What Not To Do To Your Dog
By Michelle Liew Tsui-Lin
Perfection is elusive. This applies to dog ownership, for being a perfect dog owner is almost impossible.
All dog owners make countless mistakes, despite their best intentions. Irresponsible owners make harmful, calculated ones.
Pet owners need awareness of these errors. We all have a part in making dog ownership an enjoyable responsibility.
Common Pet Owner Mistakes
1. Intentional Abuse
It is unfortunate, but those who engage in reprehensible conduct exist. They make choices that harm their dogs. Some of these border on cruelty.
a. Dog Fighting
The first of these is dog fighting. Some owners breed their dogs to engage in this cruel blood sport.
Dog breeds such as Pitbulls, Mastiffs and Rottweilers are expressly bred for this purpose.
A famous case involves petite blond Diane Whipple. Courts convicted two prominent lawyers, Robert Noel and Marjorie Knoller, for involuntary manslaughter and second degree murder.
A question raised in the course of the hearings was if the two had bred the dogs for fighting.
Their Presa Camaros, Bena and Hera, attacked Diane as she was going to her apartment.
b. Animal Hoarding
Stories abound about as many as 80 cats living in an apartment, or 100 dogs living in a cabin.
To give some well-intended owners some credit, they want to help as many strays as they can. Having so many animals in the home, however, means a total lack of hygiene. This is a bane for both owners and their pets.
c. Puppy Mills
An outstanding concern of animal welfare groups is the menace of puppy mills Owners of these mills often have no consideration for the well-being of the animals they breed.
They overlook hygienic practices and cram as many puppies as they can into a single cage. Puppies become impaired or stunted.
Avoid buying puppies from pet stores as many of them carry puppies from these mills.
Another deliberate mistake owners make is to tether their dogs to chains for long periods of time. This is perfectly fine for short periods when a dog needs to wait for the owner.
Leaving a tethered dog, parched and in the hot sun is a rather inhumane act.
e. Backyard Breeding
Adding to this list of irresponsible acts is backyard breeding.
Simply put, this is the continuous breeding of dogs for monetary purposes.
Many little puppies and kittens end up in shelters because of negligent breeding practices.
2. Unintended Mistakes
Then, there are mistakes owners make without realizing them.
Here are a list of little errors that may affect discipline, training and the relationship between you and your dog.
At the top of the list is nagging. I plead guilty to this. I sometimes subject my Westie, Cloudy, to a long tirade if she jumps on the sofa or urinates in a fit of excitement.
It is essential to never do this as it does not help improve the unwanted behavior in any way. Dogs do not understand long, droning verbal lectures. It is far better to keep instructions to a short, simple "no".
Never yell at your dog for the same reason. Screaming at it for undesirable behavior instills fear with no productive outcomes.
It is far better to use simple verbal cues and reward it with wholesome treats.
c. Comforting a frightened dog.
The next error dog owners make may come as a surprise. Our basic instinct is to comfort our frightened dogs when they shudder at the sound of thunder.
Comforting a dog by petting it and saying "It's alright darling" is counterproductive. Dogs, as we know, do not understand human cues.
Instead, create a stable environment for your dog. Get it a thunder shirt. Give it a place in your home to go to when thunder rolls.
d. Giving it small, sharp bones
Further, avoid giving it small, sharp bones. Those who want to put their pets on a raw food diet need more awareness, as this diet involves giving the dog raw meat and bones to chew on to keep their teeth healthy.
It is best to give your dogs nylon bones. However, if you do want to give it fresh bones, make sure that they are large and not tough enough to splinter too much. The splinters may get caught between your dog's teeth.
e. Giving mixed signals/being inconsistent
Owners also forget themselves and give their dogs mixed signals. These are, understandably, difficult to avoid because they are subtle and easily overlooked.
One of them is telling a dog "no" for barking and, in a somewhat contradictory move, petting it on the head. It receives the signal that is alright to bark. It is better to say "no" and ignore the dog.
Some owners let the dog lead during a walk, scolding it sharply when it barks at other dogs. It already gets the signal that it is the leader for that walking session and it barks at other dogs for that reason. Scolding it for not ignoring them is contradictory.
Be the consistent leader of the pack.
For the same reasons we have to practice being a pack leader, we have to train our dogs to take their turns.
Never let the dog go out of the door first when it is time for a walk. Make sure you do, consistently.
The dog gets the impression that it is the leader when it steps out of the door first. If you scold it for pulling you, it becomes confused.
Which is the most common pet owner mistake?
3. Being a good pet owner
How do we become better pet owners? It involves a few simple practices that actually make the job easier.
a. Do a little research.
First, do a little research. Find out which dog breed suits your needs.
If you and your family live more sedentary lives, terriers or hounds are probably not for you. You would want a smaller dog like a chihuahua instead.
If you have small children, large dogs may not suit your needs.
Match the dog to you.
b. Train your dog.
Then, invest in a little obedience training. While this involves cost and time, it is necessary for the times when you have edgy visitors or need your dog to pay attention to you.
Take a few classes. Research on the internet is also rich.
c. Practice consistency.
Further, practice consistency. Give consistent, similar command and make sure that your family members use the same ones.
As described in several instances above, consistency in behavior is also important.
d. Limit treats.
To add, do not give your dog treats randomly. Attach a reason to the treat.
Only give them if your dog performs a specific command or behaves well.
e. Socialize your dog.
Spend time bringing your dog to parks and letting it get used to strangers as well. Very importantly, let it get used to other dogs.
This keeps it from becoming unnecessarily dominant or fearful.
f. Let your dog be a dog.
It is also important to let your dog act like one. Dogs must have their sniff fests and need to run around.
Take your dog for a daily jog. It keeps his body well-exercised and his emotions, stable.
g. Enrich its environment.
Besides letting it behave like a dog, enrich the dog's environment, especially if it is an older dog.
Give your dog puzzle games eg. the Kong toy to play with.
Bring it to dog runs where it can take part in agility exercises as well.
h. Do not leave it alone for too long.
Keeping your dog's mind active also means not leaving it alone for too long. Dogs may develop separation anxiety.
It is better not to own a dog in the first place if you have heavy work commitments that involve long commutes or unexpected, long hours. You may hire a dog sitter, but as with children, it is better to raise the dog yourself.
i. Find out the reasons behind his behaviors.
Apart from spending enough time with the dog, find out the reasons behind unwanted behaviors.
Perhaps your dog barks excessively. There is usually a valid reason for this, so find out what it is.
Your dog may urinate, then cower in fear. This is submissive urination, so you will need to find out what provokes this behavior.
j. Make him part of the family.
Lastly, make him part of the family. Give it an area to call its own.
Play with it and allow it to lie at your feet. Bond with it by taking it to the beach or enlisting its help with certain activities, like carrying small items in a bag pack for you.
Bearing all this in mind, you can be the best pet owner you can be.