A quarter of a million dogs are experiencing behavioural problems such as anxiety and aggression because their owners do not play with them enough or never take them for a walk.
Up to four million people have been attacked by a dog as a result, costing the NHS £3 million pounds each year.
Research, carried out by Emily Blackwell of Bristol University, revealed that only one in five owners played with their dog six times a day. Half played two or three times a day and 10 per cent only once per day. In nearly three quarters of games dogs started the session by bringing a toy to their owners, while one in five whined to show they wanted a game to start.
Play is the key to a dog’s happiness and dogs are one of the few animals - like humans and cats - that play even into adulthood.
Even old men like to play golf, I am told, but a dog’s favourite toy is a tennis ball. Tennis balls topped the list of favourite canine toys, followed by soft squeaky toys, rubber balls and rope toys.
It is important to note that many of these toys can be bitten into, bits chewed off and subsequently swallowed.
Bits of rubber toys can then become stuck in the intestines necessitating emergency operations, particularly if the rubber becomes petrified and subsequently poisonous.
There are many toys that can be obtained from your vet that cannot be chewed and swallowed. 43 per cent of owners said their dogs liked playing ‘tug’ best and 12 per cent said their pets loved ‘chase’, as does my cat Monty.
Of the 8.1 million dogs in Britain, 2.4 million are not allowed to exercise off the lead on a regular basis and 250,000 are never even taken for a walk.
For dogs that are walked, 81 per cent are taken out for less than an hour, leaving only 16 per cent of dogs that are properly exercised.
It has been noted that the number of dogs being put down due to their behaviour is definitely rising, as well as an increase in dog fights due to lack of socialisation on walks.
We are undoubtedly a nation of animal lovers, let’s make their lives healthier and happier.