According the American Pet Products survey there are over 142 million freshwater fish being kept as pets and almost 75 million dogs, so the chances of one household deciding to keep both of these animals is common.
Fish can make great additions to households which are already home to a puppy or dog. They don’t require as much attention and maintenance as your furry friend, but they can bring a bright and colorful splash to your home as well as plenty of personality.
But, is it safe to keep dogs and fish together? What are the top things you need to keep in mind? In this article, Robert Woods, editor of Fishkeeping World will take you through some top tricks and tips from introducing your puppy to the fish tank, to any possible fish foods which might be dangerous for your dog.
1. Can Dogs and Fish Live Together?
Dogs have lived with a wide range of other animals since they were very first domesticated. From cats and livestock to fish and reptiles, dogs can certainly live peacefully beside fish as long as they are introduced properly.
You might need to train your dog how to behave around the fish tank if he is particularly interested in it and likes to jump up, but this is relatively easy as long as you have the time and patience.
2. Will Your Dog Be Interested in the Fish?
Some dogs don’t even bat an eyelid at fish tanks; they’re simply not interested, whereas others will pound up and try to use their paw to swipe at the fish.
This really depends on the personality of your dog – you know them best.
You’ll need to watch your dog’s body language when they’re around the tank to determine whether they have a healthy interest or whether they’re a bit too interested.
Normal signs of interest include wagging their tail, perking their ears up, and staring at the tank. More worrying signs include stalking the tank, crouching down, jumping up or pouncing.
3. How to Safely Introduce Your Puppy to a Fish Tank
This is the key to ensuring that your fish and dog can live together harmoniously. Training your dog to live with fish is usually quite easy and straight forward.
Keep your dog on a leash when you first introduce them to the tank, let them get close so they can smell it and check out the new sights.
If your dog has particularly high energy levels, take them out on a long walk or run before introducing them so they’re not overly excited.
For some dogs, that will be the extent of their interaction and they won’t be bothered by the fish. Other dogs might like to sit and watch the fish swimming round. This is very soothing for dogs as well as humans!
4. How to Keep Dogs Away From a Fish Tank
Typically once your dog has been introduced safely to the fish tank, they won’t pay much more attention to them.
Unlike other small creatures, the fish can’t scurry past your dog or cause them to get excited so dogs generally leave fish tanks alone.
The biggest worry around keeping your dog away from the fish tank is in case he knocks it over. To prevent this, always ensure that you place the fish tank on a high, level and sturdy surface.
This will prevent your dog from being able to jump up, or even worse, jump on top of the tank and potentially hurting himself and the fish.
If your dog does develop an unhealthy interest in the fish tank you might want to consider moving it to an area which is out of view of your pup.
5. Is Fish Food Dangerous for Dogs?
Fish food normally comes in flakes or pellets and it is typically just ground up sources of protein which isn’t harmful for dogs, but it may cause digestive problems.
If you feed your fish live or frozen fish, you’ll need to make sure you keep this away from Fido because there is a risk the fish is carrying harmful bacteria such as salmonella or certain fish such as salmon can cause salmon poisoning.
The other worry in terms of your dog eating your fish related equipment is that they might digest any chemicals or medication which you need to use for the fish.
Always make sure these chemicals are kept away from your dog preferably in a high up or locked cupboard.
6. Is it Safe to Keep Fish in a Pond with Dogs Around?
Keeping fish is a pond rather than a fish tank is slightly more risky than keeping them higher up in a tank.
However, it is possible to have a fish pond and a dog as long as you take the right precautions.
Firstly, some dogs have a high prey drive, and enjoy chasing cats or diving for fish in a pond. You’ll really need to use your common sense here as to whether you think your dog will be too tempted by a tasty fish treat.
You might want to use some sort of a barrier around the pond, either a small rock wall or mesh netting over the top of the pond.
Additionally to this, keep a close eye on your dog when you first introduce him to the pond, and redirect him when he’s showing unhealthy interest.
7. Leaving Your Dog At Home with Fish
If you have to regularly leave your dog at home, make sure that you place the fish tank in a separate room to the one which your dog is left in.
Even if your dog doesn’t pay that much attention to the fish while you’re at home, when you leave they could become bored or even stressed and may take an interest in the fish.
If you have a small fish tank which is within reaching distance of your dog, this could be disastrous if the dog jumps up to have a nosy.