Tag Archives: responsible dog ownership

The problem with promoting ‘responsible dog ownership’

Responsible dog owner

Dog welfare campaigns that tell people to be “responsible owners” don’t help to promote behaviour change, a new University of Liverpool report suggests.

Dog owners interviewed for a study published in Anthrozoös all considered themselves to be responsible owners, despite there being great variation in key aspects of their dog-owning behaviour.

“Policy and campaigning messages related to dog ownership and welfare tend to focus on the concept of being a responsible owner. However, while ‘responsible dog ownership’ has considerable appeal as a concept, how it is perceived and interpreted has not been studied in-depth,” explains lead researcher Dr Carri Westgarth, a dog behaviour expert at the University of Liverpool.

In order to better understand beliefs and views about responsibility in dog ownership, the researchers carried out in-depth interviews with dog-owning households and shorter interviews with dog owners while walking their dogs or representing their breed at a dog show. The interviews focused on dog walking, an issue perceived to be a component of responsible dog ownership, as well as other aspects of campaign messages, such as dog fouling, aggression and neutering.

Dr Westgarth also reflected on her own experiences of walking her three dogs, and on her many conversations with other owners over the two-year study period.

Dr Westgarth said: “It’s clear from our research that responsible dog ownership means different things to different people at different times. It emerges from a blurred intersection of the needs of dogs, owners, and others, where often the dog comes first.

“Dog owners do what they perceive to be best for their individual dog, even if this goes against general advice given such as how often dogs need walking or neutering campaigns.

“Yet this perception may be different from to what others feel is best for that dog, or how people who are impacted by the dog want the dog and their owner to behave.

“Therefore, simply telling owners that they should “be responsible” is of limited use as a message to promote behaviour change because they already believe that they are. Any educational messages for dog owners need to be specific what they want owners to do and explain why that is in the best interest of the dog that they love so much.”

The report authors say that further research is now required in order to understand the implications for wider aspects of responsible dog ownership practices.


Research reference:

Carri Westgarth, Robert M Christley, Garry Marvin & Elizabeth Perkins (2019) The Responsible Dog Owner: The Construction of Responsibility, Anthrozoös, 32:5, 631-646, DOI: 10.1080/08927936.2019.1645506

Source:  University of Liverpool

Responsible dog ownership

In the USA, it’s National Responsible Pet Ownership month (it’s also Pet Dental Health Month).  How can we explain what it means to be a responsible dog owner/guardian/parent?  There are 4 key areas to consider.

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Choose the right dog at the right time

Making the decision to add a dog to your family is an important life choice.  If the dog needs tons of exercise like a Siberian Husky, and you live in a small apartment and work long hours, then probably not the best choice.  If you are about to start a new job, or are in a new relationship, as examples, then probably not the best timing because you can’t focus your time on integrating your dog into your household.   In New Zealand, there seems to be a lot of people who decide to move overseas; if this is a possibility for you then maybe bringing a dog into your life isn’t the right choice unless you are prepared to take the dog with you (which is an expensive exercise requiring a lot of planning and preparation).

A dog is a lifetime commitment.  Ask yourself – do you have what it takes for the next 10-15 years?

Invest in wellbeing – prevention is better than cure

Be prepared to spend money on things like regular vet checks and vaccinations.  Flea control is another cost that is often overlooked until there’s a problem and by then, the fleas are established in your carpets and causing problems.  Choose a high quality diet (“you are what you eat”) and feed only healthy treats.  Keep your dog fit and trim.

Also important is investing is your dog’s mental health.  Avoid behavior problems by working on training, having enriching activities and toys available in rotation, and regular exercise.  Dogs need sleep, too.  So think carefully about the need for commercial daycare.  For most dogs, these facilities tend to overstimulate dogs and can create other behavioral problems if the dogs is left in these situations every day of the week.

