11 things I wish I knew before I got a dog

Screenshot of a facebook comment that reads "raising a dog yourself is VERY different from growing up around them. Progress is lumpy and there will be at least a few months where you feel it's all gone out the window. Your dog is communicating with you all the time. If you know what they're telling you, you'll save yourself a lot of pain and hassle."

Oh, the benefit of hindsight! When you get a dog there’s one thing for sure, there will 100% be moments when you wonder to yourself – “why did nobody tell me about this?”

Whether you’re thinking about getting a dog or already have one, read on for a collection of amusing, heartwarming and sometimes horrifying things East Coast dog owners wish they knew before getting a dog. 

Watch out for my personal fav, #9.

1. You might regret your decision at the start but it gets better

If you imagine bringing a puppy or dog into your world will be all unicorns and rainbows, think again… it’s more sh!ts and tears! The reality is nearly 70% of puppy owners experience the puppy blues. 

When expectations don’t meet reality, it’s natural for us humans to struggle. The good news is, it gets better – much better. With patience, understanding and support, you’ll come out the other side of the relentless puppy period and enjoy your dog more and more each day. 

2. The love you have for your dog will grow every day

The love you have for your dog at the beginning only grows stronger. You might find it hard to believe that it’s possible to love your dog more, but as your relationship develops – you’ll find even more love for them.  

Like any relationship, as you grow to know one another better and experience new things together, your bond will expand and magnify. 

3. Disney dogs aren’t real

Disney has a lot to answer for – unlike in the movies, dogs don’t all love everybody, puppies aren’t easy little bundles of floof. And no, they don’t generally like wearing clothes! 

Screenshot of a facebook comment that reads "that genetics are important and it's rarely going to be what you expected. Not every dogs is a disney dog and not every dog will fit with your plans."

Disney’s depiction of dogs being loyