beliefs, explained
the majority of variance in owners’ intentions to feed appropriately. These
findings provide a likely explanation for Kienzle et al.’s (1998) observation that
owners of obese dogs place less importance on balanced dog nutrition compared
with owners of normal weight dogs. These findings may also explain why owners
of obese dogs are more likely to give in to begging behavior (Kienzle et al.,
1998) from their dogs; it is likely that owners who give in to begging may have
low perceived behavioral control.
Intention to feed appropriately did not make a significant contribution to the
prediction of feeding behavior. This was unexpected but is an important and
unique finding. It may indicate that feeding behavior is not under complete
volitional control but perhaps operates more like a behavioral habit, performed
largely automatically and without volitional control. According to Bargh and
Chartrand (1999), behaviors become habits when they are repeatedly performed
and positively reinforced. Both characteristics may be associated with feeding
the family dog; it is a repeated behavior that may be positively reinforced by
owners receiving affection from their pets. If this is the case, it may provide a
novel explanation for why weight loss treatments often fail despite owners’ best
intentions. Instead of simply providing owners with information or attempting to
alter their attitudes toward feeding appropriately, it may be necessary to initially
employ strategies designed to increase owners’ mindfulness in relation to their
feeding behavior.
Mindfulness describes the process of increased awareness and attention to
present reality (Brown & Ryan, 2003). It has recently received a great deal
of attention in the scientific literature. For example, Chatzisarantis and Hagger
(2007) found that mindfulness moderates the relationship between intentions and
exercise behaviors such that intentions predicted physical activity in mindful
individuals but not among less mindful individuals. If mindfulness could be
used to increase the volitional control owners exert over their feeding behavior,
significant reductions in BCS may be achieved.
The research relied on self-reported behaviors from owners who may have
provided an inaccurate representation of their feeding behaviors: This may
provide another explanation for the lack of association between feeding in-
tentions and behaviors. Furthermore, an association between intentions to feed
appropriately and feeding behaviors is based on the assumption that owners have
an idea of what is appropriate feeding behavior and what is not. Owners may
believe they are feeding their dogs appropriately based on the size they perceive
their dogs to be. However, the high degree of overlap between reported dog
size and weight indicates that these perceptions may be inaccurate. Many pet
food products provide recommendations for feeding amount based on the size
of dogs. However, if owners of small dogs erroneously believe their dogs are
medium or large size then they will be unwittingly overfeeding. Intentions may
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DOG OBESITY AND CAREGIVER (OWNER) ATTITUDES 233
be improved by promoting the importance of feeding a nutritionally balanced
diet and increasing perceived behavioral control as well as by providing infor-
mation about what comprises a nutritionally balanced diet. Perceived behavioral
control may be enhanced by encouraging owners to self-monitor their feeding
behaviors, again relying on mindfulness to prompt appropriate actions. Owners
with overweight dogs, perhaps through measuring in advance the daily allowance
of food to be given to their dogs at scheduled feeding times, may be more able
to regulate their feeding behavior.
Because these results indicate a close relationship between perceived control
and barriers, counseling in order to overcome these barriers may also prove
beneficial. For example, barriers such as other family members feeding the dogs
may be overcome by encouraging the whole family to engage in the weight loss
treatment of the family’s companion dog.
Intentions to exercise appropriately were predicted by beliefs about the im-
portance of exercise, perceived behavioral control, and owner-centered barriers.
This finding may explain Kienzle et al.’s (1998) finding that owners of obese
dogs placed less importance on exercise compared with owners of normal weight
dogs.
This means that increasing motivation should involve increasing the value of
exercise, perhaps by highlighting health benefits for both owner and dog and
increasing control over exercise and problem-solving common barriers. Barriers
such as disliking exercise may be overcome by encouraging the owner to try a
variety of physical activities that both the dog and owner enjoy. Consistent with
the TPB, exercise intentions predicted exercise behaviors. This is encouraging
and may also indicate that exercise is easier to measure via self-report and
perhaps is less ambiguous to owners as to what is appropriate.
