How to Avoid Being a Thoughtless Dog Owner

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.

Dog Licensing Could Aid Animal Welfare Law Enforcement.

The reintroduction of dog licensing in England & Wales could be an opportunity to aid animal welfare law enforcement and tackle many of the major issues surrounding irresponsible ownership. The old dog licence, which cost a ridiculous 37 pence (18.5p), was scrapped in 1987 on the pretext of being too difficult to administer and enforce. Over the last decade there has been debate and interest in some quarters of resurrecting a new licensing system. There has also been government funded research by academics at Middlesex University into ways of promoting responsible dog ownership which could include a tax on dog owners of £100 per dog.

Those against reintroducing a license scheme insist that it would still be impossible to implement successfully, but it must be remembered that the old system was operating during a time when computers and the internet did not exist. Technology has moved on and we haven’t given up on issuing TV licences, driving licences or fishing licences, so what makes dog licencing any different.

The Dogs Trust appear to be against the idea, preferring education instead, but there seems to be general public support for the move. The Kennel Club, the bastion of dog owning is of course against any form of dog owning restrictions and state that such a move would penalise responsible dog owners who are most likely to comply and states Less caring and irresponsible owners would again get away with it. But licensing should be focused on irresponsible owners.

Northern Ireland, the only part of UK with dog licensing, leads the way.

Northern Ireland enforces licensing and owners must have an annual license costing £12.50 for each dog aged over 6 months otherwise they commit an offence. The penalties include a warning, formal caution, fixed penalty or a fine up to £1000.

A licence has to be obtained prior to taking possession of a dog and puppies must be microchipped at eight weeks. Anyone giving, selling or taking possession without a licence commits an offence and is liable to a £1,000 fine. A licence is invalidated if the owner fails to keep their details updated or correct. Dogs must also wear a collar and name tag and non compliance is also a £1000 fine.

Although these regulations seem quite draconian it could be argued that they could have gone much further when formulating the legislation and have underestimated the potential to curb irresponsible ownership and aid animal welfare law enforcement.

There are so many problems in the U.K. of neglect and general welfare of dogs which licensing could play a great part in alleviating. These include hoarding, puppy farms, overrun pseudo sanctuaries, multi-dog households, dangerous dogs and removal of at risk dogs which is still a difficult procedure even under the present Animal Welfare Act 2006 which was supposed to make early intervention easier. But the measures must be uncompromising if the welfare of dogs is the paramount factor.

Vaccination, neutering & pet insurance should be part of licence conditions.

The cost of a licence needs to be set at a high price to deter people from taking on more dogs than they can afford to care for, which will in effect promote more responsibility. Each dog in a household or premises that cannot substantiate it is a genuine charity or business must have a licence with no exemptions for the owner’s age, financial status or living standards.

Apart from the mandatory microchipping, already required in the UK, there could be an opportunity to add vaccination, neutering and even valid basic pet insurance to the requirement for a licence. A register of animal cruelty offenders could also be allied to the dog licensing scheme. This would be a great step towards eradicating feckless ownership and alleviating the problem of owners whose intent is to be charity dependent and take away the burden or even need for veterinary charities.

Northern Ireland have gone some way towards these ideals, but allow exemptions for owners on certain benefits who can obtain a licence at a discounted price which arguably sends the wrong message about responsibility. The cost of basic insurance is not beyond the means of any ‘suitable’ or responsible owner.

Powers to seize unlicensed dogs

The power to seize unlicensed dogs must be included in legislation similar to car owners caught with no valid driving licence, insurance or MOT who have their cars seized. It is an accepted fact that the so called “less caring and irresponsible owners who would again get away with it” are generally (but not always) those owners that cause many of the problems, and are less likely to be in possession of a licence for all their dogs. Such a power would allow simple removal from harm by enforcement officers if urgent action is required, subject of course to other formalities such as warrants and veterinary advice.

Such draconian measures may sound extreme, but they are the only way to combat the incessant problems of irresponsible and neglectful ownership. Unfortunately, England has a track record of implementing ineffective animal laws borne out yet again by the recent criticism over microchipping, but we need to take the “bull by the horns”. Approaching the issues with half-hearted initiatives has not been successful over the last few decades and although many people advocate education, those that need it most, take little heed. Sadly for the sake of dog welfare we need more stick and less carrot.