16 Harmful Things You Might Be Doing to Your Dog Without Realizing

By helloBARK!
Updated on 16 August 2023
Expert Content

If you were doing something to your dog that could be harmful without realizing it, wouldn’t you want to know?

Pet owners can have the best of intentions but sometimes we can do more harm than good through no fault of the dog parent.

That’s why it’s important to do thorough research before you get a dog to learn some of subtlies of pet ownership.

It’s never been easier to find useful resources to help enrich your dog’s life, whether it’s through YouTube videos or websites.

We asked 11 experts from within the pet world to outline some of the harmful things that you could be doing to your dog without realizing.

Our experts touched upon 16 different concerns, ranging from poor dental care to over-bathing your dog, irregular feeding patterns to skipping veterinarian visits.

Australian Shepherd in training (Photo: Adobe Stock)

Australian Shepherd in training (Photo: Adobe Stock)

Forceful Training

Heather Gibbs, Behaviour Constulant At Courteous Canine

Well-intentioned pet owners faced with the challenge of training their dog can find a wealth of confusing resources online and on television. Some of these resources and popular media may point to using dominance or force in your training or imply that you need to be your dog’s leader.

This ideology is incredibly outdated and involves handling methods that cause terrible amounts of stress and pain to your dog, damages your relationship with your dog, and can actually create or worsen behavior problems.

Labrador being fed dry food (Photo: Adobe Stock)

Labrador being fed dry food (Photo: Adobe Stock)

Irregular Feeding

Travis Rice, Founder of WOOOF

While researching our products and which aspects of dog’s health owners struggle a lot with, digestion and irregular bowels came up quite often. It turns out a lot of dog owners will feed their dog different snacks, like a piece of meat one day, or a few crackers the other.

The irregularity in what goes into their dog’s stomachs comes out as irregular and often diarrhea. Owners also think their dog is similar to us in that they get bored with their food, so they change it often which can also upset their dog’s stomach. The answer here is to keep the diet and supplementation consistent on a day-to-day basis.

If an owner wants to give treats, find natural ones without artificial fillers and stick to those if used regularly. Dog’s gut biome can be just as sensitive as our own and if it’s thrown off, vitamins and nutrients will struggle to be absorbed.

Cute puppy dog licking the bandage on its paw (Photo: Adobe Stock)

Cute puppy dog licking the bandage on its paw (Photo: Adobe Stock)

Skipping The Veterinarian Visits

Dr Tiffany Tobaben, Medical Director At Operation Kindness

• Not providing enough exercise or activities – Both dogs and cats can be social creatures and love to have tons of fun, but with busy work schedules and hanging out with friends, sometimes we can get caught up in routine and accidentally forgo the importance of having pet play time that far exceeds that of the typical walks or laser pointer games. Physical activities that stimulate the brain or rely on pet’s instinct can keep them both happy and healthy – after all, cats like to pounce, and dogs are excellent at tracking! Fetch, hide and seek, puzzle feeders and catnip toys are both highly engaging and provide optimal opportunity for some bonding.

• Skipping the veterinarian visits – Pets are important members of the household, and just like humans, they can get sick or injured, too. Sometimes pets develop underlying conditions that are not easily or readily noticeable to the human eye, which is why routine visits to the vet are integral to the health and safety of our furry friends. It means that if there are any issues, vets will be able to diagnose and treat any illnesses in a timely manner. Further, vets are able to give out shots and check up on any dental issues—expenses that can be costly later down the line if not regularly checked.

• Letting behavior run wild – Having an animal misbehave or develop traits that are not always kind can be a frustration to both animal and owner. An overabundance of barking, aggression, jumping on people, chewing, digging and much more are often habits that aren’t pleasant, but that doesn’t mean that pet owners have to live with it forever. Behavioral training or teaching animals new tricks is a great way to not only spend some time with our pets, but it’s an opportunity to provide structure and enrich the lives of dogs and cats; it gets them thinking with engaging opportunities done with lots of love and positivity.

• Bending the rules and/or lack of consistency – A lack of structure for pets can make them feel off balance and eventually lead to behavioral issues. The reason is due in part to the fact that when we say one thing but do another, pets aren’t sure what you mean. The miscommunication can cause plenty of problems and set certain expectations. When it comes to feeding, exercising, handing out treats or other orders, remaining balanced and on a schedule means pets know what to expect and less frustration on the owner’s part if a dog or cat isn’t cooperating.

