If you Google “responsible dog ownership”, you will find various viewpoints on what is expected from us, from the Kennel Club to the Dog Trust. Microchipping, veterinary care and neutering seem like the trendy frame of reference, along with keeping the dog on the lead, and taking out insurance.
We, at DogTraining4Humans have somewhat different priorities. Out of the dozens of duties and obligations we have when having dogs, we drew up a list of 10 things that we promote as being “responsible”.
We prefer to use the word SPLENDID , instead of "responsible", to refer to someone who shows that (s)he really cares - not only about the wellbeing of the dog, but also how people react when a dog appears. The truth is, folks, it is not just about loving your dog to bits, but to also make sure that the world around is also happy about having him around.
Because when people get angry, annoyed or scared of our dogs, life will turn bad for our best friends, no matter how much we say we love them. If we do not learn to live in peace and harmony with “non-dog people”, more dog ban will start to appear in places where dogs have been previously welcomed (as it is happening right now all over the country!), more rules and regulations will come to life, and more and more people will start to regard dogs as another nuisance that make their life stressful.
Folks, the "War on Dogs" is happening already!
Look around, and see the gazillion of signs forbidding dogs to be around, in our a so-called "dog-friendly" world.
But hey, it gets worse - we have recently met this sign in front of the local PET STORE:
Holy shite! What could possibly go wrong if the management of a pet store put a ban on dogs???
This is a wake up call for all of us, dog people.
And though we all know it’s not the dogs to blame, but they are the ones to suffer: who would want to live in a world where people detest your very existence?...
Instead of going to war, can't we just all agree real hard to be cool?...
We could start with making a pledge to follow a few simple principles.
1. Feeding is leading (this list)
Now you would think that giving food and water to a dog is "a given", and you would be surprised how often we have to educate people on how to do it right, and not to forget to change the drinking water, or clean the dog's bowls.
When we teach children on care for the dog, the first thing we should teach them is not to forget to give them fresh water and their dinner. When talking about sharing our lives with pets, this is where it all begins.
And then, of course, one must raise the question WHAT we feed our dogs with, to which question there are as many different answers as there are participants in the "dog business".
We what we believe is to be proper diet in our Dog101 Crash Course, for now, let's just say: the UK is the largest pet food market in all of Europe, and the estimated spending for this year will be over five billion dollars. And if you knew only half of what goes into our dogs "well balanced" dry food that we pay £3 a kilo (and more!) for, you would be horrified. That is, of course, if you care what your dog eats. Any "food" that has a 12 to 24 month shelf life - well, there is a good reason for that. Dry food, wet food, biscuits, and canned foods have their place – in shelters, charities, on long trips, or on occasions when we’re pressed for time – but they should not be fed as a staple diet.
Do your homework - research for the information is all there, you can look it up. Your dog is worth it. A responsible dog owner makes the effort to feed his dog with the proper diet - including avoiding to overfeeding. (The pet obesity phenomenon is worth a special post.)
2. Two walks a day
Okay, the first one is pretty simple: a dog needs at least two walks a day. Whether it is early morning, afternoon or late at night, it’s up to your daily routine. It is not the time and longevity that matters, but the intensity. The walk equals “the hunt”, it is the pinnacle of the day for your dog. So make sure to devote this time to truly be with him.
Two walks a day. Even when you don't feel like it. And yes, even when it is cold and windy. And yes, even if your dog has a yard to run around all day.
3. The N1 rule for training a dog
A woman came to our school one day, with a little Bolognese, which was attacking and barking at the other dogs – a case of classic fear aggression. Every time the dog angrily lunged at other dogs, the woman said “Chester, come here!” And when the dog ran back to her, she gave her a juicy treat. Without even knowing about it, she practically conditioned her dog to be “mad” at other dogs, as the dog had learned the sequence over the years:
Step1 – lunge at dog. Step2 –mommy will call me. Step3 – I will run back to her. Step 4 – I will get a treat.
If there was only one thing that I could ever teach people about training their dogs, it would be the proper way of rewarding.
Dogs follow learned behaviour. If you want to teach your dog anything, all you need to do is either wait for, or create the right behaviour, and then reward that behaviour with no delay. No matter what the issue is you wish to handle, you will achieve your goal ten times faster with rewarding than via punishment or scolding. The three vital parts of rewarding a dog are: what to reward, when to reward and how to reward.
We know it sounds elementary, but look around, and see how often people neglect saying “Good boy” after the dog obeys a command, or try to change a behaviour by shouting NOOOO!
