All dogs deserve to be happy. Loving your dog and learning to understand their needs will help you identify the things you must do to give them positive experiences and prevent them from feeling worried, upset, frightened and stressed.
This law is called the Animal Welfare Act. The Animal Welfare Act outlines how people must take care of and act towards animals in New Zealand. The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), the Police and SPCA work together to make sure people in New Zealand follow these laws.
Under the Animal Welfare Act, all animal guardians (owners) are responsible for making sure the welfare needs of animals in their care are met. Learning about the Five Domains helps us to understand these welfare needs and how we can make sure we provide these. One of the Five Domains is Mental Wellbeing. In this section, you will learn about this domain and how you can make sure your dog or puppy has positive experiences and is receiving the love, understanding and companionship they need for their mental wellbeing.
When we add a dog to our family we are bringing them into a very new environment and culture with very different rules. On top of that, we are expecting them to understand a whole new language - our language!
But we often make no effort to learn their language. We need to kindly teach our dog to live in our world and teach ourselves to understand our dog’s world if we are to keep them free from fear and distress.
Dogs are very social animals and they need lots of human company.
Dogs don’t like to be alone for long periods of time. They will easily become lonely, distressed and bored if they are left alone for too long.
This is why it is so important for your dog to be with you and your family as often as possible, not left alone shut outdoors, locked in the garage or in the basement.
Dogs should have opportunities to experience new environments, meet new people and play with other dogs. Take your dog to visit other family members, friends, and local people of all shapes and sizes. This will help your dog feel comfortable and not scared with different people other than their pack. Off-leash parks are great places for your family to socialize your dog with other dogs. Check out your city council’s website for a listing of off-leash parks in your area.
Puppies should not be left alone for as long as an adult dog as they are still learning and their little bladders often can’t hold on for that long! We would recommend a maximum of 1-2 hours for puppies under 6 months, but it is extremely important to gradually introduce a puppy to being left alone.
Boredom and loneliness can lead to problem behaviours such as excessive barking and being destructive in your home.
A dog's ability to be left alone varies based on several factors, including age, health, personality, experience, and training.
Factors which may affect how long a dog is happy to be left include:
You can break up your dog’s day by having an adult pop home at lunchtime, asking a neighbour/friend/pet sitter to check in on them, hiring a dog walker, signing your dog up to doggy daycare, bringing your dog to work, etc.
You must always make sure your dog gets the care and attention they need when you are on holiday. Never, ever leave your dog home alone when you go away, if your dog is not able to go with you - make sure your dog is properly looked after.
Arrange for someone responsible to care for your dog. Dogs can be booked into kennels, or cared for by a responsible family member, trusted friend or professional dog-sitter.
While you’re away, make sure whoever is caring for your dog knows about your pet’s requirements. Leave a list of information, such as how much food and exercise your pet needs, any medication they might be on and how to give it, along with your vet’s contact details for emergencies.
You and your family are your dog’s guardians and you must take responsibility for managing their experiences with the environment and other living things in a safe, understanding and loving way.
Socialising is one of the most important things your family can do for your dog, especially as a puppy. Let them gradually meet people and other animals, and experience everyday sights and sounds, especially in their first few weeks of life. If your family own a young puppy, get advice from your vet about socialisation and how to do it properly.
Training your dog on how to behave is another fantastic way to help them cope in your family’s world. Teach your dog basic commands or you could even take them to training classes. Training your dog is a great form of mental stimulation and should be done daily for a few minutes at a time.
Make sure an adult in your household gets professional advice straight away for any behaviour problems that your dog may begin to show.
For more information about training and socialising your puppy, check out our Behaviour section.