7 COMMON CANINE MYTHS DEBUNKED
There are many, many tales we hear about how to properly care for our canine companions. If we ask the different animal behaviour professionals, we will likely get ten different answers to the same question.
1) YOUR YARD IS ENOUGH ROOM FOR ADEQUATE EXERCISE- While having a larger-sized yard is great for doggie play time, it is NOT enough space for your dog to burn off her energy. Dogs, especially large breeds, need 30-60 minutes of good exercise twice per day. This is not to say that it’s always possible, however letting your dog run around in your yard for an hour is not the same as a long walk. Dog walking is more than just exercise. In addition to physical exercise which burns calories, increases circulation, promotes cardiovascular and respiratory wellness and builds confidence, walking your dog will allow for mental exercise as well. Dogs become mentally stimulated by the many smells, scenery and other animals who cross your paths. Mental stimulation is crucial to maintaining a dog’s mental and emotional well-being. Another important aspect of walking your dog instead of leaving him to run in your yard is socialization. Just as for humans, social contact can have a powerful impact on a dog’s mental health. In most cases, a dog will need to be trained properly to be social, however all of the effort will surely pay off in terms of overall contentment and increased longevity.
2) FEEDING TABLE SCRAPS ON OCCASION IS OK- Most of us are aware that feeding table scraps on a regular basis to our canine friends is not acceptable. However, a few of us think that doing this once in a while is harmless. This would be incorrect! Feeding your dog food from the table even on occasion can cause serious behavioural problems. Your dog does not understand inconsistent training. This lack of disciplined training has the potential to snowball into chaos (such as jumping on counters, breaking open garbage bags, etc) as food is often the most exciting part of an animal’s day. Additionally, dogs can digest boiled and cooked meats however they cannot digest the fatty sauces that humans put on their food. A dog’s gastrointestinal system cannot properly digest sugars, dairy, fried food and high fat meats. This will give them diarrhea, gas, and can eventually lead to chronic gastrointestinal problems. Occasionally, an animal will develop pancreatitis due to eating high fat human foods which is most often fatal.
3) BRUSHING YOUR DOG’S TEETH IS NOT IMPORTANT- How important is dental hygiene? Just like humans, dogs’ teeth form plaque. Just like humans, if the plaque is not removed, it can cause gum disease, gingivitis and rotten teeth. Tooth extraction is very expensive and surgery can be a traumatic experience for your dog. Mouth pain is a very real and terrible experience for your dog. Often times he cannot voice his pain so we must keep a look out for him by observing his chewing habits and keeping his teeth clean. It is important to notice if your dog is only chewing on one side, or appears to be in pain when crunching his food. It is beneficial to monitor this on an ongoing basis. To minimize any dental pain, be sure to pick up some canine toothpaste and a toothbrush! These items can be found at your veterinarian’s office.
4) RAW FOOD IS THE BEST FOOD FOR ALL DOGS- While raw dog food has a variety of benefits, it is not for all dogs. Just like people, some dogs have sensitive digestive systems and cannot tolerate the raw meat. In fact, dogs (unlike cats) can survive on an all vegetarian diet. Though meat proteins are the most sensible forms of proteins, many dogs’ gastrointestinal systems will prefer to sustain a cooked meat diet. Cooked meat does not necessarily mean processed. Cooked meat means that in some cases when dogs cannot digest raw meat, cooking chicken or fish for them (without added sauces or spices) is a highly valuable form of protein. BE SURE to ask your veterinarian about which other vitamins and minerals are best suited to your dog’s species. Cooking your dog’s meals is a very noble and loving step to take however it is very easy to misunderstand the delicate balance of nutrients that a dog’s body needs for optimal wellness.
5) EVERY DOG YOU SEE WANTS YOU TO PET HIM/HER- Very frequently, those who walk their dogs in public places will encounter strangers who wish to pet their dogs. Often, these strangers are not the types of people whom your dog wants to meet. It is imperative to be mindful of whom you let approach your dog. Remember how acutely sensitive dogs are to energy. If someone who approaches you and your dog seems “off” in any kind of way, remember that your dog senses it far more strongly than you do. Just say no! Unfortunately, this may not be enough to stop a stranger from trying to pet your dog. Many humans do not understand dogs whatsoever. It is up to us as the caretakers of our dogs to set boundaries for ourselves and our dogs. If someone does not understand the phrases “my dog doesn’t like when strangers pet him” or “my dog is not friendly”, it is perfectly acceptable to turn around and walk away before anyone has an opportunity to go against our wishes.
6) DOGS BEHAVE BADLY OUT OF SPITE OR BECAUSE THEY ARE JUST “BAD DOGS”- There is no such thing as a BAD DOG. There is such a thing as a person who has not successfully trained her dog. Sure, some dogs are slower learners than others. Sure, some dogs have had unfortunate living circumstances and have developed poor behaviour or fearful, misunderstood habits. But every dog is trainable. In fact, ask any trainer and he will tell you that it’s not the dog who needs the training, it’s the person! All dogs develop undesirable behaviours due to lack of consistent training. To best achieve desirable dog behaviour, you will want to ensure that every member of your household is on the same page about behaviour modification. Your dog will not respond well to inconsistent training as it is confusing at best. You will also want to ensure that you provide healthy, species appropriate food, adequate exercise, discipline and love. Maintaining a balanced dog can be tricky but at the end of the day, the dog will be well behaved and grateful for your care!
7) YOU CAN’T TEACH AN OLD DOG NEW TRICKS- Yes, you can. Behaviour modification techniques work at any age. Keeping in mind that “behaviour modification” does not mean “negative reinforcement”, there are tools and techniques to train any dog at any age. The most important component of “teaching an old dog new tricks” is to have patience! ALWAYS go at the dog’s pace. Remember, the older they get, the more they are set in their ways. This bodes well for dogs who get adopted at older ages from poorly trained environments. Even though at older ages the training may take longer, the desired result is always possible!
These are seven of many dog misconceptions. Can you think of any others?
HAPPY TRAILS WITH HAPPY TAILS!