Your dog's welfare needs
The five key welfare needs of all animals are:
- Environment — the need for a suitable environment and place to live.
- Diet — the need for a suitable diet.
- Behaviour — the need to express normal behaviour.
- Companionship — the need to consider your pet’s social needs.
- The need to be protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease.
Welfare worries for dogs
- Loneliness — Dogs are highly social animals, yet 8 per cent of dogs are regularly left alone for more than 12 hours at a time. 15 per cent are regularly left alone for 8 to 12 hours. 39 per cent of dogs have no other animals to keep them company while their owners are out.
- Lack of exercise and socialisation — Dogs need daily walks outside the property and regular socialisation with people and other animals to keep them physically and mentally healthy. 63 per cent of dogs do not get walked daily and 62 per cent of dogs didn’t attend socialisation classes as a puppy.
- Obesity — Up to 40 per cent of dogs are overweight. 48 per cent of owners feed their dogs treats at least once a day. Obesity can cause major health problems such as diabetes and reduce quality of life and shorten lifespan.
- Lack of preventative vet care — 15 per cent of dogs are not vaccinated against common diseases, 6 per cent aren’t treated for fleas and seven per cent aren’t wormed.
- Toxic treats — 3 per cent of owners feed their dogs chocolate as a treat, 3 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
Aim to spend a little extra time with your dog, especially if it’s regularly left alone for more than 4 hours each day. You can keep your dog busy while you are out by leaving toys or food puzzles for mental stimulation.
Chat to a vet or animal behaviouralist if your dog shows signs of separation anxiety when left alone, such as:
- excessive drooling
- other destructive behaviours.
If your lifestyle and budget allows it, consider getting a second dog for company and ensure you understand how to safely introduce a new dog to the household.
Feeding your dog
It is highly recommended that your dog’s diet includes meat. Talk to your vet to ensure your dog is on the right diet for its age and lifestyle. Follow feeding instructions on food packets carefully.
If you are considering a raw meat diet for your dog, chat to your vet to avoid health concerns if the meat is improperly prepared.
Learn about the ideal body shape and weight for your dog, by looking at the dog body condition score chart.
Limit treats and avoid feeding unhealthy or fatty treats, such as cheese or cooked bones. There are many safe and healthy alternatives 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 treats are contributing to its weight problem.
Familiarise yourself with the list of human foods that are toxic for dogs.
Make a commitment to walk your dog more often. Daily walks are the ultimate goal, but even one extra walk a week will make a huge difference to your dog’s quality of life and yours too!
Dogs have an evolutionary need to walk. Take your dog to meet other people and dogs and to experience the sights and smells of their territory.
Here are some solutions to common reasons why many owners don’t walk their dogs:
Your dog pulls at the leash. Consider dog training or buy a walking harness to gently and instantly stop your dog pulling on the lead.
You don't have 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 or school.
If motivation is a problem, try downloading a dog walking app on your smartphone. The apps can log your walks to help meet your fitness goals. They can also help you find dog specific facilities in your area, such as off-leash parks and dog walking clubs.
Your dog's health
Check when you last treated your dog for fleas and worms. Your vet can give you advice about safe and suitable treatments and ensure your dog’s vaccinations are up to date.
If you are thinking of getting a puppy — find out where the ‘puppy preschool’ classes are in your area and enrol early.
It’s never too late to teach an old dog new tricks. If your older dog has a behavioural issue diagnosed by a vet, it is possible to be corrected by a dog trainer. Chat to your vet first if you suspect your dog has a behavioural issue.
Doing just one of these things today could make a big difference to your dog's life.
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.