'I'm a vet. These are the 5 biggest mistakes I see pet owners make.'

Together with my fellow vets, over the past two years, we supported over one million new dogs as they were welcomed into Australian homes. From rescues to purebred pups, many of our clients that were bringing dogs into our clinics and their homes were first-time pet parents. 

Just like first-time human parents, they were equally overwhelmed with the responsibility and joy of the experience. Unfortunately though, I see the same mistakes being made time and time again, resulting in heartache. These mistakes can range from daily struggles with behaviour issues, financial stress from managing chronic medical conditions to living with regret from buyer's remorse. I hope sharing my experience will help reduce the heartache for future fur families. 

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1. Choosing a breed based on looks or trends.

There are typical characteristics of most breeds with regards to temperament, disease risk and general ‘maintenance’. We all want a non-shedding dog but you have to be prepared for the groomer bills (every 4-8 weeks!). German Shepherds can be lovely dogs but you need to be prepared to invest in training. Some breeds are more appropriate for apartments such as Shih Tzus or Brussels Griffons, compared to breeds such as Border Collies. 


Tip - Pick a breed that suits your circumstance and do your research. Many breeds have breed clubs in each state that are a great resource.

2. Over attaching emotionally.

There is a degree of emotional contagion between pets and humans and this can come with its challenges. It has been well-documented that anxious people tend to develop closer bonds with their pets. Without clear boundaries and expectations, dogs can feel they’re leaders of your household pack. Alternatively, without developing independence, separation anxiety can become highly problematic. 

Tip - Be careful not to inadvertently reward ‘velcro’ behaviour by patting your dog when they follow you everywhere - outside, to the laundry, to the toilet etc and then not pat them when they are calmly resting in their own bed. 

3. Training, training, training.

From socialisation in the early weeks, puppy pre-school and then further training into adolescence, investing in training is one of the greatest gifts you can give your fur-human family. Whilst puppies are new to the family, everyone can feel overwhelmed and excited with all the new things but enabling small problematic behaviours in the early days can result in a very challenging life for you and your pup.

Tip - Book ahead. There are long waitlists for many training schools!

Image: Supplied


4. They are what they eat too.

The old saying ‘we are what we eat’ holds true for our pets as it does for us. A good healthy diet, good exercise and preventative health (yes, you have to brush their teeth) is absolutely worth investing in. The cheap tin of dog food at the supermarket may be your dog’s favourite but it’s not going to give them their best life. Obesity has been shown to reduce our pet’s lifespan by 20 per cent. Add this to the fact that many suburban dogs’ exercise is a lap around the block (and minimal muscle-building exercises) and we have a huge population of overweight dogs that are poorly conditioned and end up with early-onset arthritis. 


Tip - It’s a good idea to include at least some fresh (balanced) food in your pet’s diet and encourage them to chew for 20 mins each day for dental health and mental health.

5. Assuming pets show pain the same way humans do.

Just because pets continue to eat food doesn’t mean their mouth with dental disease isn’t causing pain. Just because your dog still wants to chase a ball doesn’t mean the leg they’re limping on doesn’t hurt. Your cat that isn’t jumping onto the chair anymore is probably in pain. Their signs of pain can be subtle and any change in behaviour should be checked by a vet.

Tip - Any pet that is behaving differently or limping for more than 24 hours should be seen by a vet, even if they don’t appear distressed. If they are distressed, however, an urgent vet appointment is warranted.

Owning a pet brings so many good things to your household - encourages you to exercise, socialise and get outside. With careful planning and effort, especially in the early days, you can set up your fur family for success. Researching the breed or dog thoroughly is the first step. Don’t rush a purchase. Education is power and preparation is the key. 

Dr Nicole Rous is a Melbourne vet, owner of Mont Albert Veterinary Surgery and natural pet health and lifestyle brand, Shy Tiger. 

Feature Image: Supplied

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