(We shouldn't even mention this: no responsible owner would ever hit or threaten a dog.)
Do your dog a favour: learn how to reward him, and then never forget to do it when he does something right.
That’s the most useful data you must know about dog training.
4. Crate-train your dog
There is this new “movement” that promotes: crates are bad for dogs, and it is an inhuman and cruel thing to put a dog in a crate. This, of course, is another of those silly ideas that spread like wildfire without any valid reason.
Do not think of crating as the dog being locked up in a cage.
There are several occasions in a dog’s life when it needs to be placed in a crate – for travel, to keep him out of harm’s way, to protect him from other dogs, to protect visitors from him, to just to name a few.
Your dog can get sick, and needs to be locked up to restrict movement, or he ends up in a veterinary clinic, or in a boarding kennel, or you travel long distance, and will want to put the dog into a travel box etc.
It is better to teach a dog to be OK being in a crate, and then never use it, then ignore crate training, and being faced with a situation where you need to crate your dog, but cannot.
For certain breeds, it is even advised to use a crate as the dog’s bed – in fact, a properly crate trained dog loves to sleep in his crate.
For one thing, it provides a hell of a lot more protection and comfort than an open woven basket, or a pillow thrown onto the floor.
Crating is especially useful during the puppy phase: any time a puppy is not supervised, or left alone for any length of time, it should be placed in a safe place so he can’t get into trouble – just like we use a playpen for a human toddler for the same purpose.
Just the other day, I was invited to a Christmas party in a busy restaurant. As always, my dogs were with me. I did not want to leave them in the cold car. But I also did not want everyone to “go crazy” around them (they are both cute as hell), as they just had their dinner. So I put them in their travel box, rolled them in, placed the box under the table, next to my leg. And they slept through the whole party like… babies. I could also have a decent chat with my friends, without being constantly on alert what my dogs are up to.
If you have a puppy, or a four-legged newcomer in your home, and someone tells you not to use a crate, do not listen to her. Crate train your dog early on, even if you do not intend to use a crate. I promise you, there will come the time when you will be happy you had done it.
5. The use of the muzzle
The same rule applies to muzzles. For reasons we are still busy searching for, most people in the UK would never put a muzzle on his dog – even if being aware that the dog can become nervous or unreliable in certain situations. Many think it is a cruel thing to do, and their dog will look "nasty", or that only super aggressive dogs should be muzzled.
With due respect, it's a bunch of baloney.
A muzzle does not necessarily promote a vicious dog. When you go to Germany, or to any Western European country, or North-America, you will see dogs wearing muzzles with no hassle. It is no big deal. People put a muzzle on a dog for various reasons – to stop him from picking up stuff from the ground he shouldn’t eat when on a walk, when using public transportation, or just to keep others relaxed, who may be afraid of dogs. And I wish I had a quid in my pocket for every case I heard when a vet could not properly examine a dog, because of the risk of getting bitten, and the dog put up a fight against being muzzled.
Folks, we must be aware of the fact that dogs, even the little ones, have razor sharp teeth that can disfigure a person for life - in two seconds. Do not think it can never happen to you.
There are over 220,000 incidents involving dog bites, and 7,000 hospital admissions from dog attacks in a year (UK). And we can all recall at least one incident we heard of when a dog killed a human.
For the USA, the numbers are 4.7million dog incidents a year, and 800.000 of bites require medical care. Look it up.
Even the friendliest dog can bite when being frightened or confused. Frankly, I can never fathom dog owners who are aware that their dog is a liability, but stubbornly refuse to use a muzzle. They justify it by saying “See, my dog would never tolerate a muzzle.”
When I hear this, it is actually I who should be muzzled, to prevent me to bite myself…
If there is the slightest chance that a dog is nothing short of being 100% reliable around dogs, children and people, the owner/handle should get a (PROPER!) muzzle, and muzzle-train that dog, until he feels comfortable wearing it.
6. Never leave your dog in a hot car
You would think this issue has been raised so many times, there must be literally no one on the planet who would leave his pet in the car on a hot day. Yet, just last summer, we had to intervene twice in one week to save a dog from a locked up vehicle. One of those people came out of TESCO, and croaked (gee, had she have an annoying voice...) that she only went in "for a minute".
We have seen dogs almost dying of a heat stroke. It's not a pretty picture.
Let's keep this simple: Temperatures can rise to dangerous levels in just minutes. If the weather is hot enough so you need to roll down the windows or put on the air con, no dog should be locked up in the car. Your can die of heat. Full stop.
