Ask Away...: The Complete Guide to Being a Good Dog Owner

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Complete Guide to Being a Good Dog Owner

Now, anyone who’s read my blog will already know how much I love my four dogs. Each one is a family member in their own right, and I can’t imagine my life without them. But I also know that owning a pet of any kind is a big commitment, and if you are considering introducing a dog to the family, then this guide is here to help. It’s intended as a kind of pet ownership 101, to help make sure that you’ll be the best dog owner that you possibly can. Equally, if you already have a canine friend, then this guide can help you to understand your dog’s behavior a little better, and help strengthen the bond between you.

It’s always best to start with the basics; the way our dog behaves is largely down to the food that we feed them. So, it’s important to make sure that when we are treating our pet, we do it with treats especially designed for that purpose. It’s so tempting to give our dogs human treats such as chocolate or potato chips, but we must remember that such foods can actually be toxic to dogs. Their digestive systems aren’t able to process such foods, in the same way that a human being can.

But just like humans, if we feed our pets too many of these treats, then they are likely to put on weight. This then leaves them more susceptible to weight-related issues such as diabetes or even obesity! So, even though we may feel that we’re being cruel by not sharing our potato chips with them, it’s actually the kindest thing we can do.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that you can’t treat your dog. But it does mean that you should try and limit how often you do it. A good piece of advice is to use treats as a way of reinforcing good behavior during the training period. Then your dog will learn that good behavior has rewards, and they will be more likely to listen to you in the future.

Dog food nowadays is far more complex than it once used to be. You can get dog food designed for all different age groups, breeds and health issues. So, it’s best to do a little research to see if the food that you are feeding your dog is well-suited to their specific dietary needs. For example, if you have an older, larger dog such as a Labrador, then you’re probably already aware that such breeds are prone to joint problems. If your dog suffers from arthritis or similar joint problems, you can find dog food that is specifically created with this problem in mind. Equally, if your dog has problems with their teeth, or with diabetes, there’s food on the market that can help with almost every health issue imaginable.

A dog will only behave in the way that it has been taught by its owner. In fact, I subscribe wholly to the belief that there are no bad dogs, just bad dog owners. So to make sure you don’t fall into the latter category, it’s important to understand your dog’s behavior and why they do what they do. Once you understand how a dog thinks, it becomes far easier to predict and manage their behavior. The most important thing you need to know about dogs in order to better understand them is that they are pack animals. So, to be a good owner, you need to recognize your position as being ‘top dog’ or ‘leader’ of the pack. If you don’t exercise this authority, your dog(s) will attempt to ‘take over’.

You need to show your dog who’s boss. It may sound mean, but dogs are much happier when they know their place in the natural ‘pecking order’. So, one way you can show that you’re ‘top dog’ is by making sure that at lunch and dinner time, you always feed yourself before them. This is how things would have worked if they still lived in the wild. The ‘leader’ always feeds first, so it’s an easy way of reinforcing the idea that you’re ‘in charge’ to your dog. Plus, never feed your dog straight from your plate, as this can also encourage them to start begging.

Other behaviors can be a more difficult to correct, and may need a little more investigating before you can decide which is the best action to take. For example, if your dog is showing signs of anxiousness or distress, it’s best to take them to your local veterinary surgeon for further advice. Equally, if you’re worried, you can also visit websites such as for help, advice and information. Remember, our dogs can’t actually speak to us, so their behavior, whether good or bad, is often their way of communicating to us how they’re really feeling. So, it’s up to us as owners to learn to listen to and understand these ‘messages’ so that we can ensure that our dogs are as happy and secure as possible.

Now, we’ve touched on diet and behavior, but the other thing that a dog owner needs to think about is their pet’s health. Worms, fleas and skin problems are three of the most common health problems that dogs are likely to face. Vaccinations can help to prevent against some of the more serious conditions. But if you’re ever concerned about anything, it’s best to play it safe and take your dog straight to the vet. You wouldn’t take chances with your own health, so don’t take any with theirs!

Dogs bring so much joy and comfort into our lives, so I for one, think that we as owners owe it to them to give them the best possible life that we can. We do this by feeding them well, understanding their behavior, and most importantly putting their needs first at all times. So, whether you already have a dog or are planning on getting one, I hope that this post will help you do just exactly that.

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