How to Avoid Being a Thoughtless Dog Owner

Dog tied up outside shop.

Tips on how to be more sensitive to your dog’s needs.

Dogs will put up with virtually anything we throw at them because throughout time they have been groomed to be our subservient companions, existing to please us and to be completely dependent on us, but in many cases we do not reciprocate this devotion. We often let them down by insisting they comply with our lifestyles and leisure pursuits rather than considering what their desires and needs might be for a life worth living. Many of the activities we think they enjoy is purely subjective on our part, as of course they cannot tell us otherwise. Companionship is a two way street and what they need is someone to spend quality time with them, doing things they want to do not necessarily what we want them to do.

Some points to consider from a dog’s point of view:

1. Don’t acquire me intending to leave me home alone.

Recent surveys indicate that 40% of owners leave their dogs home alone for more than seven hours and more worryingly 20% thought it was acceptable to leave a dog for more than a day. The whole point of having a companion pet is for its company and to spend as much time as possible with it. Many dogs suffer from depression caused by separation anxiety with symptoms ranging from incessant barking, whining, messing and destroying furniture and fittings to just sitting and staring awaiting an owner’s return. It is not enough to spy on your dog with a cctv camera or leave the TV or radio on. You should be at home with it.

2. Don’t take me to a crowded shopping mall or market.

Before considering taking your pet to the boring sterile environment of a crowded shopping mall try seeing it from their point of view particularly if you have a small breed. Give it a try by getting on your knees and elbows continually dodging from side to side for hours through sea of alien legs and see how you get on. Not to mention negotiating the slippery tiled floors and the frustration of these sterile surroundings devoid of animal scents to investigate and the perfect spot to make a mark on things. It is stressful and unfair to enforce such a boring trip on a dog and don’t even think about leaving the dog in the car.

3. Don’t tie me up outside a shop or supermarket.

Ever watched the behaviour of a dog tied up outside a shop. The look of bewilderment as the owner disappears inside and the hesitant tug at the lead followed by the anxious and apprehensive look at the strangers who walk back and forth or try to engage with it. Then as the minutes tick by the nervous pacing and stressful occasional whine and bark at the realisation that you may not be coming back. Finally the elation and relief when it spots your familiar face which you mistake for an demonstration that your dog loves and misses you, when it is in fact sheer relief on its part, having gone through a whole gambit of stressful emotions no matter how many times you insist on putting your dog through it.

4. Don’t take me jogging or running

Just because dogs like to run, and agreed some are more suited to running a reasonable distance than others, it doesn’t necessarily mean they particularly enjoy long distance or training runs. Dogs will valiantly follow because their life revolves around pleasing us, but long distance running is not natural for them. They were bred for companionship not to take part in our extreme sports and pursuits. Keeping up can cause emotional and physical distress when they wish to stop for a rest, a good old sniff or comfort break. Churlishly shouting at the dog to keep up, or worse still, strapping the dog to you so it has no choice is just being purely selfish. Better to find a human buddy or join one of the numerous running groups, and entertain your dog later. Remember your obsession to run may not be theirs.

Whether all dogs enjoy our pursuits is subjective on our part.

5. Don’t go cycling with me in tow.

As with running, cycling with a dog in tow either for sport, exercise or pastime is another selfish practice with little thought given to the interests of the dog. The enjoyment factor for the dog is purely subjective on our part and it is better to err on the presumption that the dog does not necessarily like being dragged behind a bike. Thanks to social media coverage we now have Canicross and similar “sports” and just because the pet trade have cashed in by providing attachments to harness one, two or three dogs to the rear, side or front of the bike it doesn’t make it either sensible or acceptable. It is neither safe for you, the dog or passing pedestrians. It is no wonder that there are reports of members of the public becoming aggressive to cyclists doing this. Shouting at the dog to make it keep up should they falter is particularly shameful.

cyclist pulling dogs

6. When on a walk with me leave your mobile phone or headphones at home.

For most dogs their daily walk(s) is the highlight of their day, their chance for a fun time, to play, explore and receive words of encouragement. The whole purpose of taking your dog for a walk is for you to have one on one interaction, form close bonds and get some fresh air and exercise for our well being. It should not be a chore, or to spend time catching up with friends on the telephone, texting, searching the net or listening to music. Remember your faithful friend is only with you for 8 to 15 years so make the most of it.

7. Don’t mock your dog.

Although dogs can be very intuitive to our moods and actions they may not always pick up on our motives when we play and interact with them. There is a fine line between innocently playing with them and mocking them through teasing, taunting and ridiculing them. Dogs can pick up on this resulting in them feeling frustrated, upset, worried and even depressed. There are many actions that can cause this including feigning throwing a ball or stick, not allowing them to have a good sniff or pee on a walk, teasing and winding them up so as they get over excited and then admonishing them, being impatient with them, tugging their lead, dressing them up and laughing at them. These are all things that can confuse and frustrate a dog and show a lack of sensitivity on our part.

Related Article & Video:

A video about changing our mindset on our selfish insistence on making our dogs fit in with our lifestyles.

Author: John Brookland

John Brookland has been passionate about animals from an early age and has always been more concerned about their individual health and well-being than any scientific or zoological interest. During his long and varied career in animal welfare in the U.K. and worldwide, he has unfortunately witnessed most of the horrors of animal cruelty there is to see and has gained extensive insight into animal welfare issues. On leaving school he trained as an RSPCA clinic assistant in London and later was manager of one of their veterinary hospitals and an animal centre. He was Chief Inspector and manager of the Bahamas Humane Society in Nassau and spent time in Trinidad advising on a humane stray dog control service, before becoming a deputy manager and animal health inspector at Heathrow's Animal Quarantine Centre. He then travelled the world for a conservation group investigating the capture and transport of wildlife for the pet trade and was an honorary consultant to the IUCN and CITES. He is now retired and still travelling the world with his partner to view wildlife and wild places and writing a blog and books on animals.