The 9 Hardest Things About Owning A Dog That No One Ever Tells You About
Getting a dog is just about one of the best things you can do, both for them and for you. So if you've thought about it, and it feels like a good choice, now may be the time to adopt. But do know there are many difficult things about owning a dog that no one ever talks about.
"Many people adopt a dog thinking they'll get nothing but snuggles and happiness. You certainly will get that, but you'll also have accidents on your couch, moments of misbehavior, and missing socks," Dr. Jessica Trimble, DVM, a vet with Fuzzy Pet Health, tells Bustle. "Your heart will break when they have to stay the night in the hospital after being treated for eating that missing sock, and your wallet will hurt too if you don't budget for those sorts of misadventures."
It sucks to think about these potential downsides, but they're important to be aware of all the same. Not only will it help you make the right decision, but knowing exactly what you're signing up for can make you a better pet owner. Here are a few potentially difficult situations to expect and prepare for, if you want to get a dog.
1. Training Can Take Longer Than You Think
While you might luck out and adopt a dog who already knows how to sit, stay, and so on — chances are you'll end up with a wild puppy who barks, runs amok, and chews up everything you own. So be prepared to show them the ropes, over and over again.
"Teaching dogs to live nicely in our homes takes a lot of work," Kayla Fratt, an Associate Certified Dog Behavior Consultant, tells Bustle. "Dogs aren’t born knowing the rules of human society [...] and they don’t speak our language. It’s a lot of work to kindly, effectively, and consistently teach dogs how to act in our homes."
2. It's Like Having A Small Child In The House
Even after you train your dog, they can still surprise you and make mistakes. "You can come home to a chewed up coffee table and a knocked over trash can," Dr. Trimble says. "Dogs can, and will, get themselves in trouble — [especially] if your place isn't dog-proofed. They will maintain the mentality of a three- or four-year-old forever, which means they retain the capacity to get into shenanigans when you least expect it."
3. They Will Tire You Out
If you're a fan of sleeping in, get ready to be woken up well before your alarm by a dog who needs to pee/walk/eat ASAP. As Fratt says, "Even as a professional trainer, I was surprised how tiring dog ownership can be." Dogs can be needy, and they don't care what time it is.
And it only starts there. Add in "multiple walks per day, multiple feedings per day [...] frequent bathing, grooming, and nail trims, daily teeth-brushing, training sessions, [and] un-ending stops at the pet store," Dr. Trimble says.
Obviously, these aspects can be super fun, and are part of what makes owning a dog so wonderful. But it might come as a surprise just how time consuming they can be.
4. Wading Through All The Advice Can Be Stressful
At some point, you'll likely have to turn to friends or family for some advice regarding your dog. And that's fine. But be ready to hear lots conflicting, confusing information.
"Everyone will have an opinion about your dog, and some of those opinions will be better informed than others," Dr. Trimble says. "Make sure you get information from people who are well-educated — preferably veterinarians, behaviorists, and nutritionists."
5. They Can Test Your Patience
Knocking over the trash can is one thing. But don't be surprised, Dr. Trimble says, if you wake up in the middle of the night to more mishaps, such as diarrhea all over your floor — which can very easily happen if they eat something they aren't supposed to.
Of course, if that happens, you can simply take a deep breath and clean up the mess without it being too big of a deal. It is important to keep in mind, however, that all aspects of pet ownership aren't always easy or glamorous.
6. Figuring Out What To Feed Them Can Be Tricky
All dog foods are not created equal, and there are what feels like millions of options out there. "Cans and kibbles and freeze dried diets, grain-free and limited ingredient and raw, boutique brands and the old standards," Dr. Trimble says. "What do you choose? Picking the prettiest bag isn't an option, so talk to your veterinarian." They can suggest the correct food based on your dog's age, weight, breed, health conditions, and so on.
7. Vet Bills Can Add Up Quickly
If you're going to adopt a dog, then you've probably already factored in the expense of a yearly vet visit, shots, and possibly things like spaying or neutering. But don't forget to save up for the unexpected, too.
"Dogs can require a lot of veterinary visits," Dr. Trimble says. This is especially true if your dog has an illness, or if their breed has health issues — such as breathing problems or heart issues. Do your research before getting a dog, and start saving up now so that you won't have to worry about paying for health issues, should they arise.
8. You Have To Learn Your Dog's Language
As you bond with your dog, you'll quickly start to know what they're thinking, simply by the way they act. It can be alarming, though, if they start to do something unexpected. And it'll be up to you to figure out what they might need.
"Skipping a meal, not jumping on the couch, being grumpy about taking a walk, needing to go out more — these are all cries for help," Dr. Trimble says. If your dog is acting out of the ordinary, monitor the situation, and get ready to go to the vet if need be.
9. You Have To Go Home Early
Before getting a dog, it's easy to take for granted how free your schedule really is. You can choose to stay late at work, go out with friends, or leave on vacation at a moment's notice.
But all of that changes once you get a dog. "This is true of most pets," Caitlin Hoff, a health and safety inspector, tells Bustle. "You can’t up and leave for a weekend trip or take a spontaneous vacation without finding someone to watch your dog. It’s obviously not impossible to find a friend or pay a sitter, but it is a consideration that you wouldn’t have to worry about if you didn’t have a dog." So make sure that all sounds OK to you, before making the decision to adopt.
While these are all very normal aspects of dog ownership, they can be quite surprising side effects if you've never done it before. Once you know the nitty gritty details, however, you can be better prepared, and take all these mishaps, changes, and setbacks in stride.