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Top 3 Misconceptions About Dogs

Have you ever said "be good" and expected your dog to just do so?

By Jackie SterlingPublished 6 years ago 9 min read

According to the 2017-2018 National Pet Owners Survey by the American Pet Products Association (APPA), 68% of U.S. households (or about 85 million families) own a pet. In 2017, a total of about 89.7 million dogs lived in households in the United States as pets. Somehow, in all those statistics, the most staggering one is that AT LEAST 4.5–4.7 million Americans are bitten by dogs every year and 20 to 30 of these result in DEATH, according to the CDC. Yes people, this is "man's best friend" we are talking about. Where did it go wrong in this equation?

I have the 3 most common misconceptions of dogs that I run into, day in day out, working as a licensed veterinary technician. Dog lovers, I highly encourage you to read this article through, it may just change you and your pet(s)' lives.

Misconception #1: "My dog listens to what I say."

As much as I would LOVE this to be true, it cannot be further from the truth. Even though humans primarily use verbal communication, our canine companions communicate with us primarily through the use of body language and then, secondarily, through vocalization. Now this isn't some well kept secret that veterinary professionals are hiding from you. No. The reason things have become so misconstrued, as far as communicating with our dogs, is because of lack of information/education, misinformation, and plain failure of understanding. Here's why I say this.

Movies or shows that have pet stars (be it as main characters or side characters) portray our animal friends to understand every word that the human characters say! Every command and conversation! WOW! Isn't that AMAZING! Little do you know about how many hours and days the animal trainers spend to illicit reactions and behaviors to capture on the big screen. The rest of it is just assumptions we fill in with our minds. If you pay attention to the credits at the end of such shows, you'll realize that more than one dog was used to play the same dog character in the movie! The character of Lassie alone was played by 9 different dogs!

Stemming from this misinformation of the media, comes our failure of actually understanding our dogs. Some of you may argue that your dog understands what "sit, down, come, or shake" means. But all these behaviors were trained. You didn't just get your dog, tell it to sit the first time and them following the command instantaneously, without hesitation. No. The dog was trained, most likely with some form of reward system, to follow the verbal que in order for you to get that kind of result.

The reason I'm pointing this out is simple. There is nothing you can say or "reason with" your dog, to get him/her to do something he/she doesn't already do or not do. Basically, dogs live by habit, or by circumstance. The words "my dog would never run away" or "my dog would never bite someone" should basically mean nothing, because how can you guarantee that? Your dog doesn't understand what "running away" is, and he/she definitely doesn't understand that biting someone is the most heinous thing it could ever do! Given the right situation and conditions, any dog could bite someone or run away, or do any number of unpleasant things that we would frown upon. Intact male dogs have a higher propensity to running away in search of females in heat! Males could sense females in heat 3 miles away, maybe more. And the idea that your dog would NEVER bite anyone, well... I will just let the bite statistics speak for itself. The bigger danger is that you think that, therefore never taking the precaution to access how your pet actually feels about the situation, leading to a possible incident. If you are interested in learning more about how to read your dog, and understanding dog behavior, I recommend "How to Speak Dog: A Guide to Decoding Dog Language" by Aline Alexander Newman, Gary Weitzman; a simple and informative read.

Misconceptions #2: "My dog doesn't need annual checks at the vet clinic, and the expensive preventatives are just money grubbing tactics."

First of all, if your pet lives 1/4 to 1/5 of the human lifespan, an annual health check is the least you could do for a companion you proclaim to treasure so much, because if things can change year to year for us, how much more crucial would it be to get your pet looked at, especially when they've reached mid-age. Things can go downhill so fast for pets, as much as things can heal really fast if you catch it sooner than later. Plus, your veterinarian is trained to look out for the ailments your dog's specific breed has a tendency to suffer from, outside of the realm of diseases that most dogs typically get.

I cannot count how many times I've heard "my dog doesn't need that" when I recommend heartworm prevention, and flea & tick prevention to clients. I guess the opinion of what your dog needs really is your own, but there is a very crucial reason we recommend it, especially in my state. Regardless of where you live in the U.S., heartworm disease is something prevalent, and a widely spreading problem. According to the American Heartworm Society (AHS) 100 percent of dogs bitten by an infected mosquito contract heartworm disease. Did you know? Heartworms may infect more than 30 species of animals including coyotes, foxes, wolves and other wild canids, domestic cats and wild felids, ferrets, marine mammals, and humans. This means that it wouldn't take very much for a mosquito to be a carrier of heartworm larvae, and for your dog to become susceptible to and contract heartworm disease. The amazing yet very unfortunate fact is, heartworm disease is very easy to prevent, but people assume their dog doesn't need it.

