THE HONEST TRUTH: DOG OWNERSHIP REALITIES
Dogs are messy, hairy, time consuming, needy creatures. They are often stinky, they love to eat and roll around in the grossest things. They bring you disgusting things, sometimes alive, sometimes not.
Most of them shed. A lot. Count on vacuuming multiple times a week. Your vacuum will smell like dog. You yourself will shed. You will have lint rollers in every room, in your desk, in every handbag. People who drop in unannounced will likely see dog-hair tumbleweeds drifting across your hard surfaces if you haven’t vacuumed in a day or so.
During puppyhood you will go in and out of the house at least every twenty minutes while they are awake, at least for the first few weeks. The first few days home you will likely be outside with them at midnight, 2 am, 4am, 6am. You will be so tired you want to cry. You will follow them around keeping them out of trouble and teaching them the word “no”. You will say “no” more than you ever thought possible.
You will spend the first six to twelve months training them, for hour upon hour. I’ve heard it said that it takes 100 hours of training to form a well behaved pet dog. Those fun and carefree walks you dreamt of? You will spend months walking just a few feet at a time teaching loose leash walking and heel before you get to that point.
When they are senior citizens you will carry them up stairs, lift them into your vehicle, pick them up when they fall down. They will require medicines, many trips to the vet, expensive tests. They may develop incontinence problems that make them feel such shame that you cannot scold them. They may revert back to naughty puppy behaviors, their bodies failing them but their minds still going strong and no way to keep themselves entertained.
You will not be able to leave the house for more than 10 to 12 hours at a time without arranging for a pet sitter. Add the expense of a kennel or pet sitter whenever you want to travel for work, for vacation. Say goodbye to after work drinks with friends unless someone is home to let them out. You will have just enough time to run into the convenience store for a gallon of milk on your way home, because you are playing beat the clock with their bladder. You will need a midday potty break for them when they are puppies, when they are seniors or if you work long days or have a long commute.
Dogs will eat grass, lots of it, and then puke it up on your floors. There will be middle of the night trips outside for upset bowels. You will have a special section under your sink just for pet cleanup supplies. You will have puddles of water and slobber in your kitchen, where you will step in it and get a wet sock. You will have random slobber marks on your clothing from where they laid their heads on you.
You will get up far earlier than you would like, every day of the week, every week of the year that your dog is in your life. Dogs don’t know it’s the weekend. They just know that their stomachs are empty and their bladders are full, and both need to be remedied immediately. If you are lucky you will master the art of falling back asleep after you have cared for your dog’s needs. You can also add at least a half hour to your morning routine as you will no longer be the only one who needs attention each day before work.
When you take a dog into your home you take on an expensive, time consuming and life long burden in which you are 100% responsible for the safety and well being of another creature for life, anywhere from 10 to 20 years depending on the breed. It is a huge responsibiilty, nearly as much as having a human child You are the center of your dog’s universe. And you chose that role. They had no choice.
I know this because this is my life. I am a dog owner. My dogs are forever dogs. And I wouldn’t want it any other way. The mess, the expense, the “inconvenience”, the lack of sleep, the slobber on my pants, the hair nearly woven into my favorite sweater, the doggie nose art on my windows…I cannot imagine my life without my dogs. They are part of my soul. They are a part of who I am.
Not everyone goes into dog ownership knowing the honest truth of what is involved. And that is the reason why so many dogs end up in shelters, or maltreated and tossed aside like a piece of trash. Not everyone understands the work, the monetary cost, the dedication that it takes to be a dog owner. Not everyone understands it is forever.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line: if you do not think you can handle the reality of dog ownership, do not do it. Period. Visit other people’s dogs, volunteer at shelters, or find a way to have periodic contact with dogs, but do not get one unless you are fully prepared to be there for life. It is simply not fair to the dog.
Dog ownership carries the same dedication as marriage vows, for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, as long as you both shall live. The difference? If you want to separate from your dog, they cannot be self sufficient. They must find a new home, and those homes are not always easy to come by. If you want to separate from your dog, it is often a death sentence. A death sentence that you can avoid by really thinking through if your life is right for the tremendous and amazing responsbility of sharing your life with a dog.
If you are ok with all of the negatives that I have listed, then you will love the positives. The sweet loving eyes, wagging tails, and warm greetings when you get home. The silly antics, playful spirit, the games of fetch and their uncomplicated friendship and companionship. The snuggles, the love in your heart when you catch them dreaming with paws twitching and tails wagging. The look that says to you, 365 days a year, that they love you, that you are their world, their human, and that they too cannot imagine their life without you in the same way that you cannot fathom a world without them. The long walks, the expeditions, the car rides, the you-and-me-against-the-world mind-meld.
If you are ok with the negatives, then you are ready for the positives, because they sure do make up for any amount of dog hair and early morning potty breaks.