Your dog's welfare needs
Do you know the five key things dogs need for a happy and healthy life?
According to the recent Pet-Care Practices in Victoria* research, many Victorian dog owners don't.
This research involved a survey of 1,629 dog, cat, bird and rabbit owners in Victoria. It aimed to measure how well owners understood their pets' welfare needs.
The five key welfare needs are summarised in the following table:
The need for a suitable environment (place to live)
The need for a suitable diet
The need to express normal behaviour
The need for to live with, or apart from, other animals
The need to be protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease
Welfare worries for dogs
- Loneliness - dogs are highly social animals, yet eight per cent of dogs are regularly left alone for more than 12 hours at a time. Another 15 per cent are regularly left alone for eight to 12 hours. And 39 per cent of dogs have no other animals to keep them company while owners are out.
- Lack of exercise and socialisation - dogs need daily walks outside the property, and regular socialisation with people and other animals. This ensures they remain physically and mentally healthy. Yet 63 per cent of dogs do not get walked daily. Sixty-two per cent of dogs didn't attend 'puppy preschool' socialisation classes.
- Obesity - up to 40 per cent of dogs are overweight. Forty-eight per cent of owners feed their dogs treats at least once a day. Obesity can cause major health problems such as diabetes, and can reduce quality of life and shorten lifespan.
- Lack of preventative vet care - 15 per cent of dogs are not vaccinated against common diseases, six per cent aren't treated for fleas and seven per cent aren't wormed.
- Toxic treats - three per cent of owners feed their dogs chocolate as a treat, three per cent feed them grapes, and 17 per cent feed them cooked bones as a treat.
Top tips for dog owners
- Ease your dog's loneliness - if your dog is regularly left alone for more than four hours a day, aim to spend an extra hour or two with him or her per day to help compensate. Or ask a friend, relative or pet carer to visit your home to give your dog some company. You can keep your dog busy while you are out by giving him or her a large raw marrow bone to chew, stuffing hollow (indestructible) toys with food, or providing a large block of ice that has had some treats frozen into it. If your dog gets anxious when left alone, speak to your vet or an animal behaviouralist. Consider getting a second dog for company, if your lifestyle and budget allows it (and ensure you understand how to safely introduce a new dog to the household).
- Learn about your dog's ideal body shape and weight, by looking at the dog body condition score chart. Talk to your vet to ensure your dog is on the right diet for its age and lifestyle, and follow feeding instructions on food packets carefully.
- Review your dog's treats. Familiarise yourself with the list of human foods that are toxic for dogs. Many safe and healthy alternatives are available, from commercially prepared dog treats, to human foods such as carrot sticks. If your dog is overweight, you might be surprised just how much the treats are contributing to his or her weight problem. Limit treats and completely avoid feeding unhealthy or fatty treats (such as cheese). Low calorie dog treats are available commercially. Or you can try feeding your dog green beans as a treat. They are great for overweight dogs, and most dogs really enjoy them (they can be given fresh or frozen).
- Make a commitment to walk your dog more often - daily walks should be your ultimate goal, but even one extra walk a week will make a huge difference to your dog's quality of life. Dogs have an evolutionary need to walk - just letting your dog run around your yard is not enough. Dogs need to be walked outside the property, to bond with you, meet other people and dogs, and experience the sights and smells of their territory. Here are some solutions to common reasons why many owners don't walk their dogs:
- Does your dog pull at the leash? Consider dog training as a solution, or buy a walking harness to gently and instantly stop your dog pulling on the lead (one example is the Gentle Leader Easy Walk Harness - this type of harness is available from many suppliers, contact your local pet supplies or try searching the internet).
- No time to walk your dog? A short walk is better than no walk at all. Try setting your alarm 20 minutes earlier in the morning, and have an invigorating walk before work. Interestingly, research has found that dog owners get more exercise walking their pet than someone with a gym membership does!
- Motivation a problem? Just start walking your dog and you'll soon see how much joy he or she is getting out of it. This enthusiasm can be contagious (and the guilt you feel if you don't walk your dog will be enough motivation to keep up the activity!) There are also lots of fun apps available for your smartphone - just do a search on 'dog walk'. These apps allow you to log your walks, track your calories, and set fitness goals (for both you and your dog). Apps can also help you find off leash parks and beaches, locations of toilets and dog poo bins, pet-friendly cafes, dog walking clubs and pet events.
