For many dog owners, adding a dog to the family ranks among life’s most rewarding decisions. Dogs are unconditionally loving, intelligent and fun animals that add a great deal of joy and happiness to your life.
However, many owners are unprepared, leading to mistakes that can contribute to discomfort for both dog and owner, as well as behavioral issues and even problems with canine health.
Mistakes happen, which is why working with a good veterinarian is so important. Yet some mistakes are easily preventable and simple to understand. The following are some very common dog owner mistakes. Learning from them will help to make you a smarter owner and add to your pet’s quality of life.
Mistakes Most Dog Owners Make
• Showering With Love When Leaving/Entering
You love your dog, and your dog loves you. Unfortunately, dogs are also prone to separation anxiety. Dogs are pack animals, and they do not understand why you would leave them home alone every day to go about your business.
Separation anxiety is one of the most common reasons that pet owners give up their dogs, because severe separation anxiety can lead to very destructive behaviors. While some separation anxiety is normal, dog owners often contribute to severe separation anxiety by showing their pet too much love and affection when exiting and re-entering the home.
Yes, you love your dog. However, when you say goodbye to your dog with hugs and kisses and then leave, you get your pet excited, only to enhance its fear of separation. Similarly, when you come home and shower your dog with love immediately, your dog’s negative feelings in your absence are “confirmed,” and they start to feel as though you struggled with your time apart as much as they did.
Before you leave and when you arrive home, minimize your interaction with your dog. There should be no eye contact, no goodbyes, and no excited hellos. Leave and come home as if it’s no big deal, to help to keep your dog as calm as possible in your absence.
• Giving Them Human Food
Most dogs are food motivated. They love to eat, and they’ll eat pretty much anything they can put in their mouths – even objects that aren’t food.
Some pet owners like to give their dogs leftover foods from their plates because it makes their dogs happy. Dogs get very happy when they eat “people food,” their stomachs are much less so. Dogs do not have much of a filter when it comes to what they eat, and their bodies do not digest these foods the same way that people do. Grapes, onions, chocolate and avocado may even be toxic to your canine, and yet they’ll still happily eat it from your hand.
Feed your dog proper dog food that has been formulated to their needs. They’ll be healthier for it.
• “Walking” Small Dogs Indoors
Small dogs are very popular for those that do not want the responsibility of a larger dog. Their smaller legs mean they get tired quickly, and taking care of a small dog is certainly easier physically.
But many people go too far, and fail to take their dogs for walks because they “walk” or “run” with their dogs indoors. They see their pet running all over the house and assume that their dog has received the walk it needs and is done for the day.
Unfortunately, walking inside the house is not the same as walking outside. Your dog needs to be outdoors. Not only will it get more exercise, but the outdoors is filled with fresh air, sights and smells which will satisfy your dog’s mental urges. Dogs that spend more time outdoors are happier and more well-behaved than dogs that stay indoors.
• Treating Dogs as Equals
Your dog is a member of the family, and you want to treat your dog as though it is your equal – showering it with gifts and affection and caring for its every need. You may let your dog into your bed, let your dog mount you, or pamper your dog any chance you get.
But dogs are also pack animals, and pack animals need to know their place. There is no such thing as “equal” in the pack. Every dog has to know their place in the family hierarchy, and dogs that don’t tend to suffer from behavioral issues.
You can still love your dog, but you also need to prove that you, and every member of your family, are ahead of them in the pecking order. Your dog should be fed last, it should be moved if it tries to get into your way, and you should be comfortable giving orders to your dog. Everyone in the household should be willing to give your dog commands, and only reward your dog after it has shown desired behaviors.
This will show your dog that it is last in the pack, but no less loved. Dogs that understand their role are more well behaved and happier. These dogs tend to have less anxiety and exhibit less aggressive behaviors.
Avoiding Common Mistakes
These are all very common mistakes that even the most loving dog owners tend to make with their pets. Owning a dog can be one of the most rewarding decisions that you can make, but dogs are still not humans, and the best thing you can do for your dog is to learn about their behaviors and to care for them the right way.