University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC) researchers are embarking on a research project to learn more about the dog walking experience in Canada.
The research, called ‘Dog Tales: Experiences in Dog Walking, Dog Parks and Off-Leash Areas in Canada’, is led by Annie Booth from the school of planning and sustainability along with Ken Otter from the department of ecosystem science and management.
The surveys seek to examine dog owners' experiences in on-leash areas compared to off-leash areas such as dog parks and beaches.
“We really wanted to look at how people were utilizing different spaces as a way of exercising a dog,” said Booth.
“I'm interested in understanding how communities see benefits to dog ownership and to various forms of engaging with your dog — how individual dog owners see benefits in the opportunity for off-leash exercise areas.”
She said they expect the research to be useful for everyone interested in supporting dog ownership and the availability of dog-friendly spaces and in understanding the importance of such areas for dogs, people, and communities.
Booth said she was inspired to start the research as a dog park-user herself and someone who values off-leash areas, especially for bigger and more active breeds like Huskies or German Shepherds.
“Unfortunately, these are areas that come with a lot of conflicts. They’re often controversial. Cities or communities aren't particularly good at recognizing the need or planning for them appropriately or ensuring that off-leash areas are used appropriately.”
Booth said she hopes to examine any problems surrounding these spaces, ask what people value about being able to walk their dogs on or off-leash, and determine if there are broader community benefits.
She says she hopes the research will inform ways for municipalities to address the needs of dog owners, which will not only be applicable to the local Prince George community, but to communities elsewhere across Canada.
“Many communities have difficulty thinking through off-leash areas, but I think it's something that municipalities need to consider as a valuable and indeed an essential amenity to their efforts to develop their community, because dog ownership is going up,” said Booth.
“It is a substantial factor in Canadian Society. If you ignore it and you don't provide appropriate spaces for people to exercise their dogs, then you have problems, with people taking their dogs to inappropriate areas.”
She said the more you can engage with appropriate provision of services, the more likely you are to have generally a broad acceptance and happiness around it.
“It's worth noting that pet ownership in general, comes with quite a few positives,” said Booth, noting community development and the health benefits of owning a dog.
“People dump millions of dollars into local community stores for various [pet] services so for a community to ignore the dog/pet-owning public is problematic for economic reasons, for land use planning reasons, for social benefits and yet it is something that many communities do not give adequate thought to.”
The research project consists of two surveys one for people who primarily walk their dogs on-leash and for those who primarily use off-leash dog parks, beaches, or other off-leash areas.
The survey takes about 15 to 20 minutes to complete and will be open until the end of May. Anyone who participates will have the opportunity to enter a draw for one of three $50 gift cards.
Booth says once the research is completed and they have time to work through the findings, they hope to make it available to the public as well as municipal planners.
Further information on this survey and your rights as a participant can be found on the survey site and any questions can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.