Bringing a dog into your family is one of the greatest joys in life. When you welcome a pup to your pack, days are suddenly filled with warm kisses, cozy cuddle sessions and tons of fun. But if you think dog ownership is all sunshine and rainbows, it's time to lay down some real talk.
When my family brought home our rescued Maltipoo, Princess, we knew that there would be an adjustment period. But I didn't realize just how tough the transition would be. Princess suffered from anxiety and was initially timid and shy around my husband and my daughter. She barked and cried when she was home alone, and that caused some tension with a few of my neighbors. Bottom line: Being a dog parent is just as challenging as it is rewarding.
Here are eight things that no one ever tells you about parenting a dog.
Dogs need you to do things for them all day, every day. Maybe you've just settled down to watch your favorite crime drama on television or you're attempting to get some last-minute work done because you're on a deadline. Maybe you're in the middle of making dinner or sweating to a workout DVD in your living room. Let's get one thing straight: Your dog doesn't care.
Dogs expect you to take them out when they need to go out, play with them when they want to play, and feed them when they're hungry. They will bark at you, pace back and forth, paw at your computer screen, drop a ball in your lap, and nudge your arm over and over again until you stop what you're doing and pay attention to them. Owning a dog means your day-to-day activities and routines will be disrupted. Period.
Most people understand that dogs smell. They don't have the same hygiene habits as humans, so a little bit of odor is expected. But what people don't mention is that the rest of your house will begin to take on that faint doggy scent. If you let your dog lounge on your couch, your bed or your blankets, all of those items will begin to smell like your dog. Your rugs will smell like your dog. Those fancy throw pillows that you bought at an expensive design store will smell like your dog. Candles, Febreze and loads of laundry help, but be aware that your home will probably never have that no-pets scent ever again.
When you don't have a dog, it's easy to book a last-minute trip to an exotic island and leave all your worries behind. But when you share your life with a four-legged family member, planning for that dream vacation becomes a nightmare. It's sometimes difficult to find a reliable pet sitter or boarding kennel that you trust with your fur baby. And coordinating schedules with a willing friend or family member is not always easy. Plus, let's face it, spending extended time away from your dog is pretty unbearable.
Vacationing with your dog is always a possibility, but it requires looking into pet-friendly hotels and activities and researching all the rules and regulations if you're traveling by plane or other mass transit options. Suddenly that staycation or simple weekend road trip begins to look a lot more appealing than jetting off for an extended overseas holiday.
After the initial adoption fees and a shopping trip for basic necessities like a collar, leash and crate, you will still spend an exorbitant amount of money on your dog. The ASPCA estimates that the bare-bones cost of caring for a medium-sized dog is nearly $700 each year. That includes food, medical care, toys and treats, but it doesn't account for miscellaneous costs such as training classes, pet-sitting fees, additional medical needs, and replacement pet products. So even though the initial adoption fee doesn't seem expensive, bringing home a dog from a shelter requires a substantial financial commitment for your pet's entire lifespan.
Every dog has its own personality and its own preferences, so attempting to fit a dog into a specific mold just isn't going to happen. Before you adopt, make sure to do some basic breed research so that you understand the traits and characteristics of each breed. Believe me, the differences between Yorkies and Bull Mastiffs extend far beyond their size. But besides just breed disparities, each dog has its own way of handling and reacting to situations, and it's important to never force a dog to be something he's not. Once you make the commitment, you'd better be ready to compromise your lifestyle to accommodate your dog's personal traits and idiosyncrasies.
Training a dog to be well-behaved requires more than just popping a treat in his mouth and telling him to sit. Teaching your dog basic commands is just the beginning, and getting your pooch to gold-star status means working with him every day to reinforce good behavior. And don't even get me started on the frustrations of housebreaking a puppy or a newly adopted older dog. You will go through countless rolls of paper towels, to say the least. Just like taking care of your dog's health and making sure he eats every day, training is a necessary part of dog ownership that cannot be ignored.
Even though most new pet owners rationally understand that a dog's years on earth are numbered, they don’t fully comprehend how hard it is to lose such a life-changing companion. I'll be blunt; it's the worst. Losing a pet is like losing a family member. No matter how much you try to prepare for the death of your dog, that moment when it happens will hit you like a bag of bricks. It will rip your heart out. And anyone who has experienced this firsthand knows I'm not exaggerating.
Yes, dogs are extremely needy and they smell bad. They cost you a lot of money, take up tons of your time and make it hard to plan your dream vacation. They come with weird and wonderful quirks, and, sadly, they will eventually pass away and leave you crushed. But the love, friendship and loyalty dogs bring to their pet parents' lives make everything worth it. I wouldn't trade being a pet parent for anything.
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