The surprisingly common questions people ask about their dogs

There are all sorts of myths about looking after your dog, and it’s not easy separating fact from fiction. That’s why we’ve selected some often-asked questions about your pet and given fact-based answers.

There are all sorts of myths about looking after your dog, and it’s not easy separating fact from fiction. That’s why we’ve selected some often-asked questions about your pet and given fact-based answers.

Tom Harrison
Content writer
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Posted 8 OCTOBER 2019

What foods should dogs avoid?

  • Avocado – the flesh contains a toxin that could upset your dog’s stomach and the stone can block their intestines
  • Bones – these can splinter and cause blockages
  • Chocolate – the darker the chocolate, the more toxic it is
  • Dairy – dogs find dairy hard to digest, resulting in achy tummies and skin allergies
  • Grapes, raisins, currants and sultanas – these affect different dogs in different ways, but are best avoided as they’re highly toxic
  • Garlic and onions – cooked or raw, as too much of either can lead to anaemia
  • Xylitol – an artificial sweetener commonly found in chewing gum and sweets, this produces a laxative effect so definitely one to avoid

What about sweetcorn? If you have a tin of sweetcorn or have sheared off the kernels from the cob, then your dog can eat sweetcorn. In fact, it’s a great source of protein. But you should never let your dog eat the cob – they can’t digest it and it could cause a blockage, which might need surgery to remove.

Why does my dog keep licking me?

Most of us like to think that a dog’s licks are the equivalent of kissing – it’s not far off and licking can be considered a sign of affection.

When dogs lick, happy endorphins are released into their bloodstream, which makes them feel calm. It’s also a throwback to when they were puppies and licking was a means of communication. If you’re not happy with your dog licking you all the time, ignore it repeatedly and your furry friend will eventually get the message.

Dogs also use licking to gauge a sense of something. Their tongues contain millions of sensory cells, so it’s a bit like the dog equivalent of touching – similar to why babies put things into their mouths.

The simplest reason why your dog licks you is because it likes the way your skin tastes. To make yourself less tasty, switch face cream, facial washes or your soap.

When can puppies go outside for the first time?

Confusingly, the guidance can be contradictory. However, the general rule of thumb is that puppies shouldn’t fully mix with other dogs or enter the world at large until two weeks after their second set of injections. This allows the vaccines enough time to fully protect your puppy.

Vets often recommend that puppies stay at home for those early months, in order to avoid catching a potentially fatal disease or virus. However, dogs are most receptive to socialisation between six and 13 weeks old; after this time they become wary and fearful of the outside world, which can lead to aggression.

A compromise that some vets and pet experts have agreed on is to take your puppy out as much as possible around ten days after the first set of injections – but only under close supervision. In these very early weeks you should avoid grassy areas that other dogs might have used as a toilet, as this will minimise the risk of catching anything nasty. Ideally, you should also try to avoid unknown dogs.

Some vet practices or training schools hold socialisation classes for vaccinated puppies, which are a great way of letting your curious canine explore the world in a safe environment.

Is there such a thing as a dog IQ test?

Yes, there is, but testing a dog’s IQ in a controlled, scientific way is only in its infancy. Research from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) and the University of Edinburgh has shown that you can indeed measure the intelligence of dogs in a similar way to that of people.

The prototype test focused on 68 working border collies and looked at three key areas (navigation skills, food retrieval and understanding human gestures). Researchers found that if a dog did well in one test, then it was more likely to do well in all of them – demonstrating that intelligence levels vary between dogs (just as in humans).

While we all like to hope there’s more going on inside our dog’s head other than wondering when dinner time is, it will be a while before researchers perfect dog IQ tests that ultimately aim to find a connection between intellect, lifespan and health.

Which plants are dog friendly?

There are lots of warnings about plants that are toxic to dogs and what you should avoid, but if you still want a garden filled with blooms, here are some plants that are dog friendly:

  • Snapdragons
  • Michaelmas daisies
  • Camellias
  • Honeysuckle
  • Lavender
  • Roses
  • Sunflowers
  • Cornflowers
  • Impatiens
  • Calendula

To make your garden even more of a doggy haven, ensure the perimeter is secure so that there’s no risk of your pet escaping onto roads. You should also try to ensure that your dog doesn’t eat either slug pellets or slugs themselves. Like many chemicals, the pellets can be toxic and eating slugs can cause lungworm. 

What’s the best treatment for constipation in dogs?

If your dog’s constipated, it will usually sort itself out within a few days. But if it doesn’t, try the following:

  • Increase your dog’s fibre intake, such as adding more vegetables to their diet
  • Constipation can be caused by dehydration, so try soaking dry food in water or offer wet food instead (your dog should also always have access to fresh water)
  • Increase the amount of exercise your dog gets – it doesn’t have to be much, but extending your daily walk might get their bowels moving
  • A very small amount of milk may be given (but not too much as it can give your dog stomach ache) as this acts as a laxative.

If your dog is on medication, constipation could be a side effect. Dogs can be sensitive creatures and any changes in their routine could also throw them off balance and upset their toileting habits.

Of course, there could be physical reasons why your dog is constipated, such as if it’s in pain or if it’s eaten something that’s caused a blockage. If your dog hasn’t returned to its normal habits and you’re concerned, then speak to your vet.

The benefits of pet insurance

No matter how careful you are, dogs are almost guaranteed to get involved in some sort of a mischief, which is why having pet insurance can give you real peace of mind.

Of course, deciding on the right type of policy can be tricky, so we’re here to help you get to grips with what’s on offer, what the benefits are and how to keep the costs down.

If you have any questions relating to your dog’s health or wellbeing, it’s always preferable to ask your vet for advice.

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