As dog parents, we strive to do the best for our canine companions. But we may overlook or misunderstand some aspects of canine care. Check this list of some of the most common errors people make with their dogs, and how they can be corrected.
As much as we love our dogs, nobody’s perfect. Sometimes dog parents make errors when it comes to their care — and most of them are preventable! Education is the key to enhancing the health, safety and well-being of our canine companions. This article covers 12 of the most common dog parenting mistakes seen by veterinarians, and how to prevent or correct them.
1. Feeding poor quality food
The ingredients in a dog’s diet contribute hugely to his overall health and wellness. Feeding high quality foods can add years to his life. You’ll have to pay more, but it’s worth the expense because it’ll save on vet bills down the road. Choose a dog food made from whole meats and vegetables, and that contains no artificial additives or cheap fillers or by-products. Don’t be afraid to contact the company and ask questions about their products, to ensure you’re giving your dog the best possible diet you can.
2. Feeding improper amounts
If a dog eats too much or too little, his weight will be inappropriate and cause a decline in overall health. As we all know, dogs love food, and will beg for treats and tidbits even when they don’t really need them. And being doting dog parents, we all too often give in to those pleading eyes, to the detriment of the dog’s weight and health.
Work with your veterinarian to determine how much your dog should eat. A good rule of thumb is to feed based on his “ideal” weight.
3. Not providing enough water
Constant access to fresh pure water is essential to your dog’s well-being. Some dog parents believe canines only need water at mealtimes, but a dog should have a bowl of water available 24/7 — and the water in that bowl should be changed at least once daily to keep it fresh and clean. Remember to clean his dog bowl every day, too!
It’s also important to keep an eye on how much your dog drinks, especially if he’s a senior, and to tell your vet if he starts drinking more or less. Varying conditions such as increased exercise or higher temperatures can cause a dog to drink significantly more water than is typical. But an unexplained change in water consumption can be the first sign of illness, such as diabetes or kidney problems, and should be brought to your vet’s attention.
4. Leaving him outdoors too long
Dogs are greatly impacted by cold and heat, and can suffer tremendous damage to their health if left in inappropriate conditions, such as outdoors in extreme heat or bitter cold. Dogs must have protection from the elements, especially in accordance with their breed type. If you know of someone who leaves their dog out in all weathers, contact your local Humane Society and report the situation.
5. Yelling instead of teaching
Training a puppy or improperly-socialized adult dog can be a big endeavor. Most dog parents can probably admit they’ve shouted at their dogs at least once during the process, perhaps without even realizing they’re doing it. It’s important to know, however, that dogs react more strongly to the volume and tone of a voice than they do to the actual words. This means using a firm, steady set of vocal commands when training. Yelling only causes stress and fear.
6. Not recognizing canine boredom
When a dog isn’t challenged with toys, play times, exercise and interaction with humans or other dogs, he can become depressed and badly behaved. Some breeds, such as Border Collies and Australian Shepherds, for example, require more cognitive stimulation to avoid these behaviours and stay happy and well adjusted.
7. Overlooking small changes in health
Because dogs can’t talk like we do, they can’t tell us how they’re feeling. And they’re also good at hiding discomfort – it’s a natural instinct that evolved to protect them from predators. This means you have to be vigilant and take notice of any alterations in your dog’s behaviour that might signal pain or illness. Pay close attention to any changes in his activity or energy levels, his playfulness, gait, appetite, etc. Even a very small shift could indicate a larger issue. Make an appointment with your vet if you feel something is off.
8. Leaving hazardous items within his reach
It’s an easy thing for pet parents to do. You’re cleaning the furniture or snacking on a handful of raisins when the phone rings and you go to answer it, leaving the cleaner or food behind you. But remember that many common things inside the home are toxic to dogs – these include raisins, grapes, chocolate, onions and artificial sweeteners, as well as household cleaners and many ornamental plants.
9. Forgetting to trim toenails
Left to grow too long, a dog’s nails can bend his toes upwards and make it difficult for him to walk properly. Canine nails can grow quickly, so don’t forget to check them often and either trim them yourself or ask your vet or groomer to do it. To get your dog used to having his nails trimmed, start him from an early age, and use praise and treats to make it a positive experience. Many dogs also have dewclaws that are never worn down with activity because they don’t touch the ground. These nails can actually grow around in a circle and into the dog’s leg.
10. Not checking his paws after walks
Going for walks is a dog’s idea of paradise. However, rocks, twigs, glass and other debris can easily get lodged in his paws, between the toes. If your dog is limping, check his paws first, since it’s a common injury site. In winter, if your dog doesn’t wear boots, remember to clean the road salt or de-icer off his paws.
11. Not providing breed-specific exercise
Exercise is essential for all dogs. However, the type of exercise depends greatly on the breed of dog. By forcing one type of dog to fit into another’s exercise category, health can be compromised. Before getting a dog, do some research into the exercise his breed requires. If you love long hikes, don’t adopt a Pug or a Shih Tzu. If you live in a small apartment with no yard, a Siberian Husky or Australian Shepherd isn’t the best choice.
12. Being unprepared for health emergencies
Accidents and other health emergencies will happen, but depending on when the crisis strikes, you may not be able to contact your regular vet. Be proactive and have a plan in place to prevent a serious outcome if your dog gets sick or injured. Have a canine first aid kit on hand, along with phone numbers for emergency veterinarians within the closest possible distance.
Erin Mullen is a freelance writer and entrepreneur living in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. She graduated from Saint Vincent College and enjoys spending her free time in the outdoors with her Boxers, Emma and Elsa.