Comparing the Differential Effects of Neighborhood and Nature Walks on Behavior and Urinary Cortisol Levels of Dogs

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Virginia Tech


Dog training practitioners suggest that walks in nature provide more welfare enhancing benefits than the neighborhood walks that most dogs experience daily. While the benefits of nature walks are a well-studied phenomenon in humans, to date there has been little investigation of this topic in companion dogs using objective measures. This study compared the effects of thirty-minute walks in nature to walks in the dogs’ home neighborhoods. Fifteen dogs took part in a within- subjects design that measured physiology and behavior to examine the effects of the two types of walks. Dogs had free catch urine samples taken multiple times per day for urinary cortisol analysis, were video recorded during walks, and were outfitted with activity monitoring collars. We found significant variation in cortisol levels in accordance with time of day, but no difference was found between the neighborhood and nature walks. Several stress, movement, and exploratory/foraging behaviors were found to differ between conditions. While we found that the experimental conditions did influence some of the dogs’ behavior in this study, they did not impact cortisol levels.



dogs, exercise, nature, cortisol, activity, dog behavior