Not one of the Normative beliefs made a unique contribution to feeding and
exercise intentions. However, the influence of some of the normative beliefs,
such as the belief about what others think of the owners’ feeding behavior, may
have been masked by their relationships with other variables within the model.
For example, Beliefs about what others think about owners’ feeding behavior
were negatively correlated with Feeding Intentions but also negatively correlated
with Control beliefs. Most interesting is that Motivation to comply with the
recommendations of veterinarians did not correlate with Feeding or Exercise
Intentions or behaviors. This may indicate that although dog owners report that
they are motivated to comply with the advice of veterinarians, as indicated by the
relatively high means in this sample, this does not necessarily facilitate intentions
or behaviors. Alternatively, veterinarians may not have provided advice to owners
with respect to their feeding and exercise behaviors. Unfortunately, the survey
did not determine whether a veterinarian had provided recommendations to the
participants about diet and exercise. This is an issue that should be addressed
in subsequent studies.
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234 ROHLF, TOUKHSATI, COLEMAN, BENNETT
Only a small proportion of the BCS variance could be explained by feeding
behaviors, intentions, and beliefs; none of the exercise variables explained BCS.
This is perhaps not surprising considering BCS is influenced not only by feeding
behaviors but also by biological factors such as age and breed of the dog and
environmental factors such as other family members feeding the dog (Burkholder
& Toll, 2000). Clearly, a dog’s BCS is influenced by a number of factors
interacting together; the variables we focused on in this study are part of a
complex causal model that is, as yet, only partially understood.
We were limited in this study by our reliance on a convenience sample
and by the fact that the study was cross-sectional. It will be necessary to
use a longitudinal design to establish causal relationships between beliefs and
intentions and between intentions and behaviors. Even if it is assumed that
intentions predict behaviors, it still needs to be shown that modifying beliefs and
intentions will lead to subsequent modifications in feeding and exercise behavior
and consequent improvements in body condition. A weight loss intervention that
seeks to modify the beliefs discussed in this article should be undertaken to find
out if this is the case.
CONCLUSION
The results contribute to current knowledge of owner factors influencing dog
obesity. Using a strong theoretical model to test interactions between beliefs,
attitudes, intentions, and behaviors demonstrated that the relationships are ex-
tremely complex and of only limited utility. Exercise behaviors may be more
under the volitional control of the owner than are feeding behaviors, which
appear to operate habitually. Despite the fact that most owners in this sam-
ple had good intentions, 40% owned overweight dogs. Because obesity has
significant health implications, this is not a trivial issue. Many of the owners
did not recognize that their dogs were overweight. Others were more realistic
but had not effectively addressed the problem. This implies that intervention
strategies will need to be more sophisticated than is presently the case. Simply
pointing out that a dog is overweight and that something needs to be done
about this is unlikely to lead to satisfactory results, and neither is the provision
of special foods and general information. Owners need to believe that their
dogs are overweight and that this has important health implications. They also
need to understand that this requires active intervention on their part based
on being mindful of what the dog is being fed and why. A multidimensional
and owner-focused strategy should be developed, drawing on the knowledge
of those who work with people as well as those who work with nonhuman
animals.
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DOG OBESITY AND CAREGIVER (OWNER) ATTITUDES 235
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... The overrepresentation of female respondents was expected as it is typical of online surveys [32,33]. In NZ it has been reported that the head female usually takes on the responsibility of caring for pets in the household [34], and similar findings have also been documented in Italy and Australia [22,35]. Therefore, gender bias was not considered a major limiting factor in this study. ...
... However, the survey respondents broadly interpreted the term "treat" and treats were specified as being a wide range of things, such as ice blocks containing fruit and vegetables, table scraps/human food, dental chews, cheese, peanut butter, etc. and dog-specific. Many studies support the notion that the feeding of 'treats' is a potential obesity risk factor for dog/s [11,14,17,35,53,63,66]. In addition, some of these studies showed that increasing treat feeding frequency was associated with canine obesity [11,17,35,63,66], and others have suggested that owners of overweight/obese dogs show their affection to their animals by providing them with treats [35,67]. ...
