No dog is perfect, and neither is any dog owner. We make mistakes all the time, even as experienced owners. But some mistakes are more important than others, and can have greater consequences. Sometimes we don’t even realize we’re making these mistakes! In case you think you’ve got everything covered, here are some things that we think are important for dog owners to be aware of.
#1 – Lack of Training
Training is part of a structured life for dogs. Dogs without training or discipline may seem like they’re living the spoiled life, but they’re mostly just confused and uncertain. Dogs that haven’t been taught manners might display resource guarding behavior and other types of aggression – all rooted in fear because the dog lacks the confidence he should. Lack of training creates that lack of confidence. Your dog looks to you for help and understanding, but when he gets no direction he starts to take matters into his own hands (or paws, if you will). Training also exercises your dog’s mind and keeps him entertained. Furthermore, many dogs that lack training end up in shelters because their owners can’t handle the bad behavior any longer – and it’s the dog’s fault, it’s theirs.
#2 – Bad Training
What constitutes bad training is extremely subjective, but there’s something almost all trainers can agree on – lack of consistency. Consistency is key in training, and if you aren’t going to be strict on your rules, there’s really no point in having any rules. Sometimes you might be 100% consistent, but little Susie keeps letting Lassie on the couch. Boom. Inconsistency. The important part of training is to make sure the entire household is on board, that way all of you can be consistent all the time. Your dog can’t differentiate between what’s allowed and not allowed if he’s technically allowed to do everything only sometimes.
#3 – Overfeeding
Obesity is a major problem for dogs everywhere. It’s cause for major concern, as obesity is a culprit behind a large number of ailments. But food is love, and so many dog owners feel bad when their pups look at them with their big, adorable eyes. But that doesn’t mean you need to share the piece of bacon, or give your dog a treat every time you eat something. Treats should be for dogs the way they are for you – an occasional delight. And remember, even though what’s in your dog’s bowl might look like a tiny amount of food to your stomach, she’s got a much smaller tummy to fill. Keeping your dog’s portions correct and cutting down on treats will keep your pet at a healthier weight.
#4 – Lack of Socialization
We know it’s risky to take a puppy outside when he doesn’t have all his shots yet, and sometimes thing happen and you get busy. But dogs, especially puppies, need socialization. Even the best temperamented dogs will be afraid of the outside world if they’ve never seen it before. While socialization doesn’t mean taking your puppy to the dog park and letting the other dogs harass it and every stranger give him cookies, it does mean letting your dog see the world and neutralizing him to what’s outside. Cars, motorcycles, airplanes, lawn mowers, plastic bags – everything. You’d be surprised at what dogs find scary when they’ve never been around it. The longer you wait, the harder it is to socialize the dog, and the more scared he becomes. This can lead to car sickness, fear biting, and just a general fear and unhappiness for going outside.
#5 – Lack of Exercise
Dogs need exercise. You need exercise. It’s perfect. Go exercise together. Dogs cannot be expected to be adorable house ornaments that don’t get to do anything but walk the backyard and the living room. They need activity! Imagine being couped up in your house your entire life. You’d go crazy! And so does your dog. Many, many dogs become destructive and difficult to live with because they lack the proper exercise. They’re bored and out of shape. Even couch potatoes need to go out. Mental and physical exercise is imperative to your dog’s health. We know things happen and you might not be able to go out every single day, and that’s fine. Your dog will survive. But if you want a healthy dog, we suggest outings at least 4-5 days a week, even if they’re only 20 minute walks. If you can’t find the time, there are numerous doggie daycares and dog walking services to help you out.
#6 – Ignoring Simple Pet-Proofing
Dogs are curious animals, and most of them will get into mischief if they can. Keep dangerous cleaners and other household items out of your pet’s reach, or put locks on the doors so they can’t break in. Fido likes to get in your trash? Not only is it a pain for you to clean it up, he could be ingesting plastics or cooked bones that can cause serious harm. Life with dogs is easy, and it doesn’t take much effort to make sure he can’t reach the antifreeze in the garage. If you’re away and can’t be sure to keep your dog from getting into danger, make sure to keep him in a crate or outside in a kennel.
#7 – Over-Grooming
Most of us sleep with our dogs, and most of our dogs smell. So we like to bathe them often. Some of us even think grooming is fun. But can you bathe a dog too much? Unfortunately, yes. Over-bathing can result in dry, itchy skin that causes infections or hot spots. When you wash away the essential oils, the coat will become dry and coarse and you’ll even see an increase in shedding. If you just can’t hold back and have to bathe your dog over once a month, be sure to use moisturizing shampoos and conditioners.
#8 – Under-Grooming
On the opposite end of the grooming spectrum, there are some people who just absolutely hate it. That’s fine, just hire a groomer – but don’t neglect your dog. Dogs with long coats can become matted, and fleas and ticks can go undetected when you never bathe your dog. This causes a number of problems. Fleas can lead to anemia and tapeworms, and ticks to multiple tick-borne diseases that can be deadly. Matted hair and dry skin can cause infections and lesions. In fact, even leaving long nails on dogs can injure their feet. Not only can long nails break and cause infection, they can lead to skeletal deformities from constant irregular gaiting.
#9 – Ignoring Dental Health
Dental hygiene is important for dogs! It’s very often overlooked and can actually result in some very serious consequences. Weekly to daily brushings are excellent at keeping your dog’s oral health in tip-top shape. Yearly dentals are also recommended. But does ignoring your dog’s mouth really lead to more than just bad breath? Yes! Gum disease not only causes severe pain, but can result in abscesses and missing teeth. Dogs can have difficulties regulating their body temperatures, experience pain and infection, and even contract respiratory and cardiac ailments.
#10 – Thinking Your Dog is Too Cool for a Leash
First thing’s first – there are leash laws almost everyone. So for that reason alone, you should keep your dog on a leash. Secondly, you’re probably wrong. Many owners want to believe their dogs don’t need leashes. If you’re not a professional trainer (and even if you are, see first point), your dog is probably not nearly as reliable as you think he is. Even if your dog is friendly, he still might scare other people and dogs as he comes up to say hello. Instead of getting defensive and upset that others tell you to put your dog on a leash and keep him away, just listen to them. Don’t be that guy. Everyone hates that guy. Realize that while you know and love your dog, not everyone else does and you shouldn’t fault them for that. Remember too, that we can’t truly train for everything. You can train your dog to come back at the park in front of a million squirrels. But what if you’re walking and you see a loose pet guinea pig? What if your dog just bolts across the street after it? Point being, your dog could get very seriously injured or even lost. Keeping your dog on a leash is the most responsible thing you can do to prevent accidents and ensure safety.