Responsible Dog Ownership: Myths & Misconceptions

Sample article for BarkPark

Pet welfare has come a long way in Malaysia and we are gradually coming to terms with what constitutes a good owner. With examples from Western media of how a pet dog is more of a family member and companion rather than a possession, we’re becoming much more compassionate and have started to care about their quality of life.

But pet care knowledge can sometimes be fragmented and certain misinformation may have become cemented as the truth. How many people do you know believes that dogs love leftover chicken bones?

The fact is that cooked bones are dangerous to dogs and can cause fatal injuries.

What are some other misconceptions about dog care?

Myth #1: Crating is cruel

Sure, it might be considered inhumane if you’re keeping your dogs in cages 24/7. But sometimes, crating is the safest thing you can do for your dog.

Before a dog is fully trained, they might exhibit some risky behaviors such as chewing and escaping. Both of which may seem relatively harmless, but if your dog were to ingest something toxic or run out into traffic?

A good practice is to train your puppy to sleep in a crate at night. Not only does this prevent unwanted behavior or accidents while you snooze, it can also give your puppy a sense of security.

Crates should not be used as a tool for convenience but to supplement your pet care.

How do I crate-train my pup?

First rule of crate training is: Never stuff your dog into a crate against his will.

Throw some toys or treats in there and keep the crate in a high-traffic location in your home. Over time, your dog will get used to the crate and may even sleep in there of their own accord.

When your puppy enters the crate, don’t lock it immediately, but rather, reassure your dog that he is able to enter and exit freely by keeping the door open. Locking your dog up when he hasn’t created an association with security will lead to fear of the crate, which will only set your training back.

If you need to restrain your dog for a short period of time before he is crate-trained, use a harness and a leash instead. Since leashes are generally associated with pleasant experiences such as walks, it is unlikely to create any negative associations if used moderately. Or, you can just keep him in a puppy proofed room.

Myth #2: Dogs only obey their Alpha

The concept of a dominant Alpha leading a pack of wolves was somehow adopted into domestic dog training, but the real kicker is that Alphas (as we know it) do not exist. Alphas are simply the head of the family, or the parents of the pack. Therefore there is no real reason to assert your dominance as a dog owner.

What is the proper way to train dogs?

The general consensus it that positive reinforcement is an ethical and efficient way of training a puppy. Think of them as little toddlers that don’t yet know what is right or wrong and it is our job to guide them. You wouldn’t slap your toddler with a slipper if he chews on it, and neither would you shove his face into his bodily waste, so let’s leave those archaic dog training methods where it belongs: in the past.

With gentle and consistent guidance, your dog will be able to understand what is acceptable behavior and what you do not condone. If you need help, you can look for a local dog trainer or enroll your puppy into obedience classes.