7. Would you leave your dog outside a store, tied to a pole?
I went to the local gym, and asked the receptionist if I could bring my dog in. She said it was forbidden, but "it's okay to leave her outside" while I am working out. Seeing my disbelief to her suggestion, she added "People do it all the time." I thought she must be joking, but she was not: people leave their dogs in front of the gym, and supermarkets, and department stores, and council offices.
I don't know about you, but I cannot fathom how people cannot see the effect this "abandonment" cause on their dogs. They should watch a video footage how petrified these dogs can be, when left by their owner, tied to a pole.
For those who don't understand what's wrong that picture - no argument will make a difference, so why bother. And for those who say they love their dogs as family, they would never ever do it anyway.
But there is one, even worse case scenario, and it is one of the most irresponsible actions of all: leaving a dog outside without even a secure lead.
Imagine for a second, if this dog gets frightened from a sudden noise, such as a car backfire:
it will break free, and run out of the world.
8. Does your dog wear a name tag for identification?
Over the years, having lived in in six countries, I cannot tell you how many times I placed posters in bus stops (and later on posts on social media), looking for the owners of dogs I found wandering in the streets, or in the woods. Why? Because the owners of those dogs ignored a simple action: to put a tag on the dog’s collar with an address or phone number. (Mind you, several of those dogs did not even have a collar.)
For those who believe their dog would never get lost: there are over 70,000 pets (both dogs and cats) have been reported missing or stolen over the past decade, still waiting to be reunited with their owners.
We all know it is the right thing to do, nevertheless, in the UK only three out of ten dogs wear an address/phone number on their collar. Let's crank up those numbers! Make sure your dog will have a chance to find his way back to you, in case it gets lost.
(And nope, microchipping is not enough.)
9. Keep Your Dog Under Control on the Walk
This might be familiar to you: a mother walks in the park with two children. Suddenly a dog appears, and runs towards them. The children get frightened. The mother calls out for the owner of the dog, “Could you call back your dog please?” The owner, instead of calling the dog back, shouts back: “It’s okay. He won’t bite…”
Now here is the big question: What would you do, if those were your children, and they were be afraid of the dog?
I know what I would do – but I rather not say it, keeping in mind that there may be some underage readers here. Let’s just say, I would have a mouthful for that owner.
And I am crazy about dogs!
Here is the thing: you may know that your dog is harmless, but other people do not.
According to UK estimates, 34% of people are wary of dogs, and two out of five parents will admit their children afraid of dogs. So when you are walking your dog in the park, on the beach or in the woods, and a person, a jogger, a passerby, another dog, a child, or even a sheep, a horse or a squirrel appears, be a good sport, and promptly call your dog back.
Keep him under control, until you are absolutely sure that the people nearby are ok with dogs.
It is a small step for you, but a giant step in the mission to increase the tolerance of our communities towards dog people.
10. SCOOP THE POOP
As a dog person, I feel embarrassed to even raise the "fecal matter": who the hell fail to clean up after his dog? Is this something we really need to enlighten people on?
Apparently, the answer is yes. Not only we meet people who fail to do their duties regarding dog poo, but I am appalled to observe a phenomenon I have never seen in any other countries before, but England: people leaving dung-filled poo bags in the middle of the road. And not just in town – but all over the woods and the beach too!
Who these people think will come and pick up their dog's waste – the poofairy???
There are an estimated eight million dogs in the UK and they drop about 900kg of waste.
A DAY. This adds up about sixteen million turds each day – considering a dog takes a dump only twice a day. The councils are busy upgrading their laws, raising the on-the-spot fine for fouling from £50-£80 to as much as £1,000, if the case ends up in court. (A misdemeanor.)
We must quickly add, in no way we wish to diminish the "all-beloved" council's responsibility on the issue. They can start with installing twice as many waste bins as there are in our streets. The fact that dog owners are expected to walk two miles with a bag in hand to find a bin is an insult.
(Truth be told, when you see a full bin, and place your bag on the ground, imagine for a second the council staff who comes to empty that bin. Wonder why they hate dogs?...)
We, at DogTraining4Humans are so adamant about cleaning up our streets and parks that we even go a step further: we should never even allow our dogs to either wee or poo in the middle of the street. (And no, your dog should not toilet wherever it wishes to. It is called training - just as in "house training". If you can teach a dog not to toilet inside, you can teach your dog to "wait" until reaching a grassy area. If you don't believe it, give us a buzz.)
I remember this CCTV video footage that spread all over the internet, showing the black-jacket man looking shifty after his pooch fouled on the pavement outside the Holland and Barrett store in the town centre in Ramsgate High Street, before turning around and walking away.
