By Ann Sullivan
Most people get a pet because they want a companion of some sort. Whether it’s a dog, a cat, a bird, or something else, all animals deserve to be treated with the best care possible. Owning a pet is a great responsibility and should not be taken lightly. When you have a pet, you are responsible for the welfare and wellness of another living being. That responsibility needs to be taken seriously! Many people make the mistake of taking home a little bundle of fur without thinking it through. Getting a child a puppy for Christmas because it’s cute is a perfect example. Well, that puppy is going to need as much care as the child you got it for! There are many mistakes pet owners make. Here are 9 of the worst ones.
1) Underestimating a Pet’s Intelligence
There’s an adage, there aren’t any dumb animals, only dumb people. There’s a reason for that expression. Many people who want to adopt a pet simply don’t understand animals. If you don’t understand what you are getting, chances are you will make yourself miserable and have an unhappy and neglected pet in the process. It’s important to learn animal communication and understand the level of intelligence most pets have. If you don’t, and you blame the pet, you’re among the people mentioned in the adage. All pets have their own personality traits. Tuning into their language is your job so you can have a clear line of communication. If you don’t, you will confuse your poor pet and probably end up frustrated in the process. Most pets can tell you what they want. You only need listen and understand or learn the best method of communicating with them.
2) Inconsistency in Commands and Training
This is especially true for dog owners. When you adopt a dog, it will need training. The training is just as much for you as it is for the dog. Many people make the mistake of thinking the dog will know what they mean. If you use inconsistent language and expect a certain result, that’s a mistake. If you’re telling the dog “out” to get out of your room, and then you say, “go inside,” well, which is it? The dog doesn’t know. He or she knows what you mean when you use one command to mean one thing. Many people also fail to realize that a command should not be an entire sentence. You’re not having a conversation, you’re teaching the dog to respond positively to a word or phrase. Failing to train yourself and the dog is a mistake many pet owners make.
3) Rewarding Bad Behavior
Giving your pet a treat to stop doing something that annoys you is another mistake many pet owners make. They simply don’t have the patience or knowledge to deal with the unwanted behavior and just want it to stop. If your dog is barking out the window, and you give him a treat because you just want him to stop barking, you are teaching him that barking out the window gets him a treat. Likewise, if you have a pet who likes to make off with your shoe or other item, this is an attention getter. If you give chase, you are playing right into that unwanted behavior. After all, the dog took it because he or she wants your attention. By you chasing him, you’re giving it. Many people make the mistake because they either don’t understand, or don’t have the patience to properly deal with the bad behavior.
4) Feeding Human Food
It may seem harmless enough to share your food with your pet. This is a dangerous mistake. There are many human foods which can make your pet gravely ill, or even kill them. Additionally, spices in the human food preparations are generally not good for pets. If you intend to give your pet human grade food, research the types of foods which are beneficial to them. Then prepare the meals specific to their dietary needs. If you are uncertain which foods are okay to feed your pet, do some research and talk to your veterinarian. There are certain breed specific foods to avoid for certain dogs, for example. On the other hand, there are some ingredients which can be beneficial to your pet. It’s important to know the difference so your pet can eat a nutrient rich diet and experience healthy digestion.
5) Buying from a Pet Store
Many people make the mistake of asking “how much is that doggy in the window?” Passing by a pet store and seeing those little balls of fluff, whether puppies or kittens, is a very tempting prospect. Many give in on impulse. After all, that’s why they’re in the window! What many people fail to realize is those cute little balls of fur are mass produced. This is especially true of dogs and cats. What this means is they often come from puppy and kitten mills where the mother of the liter lives in deplorable conditions and is forced to have more liters than is natural. They are also forced to have them much closer together, which means she doesn’t have time to heal and revitalize before being forced to become impregnated again. This amounts to animal abuse and neglect, and is the makings for very unhealthy pets.
6) Not Considering a Shelter Animal
Many people make the mistake of thinking you can only get a good dog or cat if you get it as a puppy or kitten. This isn’t necessarily the case. There are shelters who take in beautiful pedigree and mixed breeds. Sometimes a dog, for example, can be a perfect pedigree or a beautiful mixed breed, and had to be surrendered by the original owner for various reasons. Adopting one of these shelter pets is preferable because you are giving a beautiful animal a second lease on life. You are also freeing up space in the shelter for another pet to have a second chance. People think that because it’s a shelter pet, it’s a no-brainer. That’s another mistake. Many of these shelters have a rigorous adoption process to ensure the pet is going to the right home with good care, and won’t be returned.
7) Not Researching the Breed
Movies and television are guilty of creating breed popularity. Many people fall for this trap and set out to get the dog they saw in the film or show. This can be a huge mistake. Dogs and cats in shows and movies are professionally trained actors. Those tricks and responses don’t come automatically built in. They were learned over a long and steady training process. Thinking you will have an instant trick dog or cat who does what you command is a mistake. There are some breeds which are harder to train than others. Many people do fall for this trap and end up either returning the pet or giving it away. This is not the pets fault. If you get a pet because you fell for the popularity trap, you need to be aware of what you are getting and how to handle proper training and care.
8) Getting a Puppy or Kitten
Some people insist on getting a pet as a baby. Whether it be a puppy, kitten, bird, or something else you must be prepared for what’s involved. A peppy little puppy or kitten might seem fun at first, until you realize it doesn’t have an “off” switch. Many people fall into this trap and find they just can’t keep up. This, again, is not the pets fault. If you plan to get a pet as a baby, you need to understand the level of responsibility and care which is required. Many people fail to do their homework and that’s where the pet winds up in a shelter, or abandoned somewhere, at around one to one-and-a-half years old. That’s the point when ill-informed and unqualified pet owners realize that cute behavior has turned destructive – and they failed to address it while it was in the making.
9) Not Spaying or Neutering
Unless you are a qualified professional expert breeder, you should not have a pet which isn’t spayed or neutered. There are many people who make the mistake of thinking because they have a certain pedigree pet, they are qualified to breed. This is far from the case. These “backyard breeders” are the ones who are compromising the integrity of the purebreds. It’s also one of the reasons cross-breeding different pedigree dogs has become popular. Over-breeding has resulted in the ill-health of many breeds and compromised their standards. Any reputable breeder will withhold the pedigree papers until the new owner provides proof of spay or neutering. A backyard breeder is usually just in it to make money. There is also an epidemic of homeless dogs and cats who end up in overcrowded shelters or worse, they are put to death, because our systems can’t handle the volume of unwanted pets.