The 7 Deadly Sins of Dog Ownership
There are some things I have seen in veterinary medicine and also as a professional dog trainer that are recipes for disaster and sometimes death. Although none is a definite death sentence because some people experience extreme luck in very dangerous situations, I believe it is best to arm yourself with the knowledge to keep your dog safe!
#7: Living within the Bounds of a Safe Enclosure
Although some dogs chose and prefer to stay within the realms of their home territory, most dogs like to wander. Wandering from home to home or across the street to chase cats and squirrels is tantalizing for most dogs. If you add to this scenario an unneutered male, chances are almost nonexistent that your dog will choose to stay home when he gets a whiff on a female in heat.
Secure fencing is essential for good safe pet ownership.
Thousands of dogs are killed when hit by cars each year. Several are killed by other dogs and wild animals when they leave the safety of their yard.
If you are on the side of luck and your dog doesn’t die from being hit by a car, or attacked by another dog the trauma of these experiences can affect them for a lifetime!
Make sure your fence is escape-proof. If you use invisible fencing be sure to check it regularly to ensure it is working properly.
If you cannot provide a safe secure fenced area, walk your dog on a leash for his exercise and elimination requirements.
#6: Not Providing Preventative Medicine
Preventative medicine, means providing your dog with vaccinations, medications, and other veterinary tests in order to prevent disease and problems. Regular quality veterinary care prevents diseases and tribulations as your dog ages.
Providing your dog with vaccinations and medications like Heartworm Prevention can keep your dog safe and alive! Waiting to see the signs of disease for heartworm, or distemper may prove to be too late to save the life of your dog!
Recently I spent time with the friend of a friend who’s dog had NEVER been to a vet. No puppy vaccines, no medications of any kind had ever been given. The dog was 10 and only recently began suffering from obesity and arthritis. I was amazed at her luck!
However, no matter how lucky she was…I would never risk my pet’s health. I am happy to submit to annual and 3 year vaccines, yearly heartworm tests, monthly prevention pills, 2 or more exams per year with blood work and urinalysis as my dogs age.
My theory is if my vet recommends it, it makes sense, and it could potentially extend my dog’s life DO IT! I will do whatever I can within my power to make sure I provide the best care available to me!
#5: Not teaching a Solid Recall or Teaching Your Dog to Come When Called
A solid or reliable recall is the most important command or task in dog training. If I recommend teaching your dog ONE thing to ensure safety and well being, it is teaching your dog to come when called!
If your dog does not come when called you are setting him up for deadly chances. Dogs that break away from their leash or rush out of the house, often get hit by a car while fleeing or chasing other animals.
You MUST teach your dog that you are more important and more exciting than anything else going on in his world! He must know with 100% confidently that you will reward him for coming back to you NO MATTER WHAT.
It doesn’t matter if you are angry that he ran away, if he comes back to you, you must reward him!
You must also play recall games with him and make coming to you fun and rewarding!
ALWAYS reward your dog with praise and treats for coming to you and utilize these things to teach him to come to you!
NEVER take his coming to you for granted. It is when people get complacent and expect their dogs to come and stop rewarding them that their dogs decide there is no reward to listening and coming when called!
#4: Tie Outs and Tethers
I cannot tell you how often I have heard stories and seen dogs die due to tie outs and tethers.
When dogs are left to their own devices on a tie out or tether they can do unimaginable things, usually due to boredom and they end up strangling themselves.
I have seen dogs wrap themselves around trees and not be able to figure out how to untangle themselves. I have also seen them jump up and over tree limbs or other structures that lead to the restriction of movement, panic and ultimately strangulation.
Tie outs and tethers are fine to use while your dog is being closely monitored. As a matter of fact I tether my dogs inside while they are learning to be potty trained and learning their manners, but I never leave them unattended!
Dogs panic when they start to strangle. Instead of calming themselves down and moving back to gain more air, then continually struggle to the point where they often pass out and eventually strangle themselves.
One of my Service Dog clients left his dog home and outside tethered to a tree one day while he ran to the hospital to visit a family member. When he returned home his beloved Service Dog was dead under the tree. The dog, who was not use to being left, had desperately tried to get away and join his master, passed out and then strangled. It was one of the saddest most heart wrenching stories I have ever heard.
#3: Leaving a Choke Chain on Your Dog
I can’t tell you how many dogs I encounter that regularly sport “choke chains” as actual collars. Not only am I not a proponent of “choke chains” in general, I am horrified at the thought of leaving them on all of the time.
As a dog trainer I get use to people doing things that I don’t agree with when it comes to their dog. So, if someone insists on using a choke chain as humane a fashion as possible I can understand to some level. However, LEAVING that collar on their dog is extremely dangerous.
Choke chains should NEVER be left on dogs! The open “O” ring of a choke chain can get hung up on tree limbs, furniture, or even on parts of a dog’s crate! Once the choking begins the dog doesn’t understand to move back from the pressure, they will continue struggling until they strangle.
This also proves to be very dangerous at dog parks or other places where dogs play. One dog’s tooth can get hung up on another dog’s choke chain and can cause panic and death. I once worked at a dog boarding facility when this scenario happened. Luckily, although bitten severely we were able to move the dogs together and untangle the chain.
This memory is still vivid in my mind. I won’t even let my dog’s play with dogs that are wearing choke chains!
Having worked in a veterinary clinic for many years, I have seen numerous inedible objects swallowed that were unable to be digested.
One puppy swallowed more than 4 large rocks 4 different times before the rock eating habit finally killed him. His owners, who had done their best to remove rocks, were inconsolable by his loss.
I have also witnessed the trauma from dogs that gobble up dropped pills or medications left out on the counter.
Numerous times I have heard stories of dogs eating whole bottles of Rimadyl ™ and similar pills because they are beef flavored and the bottle was accidentally left out on the counter.
Prevention and safely keeping medications locked up is key for success. Never leave medications out where your pet can get into them. Even if you think your dog would never eat pills, it is not worth the risk!
Teaching your dog “Leave It” and to not gobble up items or pills that hit the floor is also essential. You never know when you might drop a Tylenol or a Cold Pill and it is crucial that your dog not race you to whatever has dropped because he thinks it is food!
Teach your dog not to eat things that drop or things that he finds on the floor. Basically you should teach him he can only eat the things you give him or tell him he can eat!
Crates can also keep your pet safe and comfortable when you are gone so that he does not eat or shred dangerous items!
The number one deadly sin, in my opinion, and the cause of a higher mortality rate than needs be for our dogs is obesity.
A colossal amount of dogs might not die of obvious obesity related diseases like diabetes, although many dogs and cats do die of diabetes and its complications.
The less obvious complications due to obesity are: heart and liver disease, increased risk of cancer, breathing difficulties and damage to joints, bones and ligaments.
Thousands, if not millions of dogs are euthanized each year due to arthritis and pain. Most of these dogs are also significantly overweight or obese.
Obesity leads to increased risk and the severity of pain of arthritis.
Arthritis is a main cause of euthanasia. Dogs get older and are unable to comfortably get around and soon their pain is not able to be managed effectively.
Keeping your pet svelte and slim can extend his life and keep him from getting heart, liver and cancer related diseases.
A veterinary pain specialist once said at a seminar “No dog should ever have to be euthanized due to pain and arthritis.” That quote has stuck with me for many years, and I have made a promise to my dogs that I will never let them become obese.
I love them too much to watch them suffer senselessly from something that I can so easily control!
I have been a professional dog trainer and pet sitter for over 20 years. I am a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, through the international Certification Counsel of Professional Dog Trainers. I have trained and worked with police, Schutzhund and personal protection dogs. I trained Assistance Dogs in a men’s prison and ran my own nonprofit organization to take adult dogs from shelters and to train them to assist children and adults with disabilities, at no charge to my clients. My nonprofit organization and I were nominated for several awards of merit and even made the front page of the Denver Post. I was a veterinary technician for many years, where I learned about all aspects of health and preventative medicine. I have trained and worked with exotic animals and cheetahs. I introduced a temperament testing program in my local shelter and sat on the board of directors. I volunteered with my dog “Mr. Snitch” and helped local children learn to read. I have attained obedience titles and several blue ribbons. I am constantly in search of ways to continue my education and excellence when it comes to animals, their behavior and their health.