Our #DogKind report is out now, with some revealing news


Our poll on the needs of dogs lifts the lid on what the public believe that dogs need, and how to make man’s best friend happy.

Our new research reveals that although we are a nation of dog lovers, we don’t always understand man’s best friend.

Among the findings from the survey of 3000 dog owners were:

  • An alarming 2 percent of dog owners felt their pets couldn’t feel emotions like happiness or worry
  • 79 percent of owners think it’s ok to tell off your dog
  • 88 percent of owners agreed that training shouldn’t frighten, worry or hurt dogs
  • A fifth agreed it was fine to shout at or hit a dog as punishment
  • 18 percent of dogs are never let off the lead
  • 2 percent of dogs do not own any toys

The launch of #DogKind

Dog playing with football in an outdoor area

A quarter of all UK homes own a dog, and as a nation huge numbers of us are potty about pooches.

However, our survey (which was conducted online in July 2017) found that while many of us have a good understanding and knowledge of what our four-legged friends need – some dogs’ welfare is being seriously compromised by misunderstandings about how dogs think, feel, behave and learn, as well as by our behaviour towards them.

We’re marking the start of the Chinese Year of the Dog (16 February) by launching our new campaign #DogKind in a bid to improve dogs’ lives, help owners understand their pets better and, therefore, ensure they lead the happiest, healthiest lives possible.

How do people understand dogs?

Dr Samantha Gaines, author of the report, and our dog welfare expert, said:

If there’s one thing I can be sure about it’s that many of us are crazy about our canines.

And while the majority of owners think they know their dog’s behaviour and social needs, the truth is that, unfortunately, there are a lot of misunderstandings when it comes to knowing what dogs need to be happy and healthy, and the impact of our behaviour towards them.

Our report ‘Being #DogKind: How in tune are we with the needs of our canine companions?’ is free to download. It explores the general understanding of pet dogs, how people behave towards them and what access the general public has to information and training.

Concerning results about punishing dogs

Dog snoozing in basket with toy

Reward-based training is today widely used in many areas of dog training and 88 percent of owners agreed that training shouldn’t frighten, worry or hurt dogs.

However, a huge 79 percent of owners agreed that dogs should be told off if they do something wrong – and one fifth of respondents agreed it was fine to shout at or hit dogs as punishment.

On top of this:

  • 13 percent of owners reported they used choke chains during training
  • 7 percent said they used pinch collars
  • 6 percent used spray collars
  • 5 percent use electric shock collar

All equipment which can frighten and hurt animals.

An alarming 2 percent said they didn’t believe dogs could experience any of the emotions presented in the survey and a further 2 percent reported smacking or hitting their pet.

Dr Gaines said:

It seems that some owners do not fully understand what dogs find frightening and how our behaviour can impact on their welfare. Shouting, smacking and the use of choke chains, pinch collars, spray collars and electric shock collars can all cause fear and pain.

Why we champion reward-based training

Dr Gaines added:

The RSPCA champions reward-based training and it’s important to remember that training dogs using methods which are designed to scare or hurt them can lead to anxiety in the future and can also make some behaviour problems much worse, even leading to others developing.

Reward-based training which uses praise, treats and toys achieves long-term change in behaviour and doesn’t subject him or her to distress. It also much better protects your relationship with your dog as we're teaching them through experiences they enjoy and value.

Reassuringly, 71 percent of owners reported using food and treats to reward their dog when training, 70 percent use praise and 45 percent use toys, while one fifth of people said they used a clicker.

Download the report

For more facts and statistics from our dog survey – on topics from dogs being left home alone, to dogs who chase livestock and dogs who show fear over fireworks – download the full report for free.

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