Results from the pet-care practices research into the welfare needs of dogs

Your dog's environment

What dogs need:

  • Their own bed, in a quiet, draught-free and dry location. A bed indoors provides much better protection from extremes of heat and cold, compared to an outdoor kennel.
  • Dogs are also social 'pack' animals, and are happiest when near their family. At all times of the day, dogs should spend as much time as possible in the company of other dogs, or indoors with the family.
  • To be safely confined to their owner's property. This means your yard must have a closed gate, and an escape-proof fence that your dog cannot jump, get under or through. If securely confined, your dog will be safe from traffic injuries or fights with other dogs. They will also be prevented from wandering and becoming lost.

The reality:

  • 28% of dogs spend the majority of time outside.
  • 2% of these are tied up or tethered.
  • 13% of dogs are provided with inadequate shelter when outdoors.
  • 3% of dogs sleeping outdoors were in the open without a kennel.
  • 26% of owners do not adequately confine their dogs to the property.

Feeding your dog

What dogs need:

  • A complete balanced diet, which is nutritionally balanced. Commercially prepared food can be easier to feed than a homemade diet, as it is not as easy to achieve the correct balance of nutrients if you make your dog's diet yourself.
  • Follow feeding instructions on the packet carefully, to avoid overfeeding.
  • A healthy body condition (shape and weight) — neither over or underweight.
  • Only occasional treats (for instance, for training purposes). Excessive treats can cause obesity which can contribute to serious health problems, such as diabetes. Avoid fatty treats such as cheese. Try lower calorie alternatives (these are commercially available, or you can use green beans or carrot sticks).

The reality:

  • 38% of owners report feeding their dog kitchen scraps.
  • 16% of owners report that food is always available for their dog.
  • Research suggests that up to 40% of dogs are overweight or obese. This could mean that dog owners are unaware of what an ideal dog shape looks like.
  • 48% of owners feed their dog a treat at least once a day.

Dog behaviour

What dogs need:

  • Socialisation — It's particularly important to socialise puppies from three to 12 weeks of life. This means gradually allowing them to experience everyday sights and sounds, as well as meet people and other animals. Your local vet may run 'puppy preschool' socialisation classes.
  • Even older dogs benefit from socialisation and being exposed to lots of positive experiences.
  • Training to ensure your dog behaves appropriately and safely — Training is a great way to keep your dog's mind active, and help you to understand each other. Always use kind and effective methods of training. If you need help, ask your vet, local council, animal shelter or dog club or association for advice, or search for 'Dog training' online.
  • Owners should seek professional advice if their dog has any behavioural problems. Many problems such as digging and barking arise because dogs are anxious and bored. Often these problems can be solved simply by giving dogs more exercise.
  • Daily exercise — Dogs have evolved to spend much of their day migrating with their pack. The 'need' to walk is hardwired into every dog's brain. Some dogs require longer or more regular walks than others. But all dogs should spend some time each day outside the property with you.
  • It does not matter if you have a large property — to a dog, this is still just a very big kennel behind walls. It is not natural for dogs to spend all their time indoors or in the yard — they need to connect with the world and be out in it.
  • Walking your dog through the streets or park allows them to get to know their 'territory', and keeps them physically and mentally healthy. It is also an important way for your dog to bond with you.
  • Energetic dogs may also require some time running off leash (check with your council about the location of leash free parks in your area).
  • Active supervision when around young children — both for the safety of children and dogs. Children, particularly those aged 0 to 4 years old, are most at risk of serious dog bite injuries.

The reality:

  • 62% of dogs did not attend 'puppy preschool'.
  • 7% of owners report their dog is not very well socialised, or not socialised at all.
  • 6% of owners report their dog is not trained.
  • 49% of dogs have a fear of loud noises
  • 16% display aggression
  • 30% have separation anxiety
  • 15% engage in destructive behaviours
  • 15% urinate or defecate indoors
  • 35% bark excessively
  • 35% display anxious behaviours.
  • Only 37% of owners take their dogs on a walk daily.
  • 34% of dogs are taken for walks several times per week.
  • 13% of dogs are walked once a week.
  • 7% of dogs are walked several times per month.
  • 10% of dogs are walked rarely or never.
  • 5% of owners don't properly supervise their dogs when interacting with children.

