Adopting a dog changed my life more than almost anything else. Believe it or not, I wasn’t a huge dog person before I adopted my sweet little fur ball. I have had my cat, Panda, for 4 years, and she has always been a wonderful companion. But I love animals, and I’m someone who struggles with loneliness despite being an introvert, so I suppose it was only a matter of time until I brought home a dog.
When I adopted Rumi, or Ru as I typically call her, my life was incredibly stable. I’d had the same job and apartment for two years and had no intention of leaving either. My boyfriend of five years was moving back to town, after doing the long distance thing for two of those. Many of my friends had moved away and I was never a social butterfly anyways, so I had plenty of spare time. And, as flippant as it may sound, I was looking for a big project to throw myself into. It’s a good thing that I was at that point in my life, because Ru was the most all-consuming project I could imagine having for the first six months. Now that she’s mellowed out and comes to work with me every day, it’s easier, but it took most of my free time for half a year to get to this point.
1. Time, Space, and Money
Dogs take time. A lot of time. You think you know how much time your dog is going to take? Now times that by two. Times three for a young dog. Not only are there walks and more vigorous activities required, like trips to the dog park and play time, there is constant training. Accept that there will be times you can’t go on a trip or even go out for drinks after work because your dog cannot be home alone that long. And don’t forget, the less time you spend with your dog, the more attention starved she will be and the more she will misbehave. Some types of dogs require space to run, otherwise they go crazy after a couple of days, so if you don’t have a backyard, make sure there is somewhere you can regularly bring your dog to get its ya-yas out. A happy dog is a tired dog! And young, active dogs get into a lot of trouble. Not only will there likely be the standard check-ups and flea medication, many dogs will likely injure themselves, get an infection, and/or come down with something worse. And I think it goes without saying that you are making a long, long term commitment, and no dog should end up in a shelter ever.
2. Pick A Dog That’s Right for Your Lifestyle
This one seems obvious, but unfortunately still so many people don’t follow it. For example, I absolutely love border collies. I love how smart, engaged, and on-the-level they are. Plus, they’re BEAUTIFUL. However, they’re also completely crazy and require an absurd amount of exercise. They were simply not bred to be household dogs and adoptions of them unfortunately often fail. I just don’t have time to throw a frisbee for my dog for 2 hours every single day! Not to mention their long hair gets everywhere. Consider looking at and contacting local rescue agencies. Not only do they have many amazing dogs of all kinds of breeds and mixes, foster parents have lived with these dogs and can give you a clear idea of their habits and needs in a healthy environment. I’m sure you can find an adorable dog has the right needs for what you can provide!
4. Take Training Classes
I cannot emphasize this one enough. After all, you’ll be living with this dog for many years to come! Don’t you want her to walk well on a leash and listen to you? Just two weeks after I adopted Ru, we started doing doggy training classes. It helped us bond, taught us both good habits, and I still credit it with the reason the adoption was so successful. Also, don’t just show up to class, but practice constantly outside. Habits get set in the first few months you bring home a dog, and it’s easier to teach her then than any other time. I stopped feeding Ru from a bowl altogether and instead kept a treat pouch on me at all times with her kibble. Every time Ru would do a good behavior, she would get a reward. To this day, her recall is one of the best of any dog I’ve met.
4. Know Your Dog’s Limits and Respect Them
Maybe you picture yourself lounging at a cafe with your dog or taking her to a popular hiking spot or dog beach. The truth is, though, some dogs don’t like crowds or other dogs. Some dogs get overwhelmed by kids. It’s your job as a responsible pet owner to figure out what doesn’t work for your dog and take responsibility for creating a comfortable environment for them. So many dog bites happen just because a dog is afraid and pushed too far out of her comfort zone. Don’t ask too much of your dog and respect her limitations. I’m very lucky in that Ru does well with kids and dogs, but sometimes she gets a little overly enthusiastic about puppies. When this happens, I make sure I’m standing directly over her while she’s playing with the puppy, reminding her “gentle” over and over again and occasionally pulling her off so everyone can take a breather.
4. You Are Not Your Dog’s Friend
I heard this before I adopted Ru, but I really understand it now. Everyone thinks it sounds so FUN to have a dog, and it is! They’re cute, happy, bouncy balls of joy. If you’re lucky, they can be your constant companion wherever you go. However, you are not your dog’s friend. Other people can be your dog’s friend, but you are your dog’s leader. Your dog will misbehave, most likely often at first, and you will constantly need to correct them. Sometimes this will involve scolding and sometimes it will involve hurting their feelings, and you need to get over that. Sometimes it will involve disciplining your dog in front of family or friends, even though it’s embarrassing. Consistency is the key, so that your dog clearly understands the boundaries and rules and learns that she cannot push them to get what she wants.
Is it worth it?
A friend once told me a couple of days before I brought home Ru that there would be good days and there would be bad, but with any luck, the good would outweigh any others. And there are many difficult days! Sometimes it’s hard for me to be patient with her troublemaking, from eating the cat’s food to running into the street. There was the time she had an accident in the office (and subsequently has become leashed to my desk most of the workday). She’s chewed up my favorite cowboy boots, been out of control at doggy class, puked in my bed at 3am, cost me hundreds in vet bills, and spilled beer all over my MacBook Pro. But you know what? I don’t regret it a bit.
Do you have a dog or are you thinking about adopting one?
More dog-related tips and advice:
- What to Do When You Adopt a New Dog
- 10 Best Dog Products for a Happy and Healthy Pup
- 9 Tips for Bringing Your Dog to Work
- Tips for Road Tripping with Your Dog