As a responsible dog owner, there are some mistakes we don’t want to make…
Letting Your Dog Walk You
A poorly trained dog can pull you over while you’re out for a stroll. According to the CDC, tens of thousands of people end up in the ER every year because of pet-related falls. Many of these falls occur during walks — either when a person trips over a dog or is pulled or pushed by one. Experts say obedience training is the best way to make sure your pooch doesn’t take you down during the morning walk.
After a walk in the woods, you check yourself for ticks, right? Don’t forget about your dog. Tick bites put your dog at risk for Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and a handful of other diseases. They can also cause serious illnesses in cats. If your pet has infected ticks, this puts the rest of the family at risk. If you find a tick, remove it carefully with tweezers, being careful not to crush it. Ask the vet about anti-tick medicine.
If your pet has a round bald patch, ringworm could be to blame. Leave this fungus untreated, and you’re putting your family at risk. People can get ringworm from dogs or cats by touching their skin or fur. Ringworm causes a reddish, ring-shaped rash on the skin or bald spots if it infects the scalp. If you suspect your pet has ringworm, see your vet promptly.
Not Bothering to Deworm
Roundworms are common parasites in both dogs and cats. They cause diarrhea and vomiting and may lead to serious illness. But many people don’t realize these worms are a threat to humans, too. An infected pet can contaminate soil or sand with tiny eggs. Kids may ingest the eggs by putting dirty fingers in their mouths. When the worms hatch inside people, they can cause blindness and other tissue damage. Ask your vet about regular deworming.
Skipping Flea Medicine
Skip your pets’ flea medicine, and they aren’t the only ones who will pay the price. Fleas will quickly set up shop on untreated pets, particularly in summer and fall, and fill your house with their eggs and young. Some people wind up covered in itchy sores. Fleas can also transmit serious diseases to people including bubonic plague. Ask your vet about once-a-month flea medication and put a monthly reminder on your calendar.
Not Spaying or Neutering Your Pet
Millions of cats and dogs live on the street or end up euthanized because of unwanted litters. Still, many people are reluctant to spay or neuter their pets. The fact is, spaying and neutering is a healthy choice for your pet. It reduces the risk of breast cancer in females and testicular cancer in males. Neutered males are also less likely to run away from home, mark their territory, or exhibit aggressive behaviors.
Keeping the Food Bowl Full
With the best intentions, some people keep their pets’ food bowls full at all times. This is one of the most common mistakes pet owners make. The problem is that cats and dogs often eat more than they need. If food is constantly available, they will take in too many calories and put on too much weight. To avoid this, follow the suggestions on the pet food label or ask your vet for guidance.
Providing Too Little Exercise
Just like people, pets need exercise to stay healthy. Couch potato pets are prone to obesity, which raises their risk of respiratory problems and joint problems. The right amount of exercise for a dog depends on the breed and size, but vets recommend at least a half-hour each day. Taking brisk walks with your dog can help you get in shape, too.
Misreading Body Language
Sure, you love your dog. But do you really understand him? If you think a wagging tail is always a good sign, you could be in for a nasty surprise. When a dog wants to threaten someone, he may hold his tail high and wave it stiffly back and forth. Mistake this warning for a sign of playfulness and you could get bitten. To avoid misunderstandings, learn about your pet’s body language.
Providing Too Little Attention
Just like children, your pets will get bored if you don’t play with them. And boredom can lead to troublesome behaviors like chewing, digging, barking, and whining. Bored cats may resort to scratching and excessive meowing. Fight boredom by hiding treats for your pets to find around the house. Provide toys your cat can chase. Teach dogs to play fetch, tug-of-war, or hide-and-seek.
Not Socializing Young Pets
It’s important to provide puppies and kittens with positive human interaction during their first seven weeks of life. This includes handling and play that fosters trust in people. Reputable breeders will begin this interaction, and you can continue the process when you bring your pet home. To develop a strong bond, play with your new puppy or kitten every day.
Leaving a Dog Alone Too Long
Spending 8-10 hours alone in a crate, tiny laundry closet, or even outdoors is too much for most dogs. It can lead to separation anxiety and destructive behaviors including chewing, soiling, digging, and nonstop barking or howling — even depression in a timid dog. Better choices are doggie day care, a mid-day visit from a pet sitter, or a canine companion. Adult dogs can go 4-5 hours in a crate but need exercise before and after.
Setting No Rules
Some people expect their pets to know right from wrong without being told. But human etiquette does not come naturally to dogs and cats. You need to make it clear that jumping up on people, scratching the furniture, and peeing on the carpet are unacceptable. Be consistent about the house rules, and reward your pets for good behavior. If you need guidance, consult a trainer promptly.
Scolding Pets for “Accidents”
If you come home to find a puddle of pee on the floor, you may have the urge to yell at your pet. But animal behavior experts say this will do no good at all. The transgression took place in the past, and your dog or cat won’t know why you are yelling. A better strategy is to praise your pets immediately when they do their business where they are supposed to.
Leaving Young Kids Unsupervised
Most children adore animals, but sometimes their enthusiasm can lead to someone getting hurt. Young kids may play too rough, pushing a dog or cat to strike out in self-defense. Be sure to supervise play time when a new pet joins the family. Set rules for how children should treat the pet and teach them to recognize the signs that a dog or cat wants to be left alone.
Feeding Dogs Table Scraps
It can be hard to resist a dog that’s begging at the table. You look into those big eyes and want to share your food with your pet. But rewarding your dog’s barks or whines will only encourage more begging in the future. And then you can forget about quiet dinners with your family. If you want to share table scraps as an occasional treat, do it away from the table — and use the food as a reward for good behavior.
Having No Disaster Plan
If an emergency forces you to evacuate your home, what will you do with your pets? Leaving them behind is not an option if your community is threatened by fire, flooding, or hurricane-force winds. And not all Red Cross shelters allow you to bring your pets. It’s best to identify pet-friendly shelters and motels ahead of time, so you can keep your pets with you during an emergency.
Adopting a Pet on a Whim
If a friend is giving away puppies or a local animal shelter is filled to capacity, you may be tempted to bring home a new pet. But this should never be a spur-of-the-moment decision. You are making a long-term commitment to care for the animal — 10 to 15 years for dogs and up to 20 years for cats. It’s also best to do some research ahead of time to decide what type of pet — and what specific breed — would be best for your family.