What are the mistakes dog owners make?
I’ve been reflecting on why dogs end up being re-homed – what is it that makes someone feel that they cannot cope? It was one of the questions I asked on my breed questionnaire and I was pleased that those who responded generally said they did cope with their dog.
Apparently, only 10% of dogs stay with one owner for the whole of their lives. Last November saw a rise in the number of dogs being abandoned. So why does this happen?
- Buying a cute puppy that grows much bigger than expected. NB: All puppies are more or less the same size at birth! I think there is a common misconception that a small puppy will only grow into a small dog. It very much depends on the age at which you see it and bring it home and of course what its parents are like. Even if you buy a puppy from a responsible breeder, you may not see both parents. Sometimes puppies grow bigger than their mothers, (as Ounce has done).
- You can tell what a puppy is going to be like from the first time you see it. Hmm, I can recount many examples of a puppy being ‘the quiet one’ or ‘the lively one’ and then seeing it as an adult and realising that it changed quite a bit! The main reason that this is not true however is that when visiting puppies, you are only there for a short time. So they might all be asleep, or all rushing about, except for the one that you are looking at. Just because one puppy seems to snuggle into you does not necessarily mean that it will always be a snuggle monster!
- Being unrealistic about puppy’s behaviour in the first few days. The first few nights and weeks are critical in a puppy’s life. How you manage this period can make a big difference to how well your puppy develops. Common mistakes at this time include: not watching and managing toileting; not getting up in the night to check on puppy; not managing the puppy in your home, so that it is left to chew and damage your things. Puppies need to be safe, which is why I always recommend Cages and Crates.
- Inconsistent response to behaviours. This happens most often in the first few days and weeks of owning a dog, but can then become worse or better depending on how well family members communicate. When you have a puppy living in a family home, with a number of adults and children, it is very difficult to make sure that everyone’s response to biting, or jumping up is the same.
- Lack of training. It sounds so obvious, but when you get a puppy you need to train it! Puppies don’t learn effortlessly – they need patience and consistency (just like children). Sadly, many people expect that their dog will just learn to behave as it gets older. This is simply not the case. If your puppy jumps up and you don’t teach it not to, it will ALWAYS jump up.
- Harsh treatment. Unfortunately, people think that if a dog does something wrong, you should tell it off. Sometimes people get really angry with their dog for its behaviour. But the dog may not have even realised that it has done anything wrong. If you leave food on a low table when the dog is alone, do not be astonished if you come back and find it has been eaten! My dogs are not especially food driven and won’t ‘surf the worktops’ for food, on the whole. However, I would never leave anything within their reach and I would NEVER tell them off if they did eat something. My bad, not theirs. Of course it is good to have boundaries and expectations with regards your dog’s behaviour, but you must be realistic as well.
- No rewards. I try to focus on the behaviour that I DO want from my dog, not the stuff I don’t want. And I always reward the good. There are four main ways of rewarding a dog:
- verbal praise – good girl!
- physical praise – patting
- food – tasty treats to use in training
- play – with a toy, or just engaging in activity
- Too much food. When we love our dogs, is it so hard to resist giving them treats and titbits. They are superb at begging and are easily able to act as though they haven’t eaten for a year! However, this can soon lead to them being overweight and to digestive issues, or even disease such as diabetes. Bad news all round.
- Too much exercise. It’s a lifestyle choice, to run with your dog, or take part in dog sports, or to play with your dog every day. Your dog will thank you for a great quality of life and be happy and healthy, on the whole. Unfortunately your dog may also develop injuries or joint pain as a result. You also need to think about routine and what is best for you and your dog.
- Too little exercise. We all know that dogs need exercise and should be walked every day, but sometimes we just don’t feel like it. Many people work long hours and just cannot find the time to walk their dog during the week. This is a real shame, because the walking is so good for you as well as your dog. Again, the routine is good and benefits you both mentally and physically.
I hope you have found this list thought-provoking. What mistakes would you add? Please CONTACT ME and let me know?
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