- Check when you last treated your dog for fleas and worms. Get advice from your vet regarding suitable and safe treatments, and ensure your dog's vaccinations are up to date.
- If you are thinking of getting a puppy, find out where there are 'puppy preschool' classes in your area - for instance, at your local vet clinic.
Doing just one of these things today could make a big difference to your dog's life!
Learn more about the Pet-Care Practices research results, and the welfare needs of dogs:
Just for fun … interesting information about dogs
- The dog was the first animal to be domesticated by humans.
- The smallest known adult dog was a Yorkshire Terrier that stood only 6.3cm at the shoulder, 9.5cm in length along the head-and-body, and weighed only 113 grams.
- The largest known dog was an English Mastiff called Zorba, who weighed 155.6 kg and was 250cm from nose to tail.
- A Border Collie named Chaser has learned the names for 1,022 toys after three years of training, so many that her trainers have had to mark the names of the objects lest they forget themselves. This is higher than Rico, another border collie who could remember at least 200 objects.
- Research has found that dogs are able to tell how big another dog is just by listening to its growl.
- Of approximately a dozen dogs that were on the Titanic, three dogs survived the sinking. One family even received an insurance settlement for their two dogs that didn't survive.
- Dalmatian puppies are pure white when they are born and develop their spots as they grow older.
- It is a myth that dogs are colour blind. They can actually see in colour, just not as vividly as humans. It is akin to our vision at dusk.
- The Poodle's 'haircut' was to improve their swimming abilities. The pom-poms were left to keep their joints warm!
- Greyhounds are the fastest dogs on earth, reaching speeds of up to 70km an hour.
- At the end of the Beatles' song 'A Day in the Life', an ultrasonic whistle, audible only to dogs, was recorded by Paul McCartney for the enjoyment of his Shetland Sheepdog.
- Dogs can be trained to detect epileptic seizures.
- The world's oldest dog is claimed to be an Australian Cattle Dog named Bluey who lived to the age of 29 years and five months.
- Dog's nose prints are as unique as a human's fingerprints and can be used to accurately identify them.
- Dogs are all direct descendants of wolves.
- The Basenji is the world's only barkless dog.
- Petting dogs is proven to lower blood pressure of dog owners.
- Some dogs can smell dead bodies under water, where termites are hiding, and natural gas buried deep under dirt. They can even detect cancer that is too small to be detected by a doctor and can find lung cancer by sniffing a person's breath.
- Different smells in the a dog's urine can tell other dogs whether the dog leaving the message is female or male, old or young, sick or healthy, happy or angry.
- The most intelligent dogs are reportedly the Border Collie and the Poodle, while the least intelligent dogs are the Afghan Hound and the Basenji.
- While the human brain is dominated by a large visual cortex, the dog brain is dominated by an olfactory cortex (responsible for smell). The olfactory bulb in dogs is roughly 40 times bigger than the olfactory bulb in humans, relative to total brain size. Consequently, it has been estimated that dogs, in general, have a sense of smell ranging from 100,000 to 1,000,000 times more sensitive than a human's. In some dog breeds, such as Bloodhounds, the sense of smell may be up to 100 million times greater than a human's.
- The wet nose, or rhinarium, is essential for determining the direction of the air current containing the smell. Cold receptors in the skin are sensitive to the cooling of the skin by evaporation of the moisture by air currents.
* Information sourced from the following articles:
- Smart US dog learns more than 1,000 words
- Dogs' Expectation about Signalers' Body Size by Virtue of Their Growls
- Dogs Noseprints Can be Used to Prove Identity, Just Like Fingerprints
- 99 Fun Facts About ... Dogs
- Ancient DNA Analysis Affirms the Canid from Altai as a Primitive Dog
- Seizure-alert dogs: a review and preliminary study
- Zorba the World's Biggest Dog
- Dogs experience the world nose-first
- Dogs of the Titanic: a Dozen Aboard, Three Survived
- Dogs can smell lung cancer in humans
*Bennett, P.C., Mornement, K., & Howell, T. (2013). Pet-care practices in Victoria, 2013: a survey of bird, cat, dog and rabbit owners. Unpublished report, La Trobe University, Australia.