Serious Leisure Involvement With Dogs

A study on its relationship to successful aging
By Karen B. London PhD, January 2018

Seeking the fountain of youth is a universal quest, but finding the Foxhound of youth may be more realistic. There’s a never-ending list of ways that dogs benefit our health and well-being, and their role in successful aging may be one of them, as long as the canine commitment is a serious one.

The impact on retirees of heavy involvement in dog-related activities is one of the current projects of Professor Wendy Hultsman of the School of Community Resources & Development at Arizona State University. She is studying the impact of serious dog leisure involvement during retirement on successful aging.

Serious leisure involvement is best understood by lay people as an all-consuming, intense hobby around which one’s lifestyle revolves. Serious leisure activities can be running marathons, geocaching or collecting antiques, along with all sorts of dog-related activities. No matter what the specific leisure activity, people invest profound personal effort into it, consider it part of their identity and form strong social networks within it.

Hultsman is seeking a greater comprehension of intense involvement with dog activities in retirement and what keeps people going in order understand people’s perspectives on successful aging. Her goal is to interview retired people involved in a variety of serious canine leisure activities. To be eligible to be part of her study, people must be over 65 years old (the older the better!), have been retired for at least a year, be involved in at least one serious dog related activity on a weekly basis and be willing to be interviewed for 30 minutes. (It’s fine if participants have some form of part-time employment, but they must no longer have a full-time job.)

As an agility competitor herself, Hultsman is highly connected to that world and has already interviewed many retirees who share her love of that sport. She is looking for volunteers from the US and other countries who are involved in other canine activities including breed rescue, pet therapy, obedience, field trialing, pulling, skijoring and herding.

Hultsman has long studied people and dogs involved in recreation activities, and this most recent project expands on previous research. If you fit the criteria of the study, e-mail her at whultsma@asu.edu to find out if you can be a part of it!

Karen B. London, PhD, is a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist and Certified Professional Dog Trainer who specializes in working with dogs with serious behavioral problems, including aggression. She is the author of five books on canine training and behavior.

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