You might know someone who thinks it’s totally fine to count a dog’s bathroom break as exercise. Or maybe you’ve heard your neighbor using his outside voice indoors—and it’s directed at his dog. So what do these people have in common? They’re dog owners with some bad habits, plain and simple. Sometimes the things they do are a bit less obvious, but are still just as harmful for a canine companion’s well-being. Certain behaviors can even put a dog’s health and safety at risk.
Here’s a few lesser-known things to avoid in your quest to be a great dog parent.
- Overfeeding: Overeating is every bit as hard on a dog as it is on a human. While a chubby dog might be so cute that you just want to gobble him up, his increased girth is also a sign of an owner who doesn’t know the health risks that come with those supersized bowls of dog food.
- Inconsistent training: Dogs look at life very differently than we do—obviously. When you start teaching a dog to sit, for example, you need to reinforce that behavior each time you give the command. If you only reinforce the behavior part of the time, it creates an inconsistency that dogs simply can’t understand. You’ll have a confused pup on your hands who won’t be receptive to your commands.
- Not providing enough exercise: Just like you need to hit the gym after that three-hour Sunday brunch, dogs also need enough activity to maintain optimum health. For a small dog, that can mean a short daily walk. For bigger dogs, it can mean a long walk or several hours spent romping at the dog park.
- Yelling: To a dog, yelling and unstable behavior are confusing. Many dogs just ignore it or try to avoid it, even to the point of prancing off in the opposite direction. An even, positive, and playful tone of voice typically gets better results.
- Allowing begging: It’s sweet to want to give your pet a bite or two of your food—sharing is caring, right? But if he barks at you and you hand over the goods, it tells your dog he’s dominant over you. Dogs have that touch of inborn pack mentality, and a subordinate dog would never dare to bark at the top dog (you!).
- Delaying correction or rewards: Dogs have short memories. They’re not goldfish-level bad, but their short-term memories only last about two minutes. If you’re trying to teach a dog how to behave, your response must be immediate.
- Allowing a dog to show dominant or disrespectful behavior: You can’t stand it when that smarmy guy from accounting talks over you at meetings, so why let your dog dominate you? This is related to allowing begging, and it includes things like jumping on people or other animals. Aside from being rude and scaring people, your dog could get attacked for the behavior.
- Forcing eye contact: When dealing with people, you want to see eye contact to make sure you’re understood. It’s different with dogs. When a dog looks away, it’s sign of submission. Forcing eye contact is a challenge to a dog that could result in a biting incident.
- Explaining bad behavior at length: No matter how smart your dog is, he doesn’t need or understand a 20-minute-long tirade about why you wanted him to sit down two hours ago.
- Providing frequent dietary changes: Dogs get tummy troubles from changing food frequently and, no matter how much they like it, eating people food.
All 10 of these things that make dog owners ineffective boil down to understanding what helps a dog be healthy and well-adjusted. All are easy to fix with a little understanding and extra effort.