If you ask me, the most hair-raising part of this story was not the fact that there are irresponsible people among us, but that nobody had the guts to remind him of his duty to pick up the dog’s faeces – including another dog owner who also appear on the infamous video.
Believe me, if had been there, you would have seen a different end result on that video footage… Uh, you have no idea: I can be merciless with such people, as they harm all of us, regardful dog owners.
Like this woman, who allowed her dog to foul in the middle of an international airport,
and then flicked the bird at the man asking her to clean up the carpet. (It's all on video.)
Now I do not advocate violence, and would never go as far as I saw it once, when a woman failed to clean up after her dog, and a passersby walking right behind her, picked up the poo, ran after the dog owner, and splashed the whole thing on her hair.... Ah man, I wish I had a camera with me - the footage have received half a million clicks in no time on youtube.
I use the humble "silent reminder" method: Without saying a word or judging, hand them an unused poo-bag. Usually, people will get the message, and say "Oh, thank you." And if they do not, no amount of insult will change their attitude anyway.
You, who is reading this right now, I am pretty sure do not have to be reminded of this. But if you want to step up, make an effort to help us keep our world clean: spread the word among those who need a bit of education that "pick it up" is right thing to do.
(Don't tell anyone, but I always carry a dozen poo bags with me, and I sometimes bag other people's waste I find in the street, for no other reason just because I can.)
And while we are at it: you weird horse people should clean up after your horse too!!
When you cross our roads, bridges, beaches and forest paths, get off your high horsy, collect your horse shit, and carry it home nice and easy.
You see, we don’t like to walk/drive knee-deep in horse manure either.
There, I said it.
11. It all begins with… EXERCISE!
If by now, you are somewhat familiar with our work and philosophy, you must be getting tired of our unyielding attempt to drive the message home: exercising our dogs is an indispensable part of their lives.
No matter the age, breed, or size, every dog needs regular exercise. Not only because of the obvious health benefits (preventing obesity, preserving muscle tone, better digestion, better sleep, for the sake of general mood, longevity etc), but as part of the prevention and treatment of behavioural problems, such as barking, chewing, digging, running away, rough play, anxiety related disorders, even aggression.
Before we forget: exercise is also the N1 tool we can utilize to build trust and connection, in one word, a bond with our dog. As a bonus, it helps to increase his self-confidence too.
Now here comes the moment of truth: How many hours a week do you honestly exercise your dog?
And before you begin adding the number of walks, let us break the news: a stroll in the park, or a visit to the local coffeehouse in the morning is no exercise for a dog. An exercise is a mental and/or physical activity that challenges and stimulates the dog’s ability to overcome an obstacle, or solve a particular problem.
So once again, how many hours a week do you exercise your dog?...
If you need assistance in figuring out which exercise and activity would fit the best for your dog (and yourself!), considering, age, breed and physical condition, - you know what to do!
We are here to help. Give us a buzz.
12. Dogs on board!
Now you probably going to yawn - "Oh please. You are not going to tell me how to transport my dog, aren't you. Everybody knows..."
You might be surprised, my friend. The American Humane Society reports that an estimated 100,000 dogs die from riding in truck beds alone each year. And that doesn't include the dogs that die from jumping out of car windows or dogs who are unsecured in the car during a collision. PetAutoSafety.com reports over 6 million car accidents every year in the US.
The number of car accidents are over 500 a day in the UK.
As Rule 57 of the Highway Code states "When in a vehicle make sure dogs or other animals are suitably restrained so they cannot distract you while you are driving or injure you, or themselves, if you stop quickly. A seat belt harness, pet carrier, dog cage or dog guard are ways of restraining animals in cars." Although disobeying the highway doesn't necessarily mean you will be will receive a penalty, the police could pull you over and charge you with driving without due care and attention, or dangerous driving, which carries a maximum fine of £2,500 and nine penalty points.
Some people have no idea about the risk to drive with a dog unrestrained. I once saw a fox terrier (well, what remained from it) that flew through the windscreen from the back window, when the car it travelled in hit an obstacle.
Please use your senses when driving.
Okay, this one is a wee too much...
But this is okay:
And this one too:
Well, here they are - our 12 rules of heavenly dog care. We are pretty sure that you could easily tick off most of the above, and if it is so, we have only one thing to say...
And in case there are things you can improve - do not be too hard on yourself. The fact that you are reading this right now shows that you care.
Do the best we can, and make your dog proud!
The team of DogTraining4Humans