... Many studies support the notion that the feeding of 'treats' is a potential obesity risk factor for dog/s [11,14,17,35,53,63,66]. In addition, some of these studies showed that increasing treat feeding frequency was associated with canine obesity [11,17,35,63,66], and others have suggested that owners of overweight/obese dogs show their affection to their animals by providing them with treats [35,67]. Interestingly, female respondents were more likely to feed their dog(s) treats, consistent with other studies that evaluated dog owners' attitudes towards treats [39,63]. ...
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Approximately a third of all Aotearoa New Zealand (NZ) households include a dog, with 28% of these dogs being overweight or obese, conditions that are associated with many serious health issues. Therefore, healthy weight interventions that focus on the owner’s role are of great importance to companion animal welfare in NZ. Accordingly, the present study explores the feeding practices associated with NZ dogs and identifies potential owner-related risk factors contributing to these animals being overweight or obese. The current study used data collected from a survey conducted online in 2019 between January and March of NZ residents over 18. Along with demographic questions, the respondents were asked questions regarding their dog’s body condition and diet questions related to the body. Nearly a quarter (26%, n = 609) of the survey participants (n = 2358) owned at least one dog. The current study reported that increasing age range, household income and the number of children increased the likelihood of having a dog while increasing qualification level and living in a town/city decreased the likelihood. The majority of the respondents fed their dog(s) treats (59%) and 85% fed them specialised food bought from a pet shop, veterinary clinic and/or different online sources. Just over a third of the participant (39%) reported that they fed their dog(s) biscuits from the supermarket, 36% fed their dog(s) raw meat, and 34% of respondents fee their dog(s) table scraps/human food. These results suggest that many dog owners feed their dog(s) various food types, making it a challenging task to determine the exact amount required from each type in order not to exceed caloric intake. Disagreement regarding the correct body condition were reported among twenty per cent of the respondents. This finding indicates a knowledge gap among the NZ dog-owning population that may negatively affect their dogs’ welfare and wellbeing. Future research into pro-equity approaches to address these issues is needed so that dogs in NZ can live not only a good life but also their best life.
... Thirty-seven percent of US households own a dog, and recent statistics from the US, UK, Europe, and Australia suggest that around 50% of those pet dogs are obese [1][2][3][4][5]. All studies to date have focused on pet owners that are, for the most part, unsuccessful at maintaining their dog's body condition at a healthy level [4,[6][7][8][9][10][11][12]. While it is certainly important to understand why these pet owners act the way they do, sometimes just looking at pet owners that have successfully maintained their dog's body condition provides an alternative viewpoint that may inform about the best course of action for interventions to reduce pet obesity. ...
... Furthermore, to properly intervene and provide a dog with a healthy environment to maintain weight, it is important to understand the mechanisms of change. The Theory of Reasoned Action has been used to understand how attitudes, subjective norms and perceived behavioral control relate to the feeding and exercise behaviors of dog owners [10,16]. The Theory of Planned Behavior is used to understand primarily human behaviors. ...
... The owner was asked to answer a questionnaire based on the Dog Owner Attitude Questionnaire developed by Rohlf et al. [10], which includes self-reported feeding behaviors, self-reported exercise behaviors, the owner's opinion of the dog's body condition, and exercise and feeding intentions. The survey was designed based on Theory of Planned Behavior and assessed intentions, subjective norms, perceived behavior control and behavior. ...