Companionship

What dogs need:

  • Plenty of time with the family. Dogs are highly social animals, who shouldn't be left alone for more than 4 hours per day. Being left alone for long periods each day makes dogs lonely, distressed and bored. This can lead to many behavioural problems. Dogs need the company of people or other dogs in order to stay happy and healthy.
  • If dogs must be left alone for long periods, it is important to provide them with opportunities for mental stimulation (toys, puzzles, food treats, TV or radio left on). You can also arrange visits from a dog walker or family member or friend.
  • Proper holiday care — This means arranging care for your dog in your home (with a live in house sitter), or taking your dog to a council registered boarding kennel. Having someone drop in to feed your dog once or twice a day does not provide your dog with sufficient company and care.
  • 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).

The reality:

  • 10% of owners only interact with their dogs once per day, with another 2% interacting with dogs even less than once per day.
  • 8% of dogs are regularly left alone for more than 12 hours at a time. Another 15% are regularly left alone for 8 to 12 hours.
  • 39% of dogs have no other animals to keep them company while owners are out.
  • 9% of owners just leave food and water out for their dog when they go away overnight.
  • Another 2% do not make any special arrangements at all.

Dog health

What dogs need:

  • Care taken to keep poisons and toxic plants away from dogs. In addition, some human foods are toxic to dogs, for instance, chocolate, grapes and sultanas. Cooked bones can splinter when ingested, and cause significant injury to your dog.
  • Routine health care — Along with prompt veterinary care for illness or injury, dogs also need preventative health care, in order to live a long and happy life. This includes regular vaccinations, worming, flea treatments and dental care (through dental chews or brushing).
  • Identification — To enable the return of a lost dog to its owner, all dogs 3 months of age and over must be registered with the local council. All dogs being registered for the first time must also be permanently identified with a microchip.
  • Safety when travelling — When travelling with dogs, use a harness to keep your dog secure in the car. In the event of an accident, a harness will prevent your dog from being thrown about, or from, the car. This will prevent injury to your dog and to other passengers.
  • Don't leave your dog unattended in a car, even with the windows open. Cars can heat up quickly on even mild days.
  • If the dog is on the back of a ute, truck or trailer make sure your dog is tied on so they can't fall off.
  • Carry water with you to provide your dog with a drink.
  • Don't transport your dog in an enclosed boot (such as a sedan boot).
  • Desexing — Dogs not intended for breeding should be desexed. This can safely be done from three months of age. Desexing can prevent certain health problems, such as some types of cancer. It can also prevent the development certain problem behaviours.
  • Grooming — All dogs need regular grooming, but long-haired dogs need more coat care than short-haired dogs.
  • A long-haired dog should be combed and brushed once a day while a dog with short hair will usually only need brushing twice a week. Get a brush and comb that are suited to the hair type of your dog.
  • Some dogs with 'wool' type coats, that grow continuously, will also require regular clipping

The reality:

  • 1% of owners report they don't take care to keep hazardous items out of reach of their dog.
  • 3% of owners feed their dog chocolate as a treat, and another three per cent feed them grapes. 17% of owners feed their dogs cooked bones as a treat.
  • 53% of dogs are either unrestrained or restrained only by being held while travelling.
  • 10% of owners haven't taken their dog to the vet for a health check in the past 12 months.
  • 15% of dogs have not been vaccinated against common diseases.
  • 6% of dogs are not treated for fleas or other external parasites.
  • 7% of dogs are not treated for intestinal worms.
  • 4% of owners do nothing to maintain their dog's dental health.
  • 5% of owners have lost a dog in the past five years, that was unable to be found.
  • 18% of dogs are not desexed.
  • 4% of dogs are never groomed and another 23% are groomed less than once a month.
Page last updated: 13 Jul 2020