Happy one year adoptiversary to my adorable little floof! Rescuing my little poodle-terrier mix, Joey, has been one of the best, and most challenging decisions I have made this past year. Yes, he’s a cuddlebug now, but it took a lot of work to get where we are today. I’m not going to lie, there were times when I questioned why I even adopted a dog in the first place, and then Joey would plop his little fluffy head in my lap, and all doubts would leave my mind (mostly). So if you are thinking of adopting a dog in the near future, listen up:
9 things to know before adopting your first pup:
1. Potty Training
Be prepared to be tested to your wits end. Luckily I adopted Joey at 1.5 years old, so he was mostly potty trained, but that’s not always the case, even more so when puppies are involved. I am by no means a potty training guru, but I did have a game plan when Joey was first introduced to my home. I knew from the beginning I wanted to crate train, and to teach him to bark when he needed to go outside, but it took a few weeks for it to sink in, especially as you and your pup are getting acquainted. Keep in mind: even if whomever you adopted your pup from says they are potty trained (as mine did) there will be accidents, and no, rubbing your dog’s nose in their own urine or feces actually won’t teach them anything. Please, please, please don’t do that to your dog. This article from the American Kennel Club helps with the basics: How to Potty Train a Puppy
2. Understand doggie body language
Dog’s can’t talk. Obviously. But their body language says a lot. Ultimately, you as the owner are fully responsible for your dog’s behavior, so it is imperative to recognize when your dog is scared, anxious, stressed, or feels threatened so you can alleviate any tense situations for you and your dog. When I adopted Joey, “doggy language” was one of the most valuable things I learned. Joey is a rescue pup meaning I have no idea of his background (or why ANYONE would not want this amazing dog) but he did have some aggression issues towards men within the first two months of adopting him. It took a lot of patience, love, calls to dog behavior hotlines, time outs, lots of chicken, and positive introductions to my male friends to help him get over this behavior hurdle.
3. If adopting a rescue, the adjustment period could be as long as six months
When I brought Joey home, he was very shy, quiet, and skittish. I, of course, bought him new toys, which took him about a week to feel comfortable enough to play with. Every pup is unique, but I quickly discovered that he loves walks, has no interest in playing fetch, and would rather hide rawhides and chew toys around the apartment than actually chew on them. (This resulted in me accidentally running at least 7 rawhides through the wash due to me not noticing them hidden in my laundry basket.) Be patient, and your rescue pup will blossom into an amazing little companion, in all their goofy glory.
4. Dogs are expensive
Besides expensive adoption fees, which can range anywhere from $25-$1000+, there is also the cost of supplies: crate $30-$100+ depending on the size of your dog, toys: $10-$50, leash, dog tags & collar: $25-$50, grooming products: $10-$25, and food & treats for three months: $35-$100+ depending on size and breed. Don’t forget about annual vet visits: $100+, annual grooming appointments depending on you dog’s breed: $25+, pet licenses: $50 (for three years in Sacramento), and any extra fees for your living situation. For my apartment complex, I had to pay an additional pet deposit: $400 and an additional $35/month added onto my rent. If you have a puppy, you will probably end up getting your pup spayed or neutered and micro-chipped: $100+. This adds up to at least $305, bare minimum,and that’s just an estimate. Don’t go in blind, otherwise you may need to decide between feeding yourself, or your dog. (Found out Joey is a huge fan of spicy Thai food this way.)
5. They limit your housing options
I was lucky enough to already live in an apartment complex that allowed pets (with an additional pet rent and pet deposit), but as I was searching for an apartment as my current lease was ending, my housing options were cut by almost 3/4ths. It is the landlord’s call, and oftentimes there are breed restrictions and weight limits on top of everything. If you plan on apartment living, scope out your housing options before you adopt.
6. Vacations are harder to plan
You are now responsible for a fluff who needs daily love and attention. If you are planning on doing a lot of traveling, accommodations will need to be made which can be time consuming and expensive. Because of Joey, I can’t drop everything and do an overnight trip like I used to. My family lives in Chicago and when I visit I will need to bring him along, which means extra airline fees and more stressful travel experience for me. There are also dogsitting, and doggy daycare/boarding options which can be just as stressful and expensive. On the flip side, you will find yourself going on more dog friendly vacations (camping, hiking, etc) which can be just as, if not more fun.
7. They need more exercise than you may think
Although Joey only weighs 12 pounds, he is part terrier and can easily (and gladly) go on a two-hour-long walk. Oftentimes the #1 reason dogs act out (getting into things they aren’t supposed to, chewing, running around the apartment, and being excessively needy) stems from not getting enough exercise. I started taking Joey to the dog park near my apartment before I left for work to tire him out early, and it works wonders. He tends to sleep while I am at work, and is content to do a quick lap around the block once I get home. Similar to kids, when dogs get enough exercise, they are happier, healthier, and all around better dogs. Make sure you keep that in mind when selecting a pup, which brings me to my next point…
8. The breed of your pup makes a huge difference
German shepherds and chihuahuas have vastly different exercise needs, personalities, grooming requirements, diets, and respond differently to training methods. Small dogs typically require less exercise and tend to fall in the lap-dog category. It is important to know what characteristics you would like in a pup before adopting. For me, I knew I wanted a dog that didn’t shed, needed only a moderate amount of exercise, and was more of a lap-dog so I limited my search to small poodle-mixes, and found Joey.
9. They will, without question, become your best friend
This may go without saying, but once you and your pup bond, the rest is history. A day does not go by where Joey doesn’t make me laugh and want to squeeze the bajeezus out of him. Yes, he is a lot of work, but I would move mountains for that little furball just so he could snuggle up on my lap at the end of the day. If you are ready for the commitment, and realistic about how much time you will be able to give your pup, you should absolutely adopt…and send me all of your cute pup photos.