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The purpose of this study was to investigate the variables that contribute to obesity in pet dogs. The working hypothesis was that sports dog owners will better estimate their dog’s body condition and report stronger belief and control over their dogs’ feeding and exercise compared to traditional pet owners. We collected data on 171 pet owners (101 participated in canine sports) for this study. Each owner completed the Dog Owner Attitude Questionnaire. Each dog was measured for percent fat and Purina body condition scale. For the pet dogs, the median Purina body condition score was 6 (too heavy), but for the sports dogs it was 5 (ideal) (p < 0.05 different from pet dogs). The average percent fat for the pet dogs was 19.1 ± 8.6%, and for the sports dogs it was 13.8 ± 5.3% (p < 0.05 different from pet dogs). Among pet owners, 52% were able to correctly estimate their dog’s body condition. Sports dog owners were 57% correct. Pet dog owners fed approximately 60% more per day compared to sports dog owners. Pet and sports dog owners exercised their dog via walking, but sports dog owners reported more activity with the dog, while pet dog owners reported more activity than the dog did by themselves. Overall, pet and sports dog owners put a high value on their dog’s health and well-being, but better education with regard to body condition, feeding and exercise is critical to improve the pet obesity problem.
... Data on the incidence of this problem in dogs vary according to different authors. Studies in recent years have shown that the prevalence of canine obesity varies between 25 and 44% in developed countries [21][22][23]. The prevalence of obesity in dogs is increasing [24]. ...
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Obesity in humans is a growing global problem and is one of the greatest public health challenges we face today. Most researchers agree that, as in humans, the incidence in the companion animal population is also increasing. The aim of this study was to evaluate the risk factors contributing to canine obesity in a region with a high rate of human obesity (Canary Islands, Spain), co-occurrence of obesogenic risk factors, and a canine population with a high percentage of unneutered dogs. We have focused on owner risk factors that promote obesity in humans, such as weight, lifestyle, nutritional habits, and low physical activity, among others. Thus, the human–animal interaction relationship that contributes to human obesity and influences canine obesity has been studied. A multicentre cross-sectional analytical study of 198 pairs of dogs from urban households and their owners was used. A multivariable logistic regression study was completed to analyse owner characteristics variables associated with canine obesity. This transdisciplinary study was conducted with physicians and veterinarians using a “One Health” approach. Our results suggest that, in a region of high obesogenic risk, obese/overweight dogs are primarily female, older than 6 years, and neutered. Being an overweight dog owner was found to be the most important factor in the occurrence of obesity in dogs. Owners of overweight dogs were mainly females, older than 40 years, who did not engage in any physical activity. A strong correlation has been found between dog owners with low levels of education and obesity in their dogs. We suggest that veterinarians should develop and design strategies to encourage pet owners to engage in physical activity with their dogs for the benefit of both.
... These results could be because dog walking increases overall physical exercise and maintains regular schedules, which helps avoid negative feelings such as boredom and anxiety [34]. In addition, due to their proximity to home, the popular places for dog walking in this study were their neighborhoods and community parks, consistent with prior studies on factors promoting dog walking [35]. ...
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The COVID-19 pandemic has changed people's lives and increased their vulnerability to physical and mental health hazards. While Korea has avoided nationwide lockdown measures since the COVID-19 outbreak, the prolonged restrictions and social isolation measures have resulted in detrimental psychological effects, such as increased anxiety, boredom, and loneliness. The present study investigated dog attachment and changes in dog walking during the COVID-19 pandemic and the effects of dog attachment and dog walking on the loneliness of Korean dog owners. An online, cross-sectional survey was conducted in the fall of 2021 in which 249 dog owners responded to questionnaires that asked questions about dog attachment, their perception of dog walking, and their feelings of loneliness during the COVID-19 pandemic. Most dog owners responded that they spent more time with their dogs and developed a stronger bond with them during the pandemic. Additionally, respondents stated that they walked their dogs more often than they did before COVID-19 and that their dogs aided in reducing loneliness. We found that dog walking directly affected attachment and indirectly influenced the loneliness of dog owners. Further research is required to determine how dog walking impacts positive psychological effects and promote dog walking.
... It is possible that this is indicative of the relationship between the owner and their pet; owners who actively seek veterinary care more regularly may also be more indulgent in their feeding practices leading to overweight pets. However, the association between being overweight and indicators of the owner-pet bond found in other studies is mixed for both cats and dogs (Rohlf et al., 2010;German et al., 2017;Bjørnvad et al., 2019;Wall et al., 2019). Previous research has also identified an association between owner income and pet body condition, suggesting that animals in low income families are more likely to be overweight (Courcier et al., 2010b;Muñoz-Prieto et al., 2018); we were unable to explore this relationship as the owners in our study were all in a similar income range. ...