As a professional canine massage therapist, I highly recommend massage as a technique for wellbeing and not just rehabilitation after injuries because it helps relax the dog and keeps their bodies moving efficiently.  It can also identify suspect lumps/bumps early so they can be checked by the vet.  Spend the money for a regular professional massage or take a class to learn basic massage which you can do yourself.

Compliance – obey the law

Licensing costs and leash laws are commonplace.  Cleaning up your dog’s poos is expected. We can all do our part by complying with local regulations.

Carry ID

In New Zealand, microchipping is mandatory.  It’s also advisable to have an identification tag on your dog’s collar with your phone number.  In 2011, when we experienced our large earthquake in Christchurch, many dogs went missing.  Those that had microchips registered on the national database and/or had identification tags found their way back to their families much faster.  Some never made it home.

Kathleen Crisley, Fear-Free certified professional and specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

 

Re-branding and going viral

It’s been particularly busy the last few days.  I had expected it to be busy – just not this busy.

The planned part of the weekend was my company re-branding.  At long last, my business is now The Balanced Dog Ltd – a practice focused on professional dog massage and natural care.

When I started in business in 2007, it was as a maker of preservative-free dog treats and cakes and so the company name of Canine Catering suited…but by 2010, my dog massage practice was growing and it is this aspect of natural dog care that has become my passion.

The new name also reflects my interests in Traditional Chinese Medicine and nutrition.  It’s all about balance and health.

But what I didn’t expect this weekend was my first truly viral post on Facebook.  A client of mine shared this cartoon with me and it all took off from there:

This is Jill

You see, last month my column about this subject was published in NZ Dog World magazine.  I’m increasingly concerned about how people are taking to Facebook for medical diagnosis (instead of seeking professional veterinary care).

It’s okay to seek advice from peers when your dog has a known condition.  Support groups for all types of disorders exist on social media; I’ve used them myself.

And I guess a lot of people agree with me – I’ve tripled the number of Facebook likes on my page and have had over 1.5 million views.  Not bad for an independent canine massage practitioner from little old New Zealand…

Thanks for reading my blog; I’ve been writing it for five years now and I still enjoy it and the connections I have made with some dedicated dog parents.

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

Oh…and here’s my column about “Dr Facebook” if you’re interested:

December 2015

Adjusting to the days and the seasons

We’ve had several very hot days this week (which my Northern Hemisphere readers may be jealous of).  For a responsible dog owner, this means being aware of the changes in temperatures and adjusting the care routine accordingly.

Whereas in the winter our early morning walks are something that we often endure with the deep winter darkness and chilling cold, now we get to stroll in moderate temperatures and enjoy sunrises like these:

Sunrise in Christchurch, New Zealand Early morning in Papanui

Of course, it’s also a season when Izzy has to stay home rather than visiting clients because the car is simply too hot for her.  If we needed any further reminder of the dangers, a dog had to be rescued from a car in Dunedin on Thursday.

So my advice is to be aware of your dog’s tolerances for both heat and cold (too many dogs are left outside in harsh winter climates, when they should be cared for with warmth and shelter).  It’s part of being a responsible dog owner.

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, Canine Catering Ltd, Christchurch, New Zealand

 

The sign I don’t like to see

No dogs allowed sign in Dunedin

I was recently in Dunedin on business and noticed these brass signs inlaid into the sidewalks leading to the central business area – No Dogs Allowed.

It makes me sad when I see these signs.  If only we had more responsible dog owners, who trained and cleaned up after their dogs, our cities would be more like those in Europe – where dogs are welcomed everywhere.

In my opinion, we can only stamp out poor dog ownership and training when it is seen publicly and acted upon with enforcement as well as incentives for being a good dog owner.  When we consistently restrict access to ‘good’ and ‘bad’ owners alike, we hide poor dog ownership rather than addressing it as a community.  Peer pressure as well as formal enforcement is a good combination.

Sadly, it seems the re-built Christchurch will also be off limits to dogs and their families.  We are not learning.

