If you ask most proud dog parents if they're treating their pooch right, the response would be a resounding yes, but what if all the things we do out of love aren't always the best of ideas?
There’s no denying that we want to treat our furry friends like the doggy kings and queens they are, but even the best of intentions can have less than desirable results.
Veterinarian and ambassador for Mars Petcare Australia, Dr Chris Brown, reveals some of the most common mistakes he sees dog owners make and how to stop so you and your pal can live your best lives.
Not measuring food
Food doesn’t always equal love, and Dr Chris stresses that while we are sometimes guilted by their puppy dog eyes into giving them a little bit more, they simply don’t need it.
“We want to make sure we’re not overfeeding them,” he says. “Follow the guide on the food tin or bag.”
The vet goes on to explain that we've become accustomed to filling up their bowl because often we feel bad for leaving them all day and make up for it with food.
“Love is giving them the right amount of food to keep them in good health,” he says.
Humanising them too much
While it’s almost impossible not to give your dog a bone from your dinner plate, Dr Chris says we should proceed with caution.
“If you give them a small portion of your food, it’s like a major meal for them,” he explains. “We tend to eat foods that are richer, saltier and spicier, and these things aren’t good for your dog’s digestion system.”
The key thing here is to remember they are dogs and have different dietary requirements to us.
“If you give them a treat, make sure it’s a proper dog-based treat and don’t give them too many,” he says.
Not giving them the right exercise
Put simply, a Chihuahua or Cavalier King Charles Spaniel aren’t going to be running 40 minute marathons, so Dr Chris recommends you do some research into what will suit your dog best.
“For less athletic dogs, a gentle 20 minute walk is fine,” he explains. “Don’t forget to ease into it and don’t exercise when it’s hot or humid otherwise they will struggle to keep cool.”
Employing exercise cheats
A surprising mistake most dog owners make is playing fetch with their pooch.
Dr Chris says that doing this a few times a day is fine, but it can be damaging to your pet if you do it too much.
“If you stand there for 30 minutes and get them to chase a ball back and forth, it’s actually really bad for their joints,” he explains. “In the vet clinic, I see a lot of dogs come in with premature onset of arthritis and joint damage.”
The sudden stop/start movements involved with playing fetch means significant wear and tear on their joints, so remember to vary their exercise routine with walks and runs.
Forgetting to set boundaries
Dogs love consistency so letting them lounge on the sofa one day and then kicking them off the next, can lead to anxious behaviour.
“They want to be in a family where there are clear rules,” Dr Chris stresses. “They want you to be in charge so be firm, fair and loving.”
The vet reveals that he often sees dogs who suffer from anxiety and it comes from not knowing their place.
“Some days they’re a human and they get access everywhere, eat whatever they like and sleep on the bed, but sometimes they’re a dog and left outside,” he says. “The constant chopping and changing causes anxiety as they don’t know what it’s going to be each day – consistency is the key and they’ll respect that much more.”
Selecting the right dog
When choosing your companion, it’s important to make an informed and well-researched decision about what breed is going to be right for you.
“Try not to fall in love with the looks, go for the personality,” Dr Chris recommends. “Don’t rush into making a decision and be realistic about what you can provide and remember that there are dogs that will fit in with any lifestyle, you just need to find the one that’s going to suit yours.”