Article
Approximately 35 000 people experience homelessness in some form each night in Canada, with similar rates (approximately 1/200 individuals) among developed countries. Ten to twenty percent of those individuals are pet owners. Animal companionship provides a variety of mental and physical benefits to people who are living homeless or vulnerably housed, but many in the non-vulnerable sector, including veterinary professionals and animal welfare advocates, express concern for the health and welfare of these animals. We describe the demographics of a population of animals owned by individuals experiencing homelessness and housing vulnerability, and investigate animal and owner factors influencing body condition score and over-conditioning using data collected from Community Veterinary Outreach (CVO). Community Veterinary Outreach is a registered charity focused on improving the health and welfare of people and their pets who are experiencing homelessness and housing vulnerability. The organization provides free services to clients in ten Canadian communities. Data associated with 636 owners and 946 animals were collected during clinics held between April 2018 and March 2020, representing a total of 1124 visits. The population of dogs and cats seen by CVO was demographically similar to populations seen in general companion animal veterinary practice and were in similar health. For both species, the mean body condition score was 5.4/9, where an ideal score is five for cats and four to five for dogs, and 38 % of animals were considered over-conditioned (overweight/obese). Risk factor analysis demonstrated significant associations between being over-conditioned and pet age and the reason for the veterinary visit for cats, and pet age, the number of abnormal findings on physical exam, and a previous CVO visit for dogs. Pet age, sex-neuter status, disease of the oral cavity, and a previous CVO visit were significantly associated with body condition score in cats. Body condition score in dogs was associated with owner age, and with interactions between pet age and breed size group, and between sex-neuter status and owner-reported housing security. These findings suggest that animals owned by those experiencing homeless and housing vulnerability are generally in good health and similar factors influence body condition score and over-conditioning as animals seen in general companion animal veterinary practice. Further efforts to provide support to pet owners within these communities by veterinarians will help support the good health of this population.
... These expenditures indicate that owner's perceptions of agency are more complex than simply rational or instrumental. (Rohlf 2010). ...
Conference Paper
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Humans engage in behaviors such as smoking, excessive drinking, and overeating that negatively affect their health. Diagnosing the causes of these behaviors in humans is a complex sociological and biological conundrum. The cause of overweight dogs, however, can only be attributed to their human care‐givers. This study uses the analogous increase in the rate of obesity in pet dogs to study dog owners’ conceptualizations of agency related to their dog’s nutrition and weight regulation. A multi‐species approach demonstrates that pet owner’s conceptualizations of pet nutrition reveal insight about cognitive prototypes that pet owners develop about health behavior.
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The present study investigates how characteristics of both the dog, Canis familiaris, and their owner influence the quality of life (QoL) of the pet dog. The investigation was carried out using a multiple approach: (1) three questionnaires which investigated characteristics of the dog and their owner and care given to the dog, (2) simple physical examination of the dog, (3) the Strange Situation Test to investigate the dog's attachment to their owner and (4) the Lexington Attachment to Pets Scale (LAPS) test.A sample of 104 dog–owner dyads participated in the study. The level of care was found to be positively influenced by marital status (single) and negatively by the age of the dog, length of the dog–owner relationship and neutering. The best physical condition was found for pure breed dogs belonging to men and to people who prefer dogs among pets while physical condition decreases for aging dogs or those with a long relationship with their owner. Attachment to the owner was stronger for dogs with a long relationship and those belonging to people who had had previous experience with pets and those with many emotional bonds. Conversely, the attachment level was lower for pure breed dogs and those whose owners shared the property with other people. LAPS was influenced only by owner features: people more attached to their dogs are those who do not live with children and who do have many emotional bonds. Finally, the majority of dogs had a high level of QoL which was influenced positively by the number of emotional bonds of the owner and negatively by the dog's age and length of the dog–owner relationship.