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It’s easier and more convenient for dog owners to just open the door and let their pet outside for a bathroom break or a run around the neighborhood. After all, what harm could five minutes do?
This is a thought that these owners eventually regret when they hear that sickening squeal of tires on the blacktop near their house.
Or, when they open the door to call them back, just to find an empty yard.
Or, when their local animal control officer notifies them that their dog has killed the neighbor’s poodle.
A lot can happen in five minutes — from minor annoyances like torn-up plants or unwanted “fertilizer” on the sidewalk, to injury or even death inflicted by a cornered, scared or agitated pet. The latter may sound extreme, but animal control officials say this can and has happened.
Most owners know their dog’s hot-button issues, or can calm their dog down if they see him or her getting agitated. Studies show that dogs can be reminded of a previous mental or physical trauma in their lives by certain stress triggers, which can include specific sounds, images or smells. For example, if a dog is abused by an owner who wore a certain brand of cologne, a different person wearing that same cologne could bring those feelings of fear and anger back, causing the dog to act out.
And, regardless of whether an owner is present, any damage and injury caused by their pets is still their fault.
Aside from the trouble that a loose pet can cause, pet owners should also think of the consequences they could face by letting their pet outside without supervision.
A dog is capable of learning more than 150 verbal cues, and their mental abilities closely match those of a two year-old child, according to canine researcher Stanley Coren, PhD. of the University of British Columbia. As impressive as that is, think about this: would you allow your two year-old to run around your neighborhood alone?
Regardless of how a dog owner sees their companion — as “just a pet” or as a member of their family — dogs depend upon them in many of the same ways a child does. They possess as much intelligence as their owner impresses on them, and they are more likely to behave if their owner is around to both teach and enforce good behavior.
So the next time Fido scratches at the door to go outside, grab a leash and harness and join him. After all, fresh air is a little something we all need.