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, Canine Catering Ltd, Christchurch, New Zealand

A different way to encourage owners to scoop

Let’s make the world less crap…

That’s the opening line of a current Kickstarter campaign to obtain funding for Poopins, a biodegradable marker for piles of dog poo that haven’t been removed by unthinking dog walkers.

Scoop Ya Poop

Motivated by walks on Sumner Beach here in Christchurch, where numerous piles of dog poo have been observed, local man Stephen McCarthy came up with the idea of Poopins  (think ‘poo’ and ‘pins’ combined).

I’m not sure if this product will ultimately get funded.  But, the fact that someone is thinking of this type of open reminder to dog owners, points to the fact that we have too many irresponsible dog owners in this city.

Picking up your dog’s feces should be non-negotiable.  Today, as part of my weekly shopping, I bought a package of nappy bags (diaper bags for Northern Hemisphere readers) for picking up poop.  Bags are probably the easiest thing to get hold of; I re-use bags when I have them available, and then the nappy bags the rest of the time.

Some of the options that could be available if Poopins are able to launch onto the market

Some of the options that could be available if Poopins are able to launch onto the market

I personally would like to see the City of Christchurch become more dog-friendly with urban design that makes responsible dog ownership the norm – and apply peer pressure to those dog owners who are not responsible.  When dog owners don’t clean up, they make it harder for the rest of us to enjoy our dogs openly and with a variety of locations to choose from.

My other posts on this subject include:

Please – no matter where you live in this world – clean up after your dog.  It’s the responsible thing to do!

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, Canine Catering Ltd, Christchurch, New Zealand

Get Healthy, Get a Dog

The Harvard Medical School has published a special health report entitled Get Healthy, Get a Dog:  The health benefits of canine companionship. 

The report details the many ways that dogs can improve the lives of humans.

Get Healthy, Get a DogIn promoting the report, the School says:

There are many reason why dogs are called humans’ best friends: not only do they offer unparalleled companionship, but a growing body of research shows they also boost human health. Owning a dog can prompt you to be more physically active — have leash, will walk. It can also:

  • help you be calmer, more mindful, and more present in your life
  • make kids more active, secure, and responsible
  • improve the lives of older individuals
  • make you more social and less isolated

Just petting a dog can reduce the petter’s blood pressure and heart rate (while having a positive effect on the dog as well).

The report can be purchased in print (US$20), in .pdf electronic version (US$18) or both (US$29) from this webpage.

I’m pleased to see this type of publication coming from such a reputable institution.  Dogs and humans both benefit when  humans take responsibility for a committed and healthy relationship.  I particularly like that the report also covers grief, since we all will face grieving the loss of beloved pet (given the odds – since we live a lot longer than our dogs do).

The chapters in the report include:

  • Our dogs, ourselves
    • Benefits of dog ownership
    • Service dogs
  • How dogs make us healthier
    • Physical activity
    • Cardiovascular benefits
    • Reduced asthma and allergies in kids
    • Psychological benefits
    • How human contact benefits dogs
  • SPECIAL SECTION
    • Nutrition guidelines for dogs
  • Exercise for you and your dog
    • Exercise whys and wherefores
    • The exercise prescription for people
    • Exercise guidelines for dogs
    • Help your dog avoid injuries
    • Walking with your dog
    • Hiking
    • Running
    • Biking
    • Swimming
    • Playing fetch, Frisbee, or flying disc
    • Agility training
    • Skijoring
    • Playing inside the house
  • Adopting a dog
    • Deciding on the qualities you want
    • Breed considerations
    • Finding your dog
  • How to be a responsible dog owner
    • Basic equipment
    • Veterinary care
    • Dogs in cars
    • Providing for your dog while you’re at work
  • Raising a well-behaved dog
    • Obedience training
    • Housetraining
    • Keeping dogs off furniture … or not
    • Soothing the anxious hound
  • Grieving a loss
  • Resources
  • Glossary

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, Canine Catering Ltd, Christchurch, New Zealand