Harvard Medical School’s Guidelines for Dogs Show They Should Stick to Humans

The other day someone handed me a Harvard University Medical School “Special Health Report” on the health benefits of canine companionship and exercise guidelines for dogs. There have been plenty of studies on how dogs lower our blood pressure, help us relax, encourage us to get more exercise, etc. Of course since we’ve spent thousands of years domesticating dogs, they benefit from their relationship with humans as well (it’s much easier for them to munch on some kibble than to hunt for food). Frankly, as much as I like to think of Harvard as the University of Chicago of the east, I was repeatedly disappointed by the Special Health Report and a subtitle of this blog could be “Mark Defends Newfoundlands Against Harvard Experts.” Let me give you just two examples of why.

In the discussion of “Exercise Guidelines for Dogs” Harvard quotes Marty Becker, co-author of Fitness Unleashed: A Dog and Owner’s Guide to Losing Weight and Gaining Health Together, that “a useful rule of thumb is to walk a daily minimum of two blocks for every 10 pounds of your dog’s body weight.” Frankly, I don’t have any idea why this formula is ideal and the folks at Harvard provide no support for it.

The discussion continues that working breeds, herders and terriers tend to have more energy and demand more exercise than other breeds. Interestingly enough, just one paragraph before the article says that “large breed dogs such as Great Danes and Newfoundlands can be lethargic by nature.” The authors, who I hope are human doctors and not veterinarians, seem to have forgotten that BOTH Great Danes and Newfoundlands are working breeds. Moreover, I’ve never heard a pet parent of a Dane or Newfie call them “lethargic” – come on, they are just plain lazy. Sure they’ll go on long walk with you and Splash will swim for as long as I’ll let her, but all our Great Danes and Newfies have loved a good nap more than anything else in the world.

The experts at Harvard University also say that “(b)ecause of their nature and size they [working breeds] may not make the best family pet.” These folks must have never read Peter Pan where Nana (the dog that takes care of the children) is a Newfoundland – again a working breed. In fact, I’ve never met a Newfoundland that wasn’t the ideal family pet (assuming you don’t mind sweeping your floors every day). There is simply no basis for these statements by Harvard Medical School.

Now I’m not saying that Harvard doesn’t have a fine medical school and produce some outstanding doctors – but like all of us, they should stick to what they do best and not venture into areas that are best left to other experts (like those of us who scoop poop for a living) and of course they should NEVER and I mean NEVER bad mouth a Newfie!

Thanks for reading!