Dog owners are sometimes guilty of 10 common mistakes that we should all be aware of.
There is no doubt that we love our dogs and would do absolutely anything for them. But we might not be aware of our own occasional bad habits when it comes to dog ownership.
Dogs are very forgiving animals. Us dog owners make mistakes all the time with our dogs and luckily, we get away with them most of the time. But spotting a dog ownership mistake for what it is is only half the battle.
We rightly pride ourselves on how the care and structure bestowed on our dogs has helped to shape them into the well behaved, healthy canine citizens they are today.
But this leads us to wonder if, as responsible dog owners, we could have done more, or perhaps if all along we have been doing certain things even better?
In our handy little guide we've outlined 10 of the most common (and easily fixable) mistakes that dog owners make. Do you spot any that you recognise?
September Withers spoke to members of her dog-owning social circle to uncover the most common naughty dog owner habits and how we can overcome them.
Dog Owner Mistake No 1: Feeding Too Much Food
Overfeeding is one of the most common bad habits of pet owners, with an astounding 25% of dogs seen by vets in the UK being overweight or obese.
Even though most of us have good intentions when we give our dogs the odd treat, it can in the long run become the cause of many medicinal issues.
Jackie Dalton from Bath Cats and Dogs Home speaks of her concerns about this issue. “Overfeeding our pets with dog food or human snacks on a regular basis will inevitably lead to weight gain, which if uncontrolled could result in musculoskeletal problems, diabetes, and difficulties with breathing.”
It can be a daunting prospect for us as dog owners and even more so for our pets as it’s a sure way to shorten their lifespan and to shorten the change in your pocket with all the veterinary bills to pay.
However, this doesn’t mean we can’t treat our dogs to some leftover meat every now and then. It’s just a simple case of giving them a balanced diet with plenty of exercises.
Should you be concerned that your dog is overweight then a trip to your local vet could be beneficial, as they can recommend a safe, effective weight loss programme that includes a reduced-calorie diet.
Taking your dog on long walks, packed with games and activities is also a fun way to help them release their energy, use their muscles and build upon the ever-growing relationship you share with each other.
Dog Owner Mistake No 2: Not Enough Exercise
This brings us to our second top bad habit of dog owners, under-exercising. A survey conducted in recent times by a pet insurance company stated that 80% of UK dogs do not receive the weekly recommended level of exercise, with one in ten dog owners not even knowing how much exercise their breed requires.
As a basic figure, your dog should be receiving at least twenty to thirty minutes of exercise a day. However, it all depends on the size, age, and breed of your dog.
Some people may think that smaller dogs, like a Yorkshire Terrier or a Lhasa Apso, will need a lot less exercise than, for example, a Labrador or a Great Dane. This is not necessarily the case.
Energy levels vary between all dogs, no matter what their size is. Small dogs, especially terriers, tend to have very high levels of energy, and it’s extremely important for them to have the opportunity to release it.
“Dogs need plenty of exercises, especially puppies.” Jackie comments.
“When your dog is young, its metabolism is at its peak, and without enough exercise, it will be looking for other ways to release its energy. Chewing can become very common in dogs who are bored, and a change in temperament may begin to surface.”
A daily run is a fantastic way to physically and mentally stimulate your pet. It is also a good way to help control their weight and keep them healthy. If you are unsure as to how much exercise your dog needs, then allocate a thirty-minute slot in taking them out for a walk or run.
If they are tired within twenty minutes, or if they are still running wild, then this can become a simple guideline as to how much exercise your dog needs a day.
Dog Owner Mistake No 3: Training Without Consistency
Inconsistent training is a very common bad habit of dog owners, with activities such as begging suffering from a severe lack of discipline. Perhaps the biggest problem with inconsistent training is that it leads to a multitude of other bad habits that we as dog owners are responsible for.
Expecting too much from your dog, being impatient with your dog, and feeding your dog human snacks and food are three other bad habits that we all do, which fall into this category.
“Even though it is our dogs who are being misled and confused,” says Jackie, “we are the ones who become frustrated and impatient. It is our dogs who we will take it out on, and they are the ones who will suffer.”
“The best advice I can give is that we should start as we mean to go on.” Jackie comments. By doing this, not only will you save a lot of time in having to re-train your dog, but you will also help to maintain the position of ‘the boss’ within your relationship.
Training your dog from an early age makes things a lot easier, but this doesn’t mean you can’t train them once they are older. As long as you make it clear as to how you do and don’t want them to behave, then gradually it will become a part of everyday life, and shouldn’t feel like training at all.
Dog Owner Mistake No 4: Treating Dogs As People
Anthromorphising is another common bad habit among dog owners. The term which means ‘to treat your dog as if it is a person,’ is something that most of us do, and can be one of the main contributors towards having a mischievous pet.
It is also another direct result of inconsistent training and is the main reason why many dogs take the lead within the relationship.