As a logical thinking person, I wonder to myself sometimes: "even if my dog was 100% kept in the house all its life, I would never think I could keep mosquitoes from biting my dog." If you open a window and bugs can get in, and if you walk outside for 5 minutes and get bitten up by mosquitoes (when the weather is warm), how likely would it be that your dog would not get bitten by even 1 mosquito? If you can think of an outrageous reason that mosquitoes won't bite your dog, I've heard it. (I could probably write another article on that alone.) The worst part of it all, is that the prevention is fairly reasonably priced (I mean, buy it online if you really have to cut cost), very very safe to use, and it will keep your dog free from heartworm for years to come. And those years don't last very long! Wouldn't you want every year with your dog to be as crisis-free as possible? A happy healthy dog, is a happy owner, because your bank account is also happy, if only for that reason alone! Heartworm treatment costs immensely more, and is so incredibly more toxic to your furry pal. Some clinics even carry the 6-month injectable hearworm prevention. And as far as the most low-maintenance I can think of to do to keep my pups healthy, giving them pills once a month is not difficult.

Now, as far as flea & tick preventatives, I understand that if you haven't found fleas in your dog's life so far, you find it very far-fetched that your pet would get fleas. "Fleas and ticks just can't get through my husky's 5-layers of thick fur." Whatever your reason is, it will only have to happen once, for you to have to deal with a flea infestation in the house, to know... you're living with the risk of getting fleas in your house if you're not using prevention. It can happen very fast, and totally under the radar without detection, until it's too late. I can't tell you how many time I've seen strictly indoor house cats get fleas or flea allergy dermatitis (which is an indication of exposure to fleas) that have never set foot outside the house 99% of their lives, and are happy doing so. So basically, when I hear the "my dog doesn't have fleas" line, I think "yet", or "my dog doesn't go outside/just goes outside to potty", I question the idea of this having anything to do with the risk of getting fleas, or even if those conditions sets your pet up to be flea-free. It's almost like thinking, that you would never get into a car accident, because you have a perfect driving record and you wear a seat belt. Needless to say, if you pet is not on a flea preventative, you are at risk of having to deal with fleas in your house for months, and feeling the phantom itch in the comfort of your own home. (As I'm writing this, my arms are itching from thinking about fleas.) And don't even get me started on pets that come in flea-infested, that we have to call the clients telling them we're going to have to give them flea prevention/treatment if they are to stay with us for the day, and then hearing them go "really? I haven't seen fleas on him/her", while I'm looking at dozens of flea buggers crawling all over this poor animal. Basically, by the time you see the problem, you're knee deep in it, and it's too late to prevent it.


Misconception #3: "I only feed my dog the GOOD DOG FOOD like 'brand A' or 'brand B', they don't have fillers in it."

First and foremost, every time I hear someone say this to me (from clients to acquaintances), I just inwardly scoff because... YOU BOUGHT INTO IT! Those expensive food brand companies have HOOKED, LINED AND SINKERED YOU! I could write 5 whole articles about this subject ALONE, but I'm gonna keep it as "short" as my two previous misconceptions. First of all, let's deal with the BIG BAD elephant in the room, FILLERS! If you ordered a bowl of soup at a restaurant, or buy a can of it at the store, and let's say it's beef and vegetable type soup for example. You get ready to eat it and you find CORN as part of the vegetable portion of your soup. You wouldn't start PICKING OUT the corn and say "this is just the garbage part of the soup just to make the soup have more substance in it", would you? (Please say you wouldn't.) Why not? If so, why would you think the same thing about your dog's food? Dogs are omnivores by nature, just like us (oh my goodness, lucky them! Who would've guessed?) So just as corn, wheat, soy... etc. has nutritional value in human food, why do we deem these SAME INGREDIENTS to be a taboo in our dog's food? As an omnivore, you wouldn't just feed yourself a solely meat diet and deem it healthy and nutritionally balanced. You would make sure you have a good balance of different forms of carbohydrates, proteins, etc. Same idea for dog food, but their balance is slightly different than ours.

A lot more goes into making sure that dog food is of good quality and is a well-rounded source of nutrition, and I know certain brands to have taken this under their wing and produced great results. As I don't want to name names per se, I would advise you ask your local veterinarian for their recommendations of food brands. All I want to say is, just because their first 5 ingredients are names of food you can read, doesn't mean that it doesn't have 20 other ingredients in it as well. In addition to that, the absorption (or more technical term, bioavailability) of what makes up the food is equally important in determining if that food is of a good quality or not. What I like to tell clients is this, if the amount your dog is pooping out is 3/4 the amount that you feed them, their body isn't absorbing anything, it's just going in one end, and coming out the other... in a less desirable state of course. When I feed my 130-pound pup 6-7 cups of food a day, I think about 1 to at most 2 cups of poop come out at most. That's what you want, just saying.

So much more goes into what you think "good quality dog food" is, and I think this article will help you be more informed in this topic. I encourage you to read up and get more sound information about this, rather than buy into the $50, 30-pound bag of dog food you are getting for your lovable pooch.

If you've made it this far, I just want to say, THANK YOU SO MUCH for sticking to it and not giving up on me part way. Stay tuned for more! I might just write some very very interesting stories of my vet life, so look out for them! I would appreciate sharing my post if you liked it. Hope you found this informative and interesting!


About the Creator

Jackie Sterling

Born in Hong Kong, grew up in Singapore, studied in Hawaii, and now reside in Michigan. Mom of 2 going on 3, wife of 4 years and counting, dog loving, work-out enthusiast, who loves God, the outdoors and works as a licensed veterinary tech.

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