Although I had a dog growing up, it doesn’t really compare to getting a dog all of my own as an adult. I had begged my parents to get a dog for years and finally at the age of 14 they gave in when a family friend’s beagle had a litter of puppies on my birthday. It was fate, I thought.
We got Daisy and I loved her more than anything. Unfortunately, I was also an unreliable teenager and not really equipped to deal with the time and sacrifice it takes to be a good dog parent. Not surprisingly, most of the work fell to my mother. I loved Daisy, but I didn’t want to take her on long walks or to classes to work on behavior problems. I just wanted a cute puppy to snuggle and make a fuss over. I grew up and moved out and even though I called her “my dog,” she wasn’t really my dog. I may have loved her, but I didn’t do most of the things a good dog parent should.
When I decided to get a dog as an adult, I gave it a lot of thought. I knew that having a dog was a big responsibility. Yes, they are cute and fun, but they can also become terrors when not trained or given enough activity (at least having a dog as a teenager taught me that much). I also knew it meant I had to be home more and that it could possibly be expensive. Beyond that, I really didn’t know what to expect. As a 1 and 1/2 time dog owner, I am, of course, no expert, but I’ve learned a few things this second time around that I thought I’d share. As much as I want everyone to have a dog because I know how much I love being a dog parent, it is not something to be undertaken lightly. Here are some things I didn’t know before getting a dog:
You will feel horrible guilt when you have to leave them for too long
I clearly remember thinking before I got a dog that I would feel totally fine just popping in after work, letting him out and then I’d be free to go meet friends or family after work. This did not turn out to be true at all. Happy hours are a rare thing nowadays. I will try to rearrange my schedule if I have to do something after work so I don’t leave him for too long. And yes, I’ve even taken my dog to daycare on days I knew I’d be gone too long. You will not feel good about leaving your dog too long, even if you think it won’t bother you. And, even if it doesn’t bother you, it will bother your dog. Being left too long can lead to destructive behaviors.
Most dogs need more than a walk to keep them happy
I thought I wasn’t really the type to go to a park and throw a Frisbee around with my dog and I knew that I probably couldn’t handle a larger-sized dog that could possibly overpower me or others if I didn’t train him well. Because of this, Pomeranians seemed like a good breed for me (plus I was kinda obsessed with Boo at the time too). I was partially right, but I didn’t anticipate that my dog would be so social! Although he doesn’t need me to throw a ball around for hours, he doesn’t really enjoy sitting at home too much or taking the same walk everyday. Every dog is different. Even if their breed profile says they are low to mid-energy, most will still need other stimulation beyond just some outside time or a walk around the block to be happy and well adjusted. It’s important to know whether you will want to devote the time to figuring out what activities will make your dog happy.
It’s not just chocolate that is toxic to dogs
Maybe I was ignorant, but I had no idea of all of the things that are toxic to dogs. Of course I knew chocolate was bad, and that they shouldn’t eat human food regularly, but I had no idea all of the common foods that could poison my dog. The first time someone mentioned grapes were toxic, I panicked wondering if I had any in the house or if I’d given him any before. Read up on what things your dog can and can’t have to save yourself a lot of worry later.
You should educate yourself about breeders, pet stores and dog rescue
I will also admit before I got my dog I was very ignorant about the pros and cons of dog rescue vs. breeders. Although I never considered getting a dog from a pet store, I did consider getting a dog from a breeder. I was pretty much open to all options. As it turned out, I only partially rescued Hunter. He was taken in by a friend of mine after her friend decided she wasn’t ready for a dog. Although I didn’t get him from a shelter or rescue group, it made me realize how many great dogs there are out there looking for homes that just need a chance. I really wasn’t aware before getting Hunter that there were millions of dogs out there looking for homes. And, most sad of all, that so many dogs end up killed at shelters that just don’t have the room to house them all. I don’t judge anyone for getting a dog from a breeder, I got my first dog Daisy that way and loved her more than anything – I just encourage you to at least consider adoption first.
You will love them more than you anticipate
I loved my dog growing up, but I love Hunter in a whole other way. I will do things I don’t really want to do just to make him happy. Go to the dog park when it’s 35 degrees outside? Sure, why not? Go to a doggie playgroup with a bunch of strangers? Of course, Hunter will love it! Stay home on a Friday night to hang with him? One of my favorite things to do. I don’t have children, but I imagine it’s a similar feeling. I know some people think it’s ridiculous to consider a dog like a child (and I’m not saying that it’s anywhere near as difficult or time consuming as parenting a child), but I don’t think the love one has for his or her dog is any less of a love. I would do most anything I could to make Hunter happy.
And that’s why, even though I didn’t anticipate all of the worry and time that would go into being a dog parent, I wouldn’t give it up for anything in the world.
What things did you not anticipate before you got a dog?