Vet examines a dog's teeth (Photo: Adobe Stock)

Vet examines a dog’s teeth (Photo: Adobe Stock)

Tartar Build Up

Natasha Nanji, Veterinary Technician

The main thing that I see on a daily basis are pet owners who neglect to brush their dogs teeth every day. Tartar builds up over time and eventually this turns into a hard calculus. Calculus can not be brushed off. It covers the tooth and creates a breeding ground for bacteria underneath as well as below the gum line.

The only solution to calculus is getting your cat or dog a dental procedure which costs upwards of $2000 and requires general anesthetic. This is why it is so important to keep that calculus off your pets tooth. Daily brushing should be introduced slowly every day, starting with just getting your pet used to having your finger in its mouth. Reward them with treats always and it’ll go a lot smoother.

Cavachon puppy (Photo: Adobe Stock)

Cavachon puppy (Photo: Adobe Stock)

No Identification

Amber LaRock, Licensed Vet Tech And Veterinary Consultant At CatPet.Club

• Neglecting dental health – Many pet owners are unaware of the importance of dental health in their canine friends. If a dog is not getting their teeth brushed a few times a week along with routine dental cleanings, they can develop a serious case of dental disease later in life. Dental disease is not only extremely painful for a dog, but can be a huge threat to their health as well. Severe dental disease has been linked to cardiac disease, oral infections, kidney disease, and more.

• Overfeeding – We love to spoil our canine friends with tasty treats. While the occasional treat is just fine for a dog, you should always pay close attention to how much your pup is consuming each day. Canine obesity is just as much of a threat as obesity in humans, and can significantly shorten a dog’s life. It’s important to always feed the recommended amount for your dog’s weight and age.

• No identification – Many owners forget the importance of offering their dogs proper identification. ID tags and microchips are an incredible tool for reuniting lost dogs with their families, and preventing additional stress if your pup escapes from your home. Your dog should always have an identification tag on their collar, as well as a microchip with your information.

• Dismissing behavioral struggles – A naughty puppy may be cute, but an unruly adult dog is certainly not. It’s easy to dismiss your dog’s bad behavior when they are tiny and adorable, but these behaviors can quickly grow out of control. It’s important to implement proper training and socialization from the moment your dog enters your home, and to address bad behaviors when they start.

Corgi eats dry food (Photo: Adobe Stock)

Corgi eats dry food (Photo: Adobe Stock)

One-Size Doesn’t Fit All

Colin Buckley, Founder And CEO Of Happy Howl

A common theme we see with pet owners is the one-size fits all approach to meal portion feeding. If your dog weighs x, then feed them y amount. This approach is fundamentally incorrect as it doesn’t take into account valuable metrics like activity level, current body type, if they’re spayed/neutered and a host of other variables.

The majority of pet owners have no idea of what their dogs daily caloric needs are, yet alone how much they are feeding them. Four of the top five causes of canine deaths are kidney disease, diabetes, obesity and heart disease. Overfeeding by just 3-5% per day for only two months increases the risk of your dog developing one of these tragic diseases and conditions.

We all love our dogs and we all want as much time with them as possible. It’s time we not only rethink what we’re feeding our doggies, but how we are feeding them. Your fur child isn’t like any other pup out there, they need a tailored meal plan size to fit their specific needs.

Downward facing dog (Photo: Adobe Stock)

Downward facing dog (Photo: Adobe Stock)

Forgetting To Provide Mental Exercise

Christian Marcello, Founder Of Team Plover

Most dog owners understand the importance of physically exercising their pets. They know that physical exercise is not only beneficial to their dog’s health but also to their overall happiness and well-being. As the saying goes, a tired dog is a happy dog. But few dog owners appreciate how mental exercise is equally as important to our dog’s well-being.

Let’s face it, our dogs are smart, sometimes too smart for their own good. That intelligence needs to be put to good use in order to prevent our pets from becoming bored and frustrated. Too many dog owners focus entirely on physically exercising their dogs while completely forgetting to provide mental exercise for their dogs. It’s a shame because providing your dog with mental stimulation is easy to do, and is a great way to both improve your bond with your dog while improving your dog’s quality of life.

