If you own a dog then of course it is because you love them and want to do the very best for them, which involves taking care of all of their needs. As well as the obvious things like the need for food, water and shelter, there are lots of intangibles that need to be taken care of as well, including good training, proper socialisation, and love.
Everyone has slightly different ideas about what constitutes the appropriate care of the dog and how to do what is best for them, and there is of course no one right or wrong way to look after your dog properly. However, with the best will in the world, many dog owners inadvertently do their dogs a disservice while trying to do their best for them, and there are various easy to make mistakes and pitfalls that the dog owner may potentially fall into!
In this article, we will look at the five main ways in which many dog owners inadvertently do their dogs a disservice. Are you guilty of any of them? Read on to learn more!
If you owned dogs twenty or thirty years ago as well as in the present day, you have probably noticed that received wisdom on what constitutes good and appropriate training and management of the dog has changed a lot as time has gone by.
Traditional training techniques worked very much on the principle that the handler was the holder of discipline, and that rather than teaching the dog by rewarding them for getting things right, the best way to train the dog was in fact instead to punish them for wrongdoing. This training principle is known as negative reinforcement, while today, positive reinforcement (rewarding good acts rather than punishing bad) is much more widely accepted as appropriate.
If you are responsible for training or managing your dog on an ongoing basis, do you work with positive reinforcement methods, or are you still using negative reinforcement theories to manage your dog? If it is the latter, you are likely doing your dog a disservice.
While negative reinforcement training and management is fairly widely understood to be far from the best method of managing your dog, this does not by any means mean that your dog should get their own way about everything and not have any rules or discipline in their life!
You should have clear boundaries in place for your dog within your home regarding what constitutes appropriate behaviour, such as not being allowed onto certain items of furniture, and not being given access to certain rooms. Your dog should be generally good mannered and respect you, and this should manifest in a variety of ways within the home, such as not trying to push or barge past you, and not begging for food that you are eating.
Spoiling the dog in any way, be it by means of too many treats and scraps or simply letting your dog do whatever they want is another way in which you might be inadvertently ruining your dog.
We all know that our dogs need to be able to go out walking and play happily, but are you sure that you are definitely accounting for all of your dog’s needs in this respect? While some dogs are perfectly happy with a gentle half hour walk per day, others can be much more challenging and require significant amounts of exercise and time spent out of doors, playing and exercising actively and being given things to do. This is particularly likely to be the case for any dog whose breed history encompasses some type of working role, as working dog breeds tend to be very active and need lots of time to be devoted to keeping them fit!
So you’ve got your dog’s exercise covered and they are definitely not missing out on any of their physical needs; but what about their need for mental stimulation? All dogs need mental stimulation to some degree, and again, exactly how much depends on your own dog, how intelligent they are, and how quick they are to get bored!
Ensure that your dog has plenty of toys and things to play with when they are on their own, and that when you are at home with them, that you spend plenty of time with them, playing and interacting with them and letting them get a mental work-out.
Every dog needs to be fed a balanced diet that is appropriate for their life stage, and contains all of the nutrients that they need to maintain good health. Ensuring that your dog has a balanced diet is important to keep them fit and healthy, but you should also pay some mind to how many treats you feed to your dog, and if they are fed any table scraps.
The bulk of your dog’s diet should consist of their proper, carefully chosen and measured meals, and not too many treats, snacks and scraps. Over-feeding treats and the like can lead to a wide range of problems including obesity, poor manners, and a reluctance to eat their proper meals.
Do not fall into this trap!