Adding a dog to your family is a decision that cannot be taken lightly. Dogs are excellent companions, but they also require your care, time and money. If you’re really set on getting a dog, do not let this post deter you, but rather take it as a reminder of what’s to come and what to expect. In my particular case, I feel much better when I have a rough idea of what may come in order to avoid surprises. In case you’re wondering: yes, I’m a control freak.
- Dogs eat, pee, and poop. You may think that this is a very obvious thing to say, and it’s true, but its consequences may not be so obvious. It means that you have to be there for the dog every single day, and ideally you should walk the dog at least three times a day so that it gets tired and can do its business. If you have a garden, this may not be such a big deal. For Manel and me, at this point in time, this means that we are more tired than usual and that we almost have no selfish freetime (i.e. time in which we can do whatever we want) on workdays.
Dogs bark. Barking is one way of expressing themselves and they use it. If you live in a detached house with a garden the barking won’t probably be as annoying, but if you live in a flat or an attached house it can be a bother for you and your neighbours. Be aware of this. I know one case of a barking dog that had to be given up to another family because a neighbour complained and reported it. Nix does bark from time to time, sometimes with more energy than others, and I don’t think that she has bothered the neighbours so far, but it’s somehting which always worries me.
- Dogs get things dirty. It’s inevitable. They enjoy running, splashing in the mud, playing hunting games with other dogs, and so on. Then, they return home with their paws and hair full of sand and/or dirt. And doggie drool. In consequence, you can forget about clean floors, unless you’re willing to vacuum and wash them daily (or every other day). If you’re not willing to clean as much, but you’d like to keep things as clean as possible, you can try using doggie wet wipes. They are very similar to the ones used for babies, and can make a difference if you use them to wipe your dogs paws after returning from the park and before it gets back into the house. I’ve found that they certainly help, although we stopped using them so frequently when we noticed that Nix’s paws seemed a bit dry. We cannot be sure that it was due to the wipes, though, as she has been suffering from a bit of dry skin.
Dogs can destroy things. Even if you’re very careful, there is an extremely high probability that your dog will end up destroying something: a door frame, a bed, a sofa, a toy, clothes, you name it. This may happen even if you’re home, as eventually there will be a time when you will be busy and won’t be able or willing to keep looking every 5 seconds at what the dog is doing.
- Dogs shed. As far as I know, there are very few breeds whose hair does not fall, such as poodles. The rest shed all year-round, but particularly in the spring and summer with the hotter temperatures. So expect to find dog hair everywhere and fill your vacuum cleaner with it. The best way to mitigate this is by brushing the dogs’ hair every once in a while (the frequency will depend on the type of hair your dog has).Oh, and get a vacuum cleaner if you don’t have one. Otherwise the dog hair will get stuck on your broom and I personally hate cleaning it.
- Dogs need exercise. The quantity of exercise will depend on the size and the dog’s energy level but you have to assume that you’ll need to take it on walks. Even if you have a big garden, where the dog can run, I believe it’s important that they walk at least once a day. This helps you bond with your dog, and you can meet other dogs on your way. In fact, I think that playing with other dogs is an excellent way for your dog to burn energy, get tired, have fun (really important!) and learn to be social towards other dogs.
- Dogs die. As any other living being, they will die eventually. I’m mentioning this here because it can be quite a traumatic event. If your dog gets lucky, it may pass away peacefully while sleeping, but be aware that its death may come after a long period of illness, with all the suffering for everyone involved. One of the most difficult decisions is deciding to put your dog down. I’ve been through this and I had such a hard time that I said I’d never get a dog again (never say never). However, it’s taken me almost four years and a very insisting husband to get another dog.
However, having said that, dogs can have a very positive impact on people’s lives. They love unconditionally, they are very funny, stroking them is relaxing, they keep you company, it’s fun to play with them and many more. Despite all the work and all the things she has chewed or tried to destroy, I enjoy having Nix with us a lot.