Some owners admit that they've jumped at the opportunity of adopting a dog without doing much research into what taking care of an animal means or requires. Dogs have needs that have to be met, health conditions that arise, maintenance, and medications to keep them healthy, and there's time, money and patience required to integrate them into a new home.Here's what some owners wish they knew (and should've known) before adopting a dog.
1. Housetraining is a full-time effort
Dogs do not naturally pick up on where to pee and where not to pee, or how to give owners a signal to remind them that they need to be taken outside. This leads to many potty-training incidents in the house between peeing and pooping before and after walks. When accidents happen, it's the owner’s fault for not understanding what their dog needs.
The solution is to be proactive and make sure that you're taking the dog outside frequently enough that they have the chance to release their bladder and reduce the risk of them going in the house. Once they begin using the bathroom in the house, it becomes a hard habit to break. Check for signs of sniffing and walking around instead of relaxing; it may be a sign that they need to use the bathroom. Adopting a regular and consistent walk schedule with times that are easily maintained may be helpful.
2. The need to dog proof your home
Like children, dogs know exactly what they are not supposed to chew on or mess with, and that is what they go for first. Be prepared to have shoes, towels, socks, underwear, and anything else within reach to get torn up. Anything that the dog can touch they will grab and take off with, especially if it is a puppy or a young stray.
The best course of action is to pet-proof the home. Get on their height level and look around for anything that could be within reach. Keep all fragile items on the upper shelves and hide all the potentially dangerous items. The next step is making sure that everyone within the home is on the same page regarding the dog's restrictions. They must understand and agree to abide by the limitations of where the dog is allowed and where it is not. When there is no agreement on where they should be, problems can arise later.
3. Dogs cost (a lot of) money
Dogs cost more than just the initial adoption fee. Depending on where the dog is from, they may need to be neutered or spayed or may have an underlying health condition that will run up the vet bills. Dogs also need food, toys, microchipping, flea and tick medication, and possibly training classes if it is too much to do on your own. There are many lifelong care expenses that some owners forget to consider, too.
In addition to the best care and upkeep cost of having a dog, there are extra fees. Leashes, collars, and other dog equipment can cost a lot and depend on the environment where you live, and you may need to invest in a heated doghouse or coats. If the dog is going to be kennel trained, be prepared to purchase multiple sizes over time. Dogs grow, and if the dog is less than a year old, expect them to continue growing. The same goes for collars; dogs grow and will possibly need different size collars as they continue to grow.
4. Dogs need company to socialize regularly
First-time dog owners may not realize how social dogs are and how social they need to be in order to keep up with their physical and mental health. Socialization with only the owner may not be enough for younger dogs with lots of energy, especially if they are not able to go outside and frequently run during the day.
Dogs are social creatures and will not likely leave you alone. Be prepared to be followed to the bathroom, bedroom, den, and anywhere else in the home you plan to go to. If you like to travel a lot, you'll need to bring the dog with you. If you're not able to meet the social demands of the dog on your own, you can plan playdates with other dogs and dog owners in the area or take them to a dog park where they can socialize with multiple different dogs. This does not need to be every day as long as you are showing them attention, but it needs to happen a minimum of twice a month and preferably once a week.
5. Nutrition and safety of pet foods
Some owners will only feed their dog the pet food they pick from the store. While most dogs will eat anything, there are good and bad dog foods that offer (or don't offer) different health benefits and provide different nutrients. The quality of the food is not determined by the price; that is why research is necessary to find the right dog food for your dog.
Like with regular human food, there are dog junk foods and healthy dog foods. Dogs can live off of junk food, but to keep them in the best health they require healthy food. Some dogs are also more sensitive to specific ingredients and require extra nutrients. This will depend on breed, age, and personal allergies. Keep in mind that most dogs do not require grain-free or gluten-free foods.
Adopting a Dog
Don't be surprised when the pooch does not adapt to the new environment immediately, and it takes time for them to adjust and get comfortable. Make the change somewhat easier by guiding them in the right direction by making sure they are adequately trained and treated. Dogs are loyal creatures and will learn to trust you after some time has passed.
Sometimes the amount of effort it takes to raise a dog is underestimated, and owners are not prepared to provide that amount of care and time. Work the price of pet care into the monthly budget beforehand and keep track of any spare time in your day to day life that could be committed to taking care of the new dog.
Make sure to research what taking care of a dog requires before attempting to become an owner. Giving a dog a new and loving home is always great, but if the home is not ready or the owner is not ready, it can cause more confusion and discomfort for the dog and for you.
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