A couple of my favorite approaches are regularly training my dogs no matter their age (yes, you can teach an old dog new tricks), taking them to new places they’ve never seen before, and playing hide and seek with their favorite toys hidden around the house for them to try to find.

I encourage you to try incorporating mental stimulation into your dog’s daily routine. If you do, I’m sure you’ll find that your dog is happier, more alert, and better connected to you and your family.

Terrier gets a bath (Photo: Adobe Stock)

Terrier gets a bath (Photo: Adobe Stock)

Bathing Your Dog Too Often

Aiden Taylor, Founder Of FurDooz

One of the most common (and stubborn!) mistakes I’ve seen with dog owners is bathing their dogs too often. True, hygiene is important for dogs, but not nearly as much as it is for us humans.

Dogs have a different making, so to speak; their coat has natural self-cleaning mechanisms, and their skin produces natural oils that frequent bathing can dry out, resulting in flaked and even painful skin. Most dogs are averse to bath-time with a reason: not only is it often stressful in itself, but they feel something’s off with the results too.

So how often should you bathe your dog?

If you’re asking this question, chances are you’re doing it too often. There’s not an answer carved in stone. But for most breeds, the answer is once a month to once every few months.

If you take proper care of your dog’s coat and groom it twice a week to remove dirt and prevent matts and tangles, you’ll be able to cut down on bathing frequency without yourself having to “bathe” in the smells and feels of dogginess every time he or she shares your bed.

Dog enjoys tasty treat in a kong (Photo: Adobe Stock)

Dog enjoys tasty treat in a kong (Photo: Adobe Stock)

“Self-medicating” Your Dog

Nicholas DeRoma, Consultant, Veterinary Technologist, and Canine Behavior Specialist at CatPet.Club

• “Self-medicating” Your Dog

I was once in a pet store and overheard a conversation of an owner who was looking for cranberry pills for their dog. They believed their dog had a urinary tract infection, since the dog had been urinating blood. From a medical perspective, I started to think about all the possible diseases that could cause blood in urine, such as a UTI, neoplasia, bleeding disorders, renal disease, urinary stones, urinary crystals, and sterile inflammation of the bladder.I also thought about how many owners may misinterpret other conditions that may discolor the urine (such as how urine turns brown with liver disease, etc.)with blood in the urine when it in fact points to something else entirely.Ultimately, by choosing to try to treat your dog’s ailments at home or over the counter without consulting a professional, you may cause more harm than good, and in some cases, it can be detrimental to the prognosis of the dog.

• Not socializing, under socializing, or inappropriate socialization of your puppy

Dogs have a critical socialization window that typically lasts until they are about 12-14 weeks old. During this time, it is essential to expose dogs to as many various types of people and experiences as possible, creating a positive association with each one. Dogs who are not well socialized during this time are much more likely to have behavior problems. Essentially, any situation that they dog is likely to encounter as an adult, such as being handled by other people, seeing other animals, veterinary visits, and grooming, should be introduced during this critical window. However, as important as this socialization is, it is equally as important that it is done correctly.Alternatively, exposing the puppy to too much too soon can cause the puppy to feel overwhelmed and cause a fear response in the puppy. Many new owners and breeders do not realize the effects of under socialization on the wellbeing of a dog throughout it’s life.

• Punishing your dog

This is by far the number one way that owners unknowingly damage their relationship with their dog. Punishment is a commonly used tactic on both humans and dogs to try to counteract behavior that we deem challenging or negative..However, there are actually very few situations in which the use of positive punishment is actually appropriate. An example of a way in which owners punish their dog typically involves house training. When an owner comes home to dog feces or urine on the floor, it is often frustrating and, in some cases, infuriating to the owner. Some owners even go as far as to say that the dog “knew what he did was wrong because he looked guilty” (this “look” is actually a sign of appeasement, not guilt). However, this is a common misconception. Through comparative anatomy of the brain, we know that dogs do not think the way that people think. As opposed to humans, a dogs primary learning occurs by association. This is what is meant when people say that “dogs live in the moment.” In other words, when you punish a dog hours later for urinating on the floor, the dog will not make the association that the act of urinating on the floor is what upset the owner, nstead they will often associate the urine on the floor as the trigger that upset the owner. This usually causes dogs to start urinating in in conspicuous places. Ultimately, by this example, it is clear that this breakdown in communication and understanding between dog and human causes some very common behavior issues. However, incorporating punishment into a situation often makes things worse.

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