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What your vet wished dog owners knew

Dogs have never been so popular. Yet, as vets know only too well, there are still many myths and misconceptions about our canine buddies. And quite a few of them can unfortunately lead owners down a path that ends up at the vet or the dog behaviourist. Let's debunk a few with The Dog Coach, Vicky Carne.

This article was written by a FirstVet vet


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What your vet wished dog owners knew

1. It's ok to leave your dog in a vehicle on a hot day if the windows are down


It's not. For two reasons: cars heat up very quickly and dogs can't sweat like we do so they don't regulate their body temperature well. Heatstroke can be fatal very quickly - in a matter of minutes.

2. My dog knows it's done wrong because it looks guilty

No, that look that as humans we translate as guilt, is actually your dog showing what is known as 'appeasement behaviour'. Our dogs are probably better at reading our body language and facial expressions that we are at reading theirs. So, when you spot that 'accident' on the carpet or the chewed-up shoe, your dog 'reads' you are upset or anger and behaves in a way it would with other dogs to diffuse the situation.


3. You can't teach an old dog new tricks

Yes, you can. Clearly, what you might want to teach an old and maybe slightly infirm dog will be different from the lively games you might teach a younger dog, but they can still learn! And, with positive, reward-based training, will also thoroughly enjoy their time 'working' on new tricks with you.


4. Dogs see us as their pack leaders

This misconception (debunked by scientists many years ago) can lead owners unwittingly into trying to be their dog’s ‘boss’, spoiling the relationship they might otherwise have enjoyed and creating rather than improving behavioural problems. Do you really think your dog doesn’t know you’re not a dog!


5. You should remove your dog's food periodically during mealtimes

This one belongs with the myth above. For some reason the ‘pack leader’ myth led people to the idea that they should force their dogs to give up their food, so they’d knew who was in charge. Sadly, this myth can be dangerous. Regularly removing food from dogs as they’re eating is far more likely to lead them to think they do have to guard things they value. The best way to prevent what is known as 'resource guarding' or 'possessive aggression' is to learn how to teach your young puppy to be happy to do 'swaps’, so they don't feel the need to guard anything from you.


6. My dog's too thin

If you think that, quite likely your dog is about right! Just as with humans, there’s an obesity epidemic among pet dogs which many owners don’t recognise. Like us, this can lead to health problems, especially as the dog gets older.

7. It’s natural for dogs to be very anxious when visiting the vet

Yet it doesn’t have to be. While it’s natural for any animal to be nervous of the unknown, especially if they’re in pain, we can make the whole experience a great deal less stressful for our dogs (and the vet) if we spend some time accustoming them as puppies to the sort of handling, they’ll experience when being examined. This should form part of everyone’s puppy training – getting them very comfortable with being handled all over especially their ears, mouth and paws.


And, finally, although most dog owners do know how important socialisation is for young puppies, there’s much you can’t do during a pandemic. Watch our video on socialising your puppy while social distancing.


Could training help your dog or do you want to know more?

This article was written by Vicky Carne, founder of The Dog Coach. Contact Vicky via the website for more information about the PUP plan. Please follow the link to book a puppy or dog training video appointment.


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