We love our pooches to the moon and back and find ourselves constantly striving to do the very best for our fur-balls. But there are some common pet-parenting mistakes we make despite having their best interests in mind. Let’s take a look at a few of those mistakes and see if we can relate to any of them.
1. Not Keeping Their Weight In Check
When was the last time you checked your pooch’s weight? Research suggests that being overweight can cost your pooch at least 10 months of his life. And this is seen more commonly in breeds like labrador retrievers, golden retrievers, American cocker spaniels, beagles, and shih tzus.1
Because of their weight, what also takes a beating is the quality of their life. Veterinarians these days are witnessing a steady rise in many secondary illnesses that stem from being obese. These include diseases like hip dysplasia, hypertension, diabetes, and kidney disease.
It’s imperative then that you work with your pooch’s vet and determine what the ideal weight for your dog is. If he’s overweight, chalk out a plan of action involving the right amount of exercise and the right diet.
2. Ignoring Their Dental Care
Some of the food residue in your dog’s mouth gets accumulated on his teeth. Bacteria act upon it and form a filmy deposit called plaque. This plaque, when not taken care of, hardens into tartar within a few days. If the tartar isn’t removed during regular dental checkups, it builds up under the gums and creates small pockets in the gums that attract and trap bacteria in the mouth. This is what is called periodontal disease and results in infections, loose teeth, and erosion of the underlying bone.
Not only that, the bacteria trapped in the gums when released into the dog’s bloodstream can reach the heart and infect it and cause life- threatening illnesses like endocarditis. Which is why it is imperative that Fido has regular dental checkups. Before that, you need to ensure his teeth are kept clean by regular brushing with the help of a doggie toothpaste (that usually tastes like poultry).
3. Not Giving Them Enough Physical Activity
Your pooch needs a good workout every day for him to be able to stay fit, healthy, and fully mobile. A lack of physical exercise doesn’t result in obesity alone but also in like arthritis, which affects his bones, joints, and muscles. Moreover, a lot of behavior issues in your pooch could be the result of a lack of adequate mental and physical stimulation.
But left on their own, dogs will not be able to get the activity they need. Just having a nice, big backyard doesn’t mean your dog will start running around with glee. They require companionship and an incentive to stay active. And as pet parent, that onus lies with you.
Experts recommend that your pooch needs to be getting at least 20 minutes of sustained exercise 3 times a week. Simply taking him for a stroll will not help. You will need to involve him in cardiovascular exercises like a power walk, swimming, playing fetch, Frisbee, or running alongside you, with you on a bike (using a special dog bike leash).
4. Not Socializing Them Enough
Enrolling your pooch into a doggie school isn’t just for him to respond to basic commands like “come,” “sit,” and “stay.” A dog school serves another very important function – that of socializing your dog. Socializing means getting your dog exposed to as many new situations, animals, and people as possible for him to get comfortable with and to learn to deal with them without feeling overwhelmed.
Socializing helps your pet get sensitized to the various sights, sounds, and smells of daily life and learn the appropriate behavior for each situation. Most behavioral issues in dogs stem from a lack of socialization during the early stages of life. A lack of exposure to the outside world with its complexities leaves the dog anxious and fearful when faced with a new situation. This anxiety can easily escalate to aggression or destructive behavior. And, very sadly, the dog may end up being abandoned for such behavioral issues.
5. Punishing Them For Bad Behavior
Dogs, unlike us humans, can’t associate punishments with behaviors. But a 1968 experiment found that if you reprimand your dog while they’re doing something naughty, they won’t repeat the act in the future.
However, it also found that if you punish them after they’ve done the deed, or most of it, punishment will have no effect. Rather, they’d be confused and feel scared and anxious around you.
So, if you’ve caught Fido red-pawed, chewing on your favorite pair of shoes, screaming at him will not help at all.2 But you can stop Fido as soon as you see him lunging toward your shoes. Better still, keep your shoes locked away safely.
Another thing you could do is give Fido positive reinforcement to learn and repeat good behavior. So, every time you see him quietly lying on the floor as you go about your work, praise him and maybe offer him a treat. He will repeat the behavior as he knows it fetches him a reward.
6. Taking Them To The Vet Only When They Are Sick
Apart from keeping your pet up to date on his vaccinations and deworming, it’s also important to make yearly visits to the vet for preventive care exams. A visit to the vet doesn’t always need to be made only when your pet is sick or visibly in pain. Proactive wellness exams are important because many a time, your dog may be in pain and masking it instinctively. Usually, by the time you notice symptoms of an illness, your pet would have been sick for a while. Also, regular exams can help you and your vet catch illnesses like arthritis and renal disease in their early stages.
|↑1||Overweight dogs have a shorter life expectancy. American Association for the Advancement of Science.|
|↑2||Solomon, Richard L., Lucille H. Turner, and Michael S. Lessac. “Some effects of delay of punishment on resistance to temptation in dogs.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 8, no. 3p1 (1968): 233.|