It is easy to forget at times that dogs aren’t people. However, treating them like humans could in the long term result in frustration on the behalf of the dog owner, when your pet doesn’t respond in the way you want it to.
Like a child, you want to treat your dog to presents and toys, but there are limits as to how much you should give before your dog expects it all the time. If you do spoil your dog as a puppy, (another top bad habit of dog owners), with constant attention and gifts, then your dog will become accustomed to being put before everyone else.
“Inevitably your dog will become the leader, and you’ll be the one being pulled by the leash,” says Jackie. “Your dog will begin to get its own way all of the time.”
The simple solution to this is to give your dog a treat or a present as a result of good behaviour. Your pet will soon learn that they must work hard for a gift, and their behaviour should improve as well.
Dog Owner Mistake No 5: Dogs Left Alone Too Long
Dogs are extremely social animals, so it’s important that they are not left on their own for too long. Many of us will at times have to leave our pets for a good few hours, due to work and social engagements; however, as a result of this our pets can become anxious and even destructive.
Not being able to relieve themselves throughout the day can be incredibly distressing, as a house-trained dog will know that they must not go to the toilet until they are outside.
Without any concept of time, dogs can become lonely and depressed through lack of interaction, so it is important that they are not left alone for longer than necessary.
Dog Owner Mistake No 6: Lack Of Mental Stimulation
It is important to keep your dog mentally active, which dog owners don’t do enough. By leaving them alone they aren’t getting the level of mental stimulation which they daily require.
“A young dog really shouldn’t be left alone for more than two hours,” says Jackie, “as they get older you can begin to stretch time a little, but even an adult dog shouldn’t be left for more than four or five hours.”
If possible, try to come home during a break at work to let your dog stretch its legs and relieve its self. If this can’t happen then finding a trusted friend or neighbour to help out.
Dog Owner Mistake No 7: No Clear Routine
Another top bad habit of dog owners is not implementing a routine when it comes to eating, drinking, sleeping, exercise, and toilet breaks. Yet having a routine for your dog can be very beneficial.
If you work and you have to leave your dog alone, then a routine can help ease your pet because they become accustomed to which part of the day is meant for which activity.
In the long run, being left alone should become a lot less distressing for them, and easier for you as a dog owner to know when your dog needs feeding or needs the toilet.
Having a routine is also a good way to note your dog’s behaviour, and to spot indications of illness should there be any variations.
Dog Owner Mistake No 8: Lack Of Proper Socialisation
Neglecting to socialise with your dog at an early age can make many activities such as walking and visits to the home extremely difficult, yet many dog owners fail to interact with them while they are still young.
If your dog isn’t aware of other animals or other people, then they can become very defensive of their surroundings, and protective of you as their owner. “This is a serious problem because inevitably your dog may become very aggressive,” Jackie says.
By introducing your pet to guests in the home and other dogs in public, your dog should become used to the level of interaction and feel a lot less threatened. Taking them out on walks should become easier too, especially when you let them off their lead.
Make sure you always introduce your dog gradually into a new scenario, so as not to cause alarm and distress. Keeping the visits short but sweet is an encouraging way to start.
Dog walking is a fantastic way to exercise and bond with your dog. It is a great way to keep physically and mentally active, and a good way to meet new people.
However, dogs of all ages, no matter how well trained they are, will always try and lead their owner, as opposed to walking by their side.
Your dog needs to know that you are the boss, and let them walk ahead of you, without having said so, is a clear indication to them that they are in charge. It can encourage mischievousness, and make it difficult for you to get their attention when you want them to come back.
However, it is important not to become impatient with your dog when they try to outwalk you, as it is their natural instinct to go running around when they see an open space.
If your dog is still on their lead then tug very gently, so as not to hurt their neck. Use a command word such as ‘heel’, and make sure to congratulate them when they do a good job.
Dog Owner Mistake No 9: Not Pleasant, But One Which Is A Must
Another dog owner misdemeanor is the failure to clean up dog mess. Although most parks have specific bins for dog litter, it is still easy to leave their mess lying around especially if no one is watching.
Leaving your dog’s waste on the ground helps spread parasites and infections to other dogs and people, and can be offensive to those who live within the community.
It’s not something anyone wants to do, but it does help to save the environment and the spreading of germs. So don’t forget to take your doggy bags with you, next time you go for a walk.
Dog Owner Mistake No 10: Lack Of Research
Last but not least, get to know the breed of your pet. Many people neglect to do their breed research. You may have had your dog for ten weeks or ten years, but there is always something you could learn by doing a bit of research.
It might help to explain a lot about their habits and personality. It’s also a great way to discover other breeds of dogs that you might be interested in having in the future.
Having a dog is not always easy, it can be incredibly tasking and a lot of hard work, but it’s worth it just to see them grow up into the well-loved and groomed dog you always dreamed of having.
Do you agree with our findings? What are the most common bad habits you see other dog owners doing or have you learnt as you've grown with your dog? Let us know - we'd love to hear from you!