Effects of a dog walking program with older adults in long-term care

Susan M Shea, The University of Texas School of Nursing at Houston


The purpose of this study was to determine if walking a dog would increase motivation to adhere to a walking program and result in an increase in walking endurance and mobility among institutionalized elderly. An experimental pre and post test two group randomly assigned study design was utilized. Thirty subjects, 20 females and 10 males with an average age of 72, were enrolled from three long-term care facilities. The walking program was 3 times a week for 6 weeks. The experimental group walked with a certified therapy dog and the handler. The control group walked with only the handler. The Outcome Expectations for Exercise Scale (OEES) was used to measure the perceived benefits of exercise. The 2-minute walk test and the 30 second chair stand test were administered before and after the walking program. The OEES scores did not significantly predict adherence to the program. The pre- and post-chair stand test and the 2-minute walk test did not show statistical significant differences between groups. All of the participants did show an increase (7 minutes) in walking time during the 6 week period (p=0.048). The mean pre and post walk test scores for participants with stroke/arthritis were significantly less than those without stroke/arthritis (p=0.013). The experimental group had 12 subjects with stroke/arthritis compared with 6 in the control group. The walk test means in feet walked were 362.44 ± 130.36 (control) vs. 201.27 ± 106.25 (experimental), p=0.001. The results indicate walking practice has the potential to increase walking time and endurance. Because residents of long-term care facilities were not allowed outside the facilities without accompaniment, the presence of the dog handler was key to their walking. Analysis of conversations during the walks indicated that for participants who walked with dogs, the dogs did serve as motivation for continuing in the program.

Subject Area

Gerontology|Alternative Medicine|Nursing

Recommended Citation

Shea, Susan M, "Effects of a dog walking program with older adults in long-term care" (2011). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI3479518.