The 7 Deadly Sins of Dog Ownership

Being Overweight Can Kill Even Those We Love

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

A Sad Way of Life

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!

#2: Ingesting indigestible objects and/or medications

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!

1: Obesity

Obesity is a Painful Way to Die

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!

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  1. Jana Rade says:

    Obesity is definitely number one deadly sin, it’s amazing how blinded people can be.


  2. elaine mura says:

    I’m really excited, so I had to respond to you today. I had a truly important question which I could find no information about – and I needed the answer to the question yesterday. I have three dogs (two five-year-old adults and one five-month-old puppy) My question concerned training them together or separately. Well, one of your blog responses finally addressed the question in passing (hidden deeply inside another topic completely). I just found out that I should train them separately because it’s easier on them. Well, guess what. Not knowing that, I’ve been training them together. Within two or three days, I’ve got them coming every time, sitting for treats, attentive to my every move – and the list goes on. I’m even ready to begin some of the more complicated behaviors. In five days, I have two half toilet trained. One of the adults is either dumb or stubborn or both. It’s a male, and I think that I’m having some male instinctual problems with him. I find that he seems to have the capacity to hold it for hours and hours and hours – and only wants to go in the house when he’s had lots of time outside). Any suggestions about the five-year-old adult male and toileting.

    Also, when do I receive the “trick training” that comes with the $70 package? I want to do a doggie dead!


  3. Heather Sharkey says:

    Here in France it is a commmon sight to see dogs tethered on a chain. Most of these dogs spend their life on one!!. As long as they have shelter and are fed once a day – the authorities cannot (or will not?) do anything about it. It is such a sad sight. Why do people buy a dog then just put it on a chain for the rest of its life?


  4. Arlean says:

    Excellent advise for pet owners in general including cats.


  5. Donna says:

    How do you get others in the family to take on help with the training of the dogs to come on command?
    Also, I agree on the obesity. My one dog would eat everything in front of her if she got the chance. I feed them the recommended amounts and they also get a lot of exercise in our fenced in yard.
    They love to run. I don’t know what I would do without the fences. We can take them out for walks, but there is no way I could run at their pace.


  6. Mary Hagenburg says:

    Obesity is a big problem and easy to fall into the situation. I gave my dog everything she wanted including extra treats and human food as a mode of love, making up for working overnight even though she went to work with me during the day when I worked. I started to work on the problem and she lost 3 pounds but too late. At 8 1/2 she threw a clot and died. I would do anything in this world to turn back the clock and do it over again because I lost a really big part of my heart. I am really careful with my other Yorkies with what they eat and walk but I can never have my baby back.


  7. Harold says:

    You said something about 7 ways to kill your fog but only mentioned 2


  8. Naomi MacDonald says:

    I totally agree with you about obesity I find it amazing how many people love their animals to death with too much food and lack of exercise. But I find that my dogs (2 large dogs) don’t actually need how much dog food bags say they do. I try to feed them good quality food but if I feed according to the pack both dogs put on a lot of weight I choose to feed based on their needs… Loosing a bit of weight = increase food Gaining too much weight = decrease food & add more exercise. No scraps due to a sensitive tummy for 1 dog.. But I do see the difference a friend of mine adopted my female labs brother at the same time as I got her 8 years ago.. & hers is now 60 lbs over weight with many health problems & my lab is constantly mistaken for a young dog, great shape lots of energy,


    Minette Reply:

    The bag generalizes for intact male hunting dogs! Not many dogs fit that generalization! But, it helps to sell more dog food by recommending more! My large dogs eat a tiny bit by comparison!


  9. Mar says:

    Another: actually happened. Do not leave potato chip bags, plastic bags, etc accessible to pups. If not attended may put their head in the bag and get wedged behind furniture and suffocate. Also, tour the kennel where you leave your dogs to be sure other dogs cannot interact with yours. My Jack met her demise at a kennel.


  10. Mycroft says:

    I want to deliver a warning here, that combines two sins:
    1. Leaving on a choke collar
    2. Using an automatic electric bark collar

    This happened to our family’s first dog, many years ago, in the dark days of dog training. She was a rescued GSD mix with bad history, so she was very stranger-aware. This led to a lot of barking. Our neighbours started to get increasingly pushy about it. We tried everything, but could only get her to stop barking *while we were present*. So we got her an electric bark collar – the type that shocks whenever it feels the vibrations it associates with a bark. She also had pulling issues, so we walked her on a metal choke collar. It got left on somehow while we were out. Since we were out, she had her shock collar on, too. The metal collar jangled and bumped into the shock collar causing it to go off constantly. When we got back our dog had severe burns all around her neck.

    We’ve never used any kind of electric collar since. Don’t! And never, ever leave on a choke collar! Our dog was only injured, yours could be killed!


  11. Bud Savoie says:

    For some years I trained and showed dogs in obedience. I have never believed in giving a dog treats (read: bribes) for obedience. Praise, petting, and the joy in your voice will induce the dog to obey. It has always worked for me and the dogs I have owned and trained. Even if you always give a dog a treat for coming, some day he will find the cat across the street more immediately interesting than the thought of a treat.

    Besides, giving a dog a treat every time he does something will not only make him fat, but it will oblige you to bribe him for the rest of his life–almost by contractual obligation. What happens if you don’t happen to have a treat handy one day? Have you proven yourself untrustworthy in the dog’s eyes? Why should he come the next time you call if something else visibly promises immediate gratification instead of the chance that you MIGHT tangibly reward his obedience?


    Minette Reply:

    You don’t understand positive reinforcement training and are using treats wrong.


  12. Chris cook says:

    Also you shouldn’t punch your dog as hard as you can in the ribs. I have a small chihuahua and did this once because he ate my fries and he whined really loud for a long time and had trouble breathing. The vet said he had a cracked rib, i felt bad a little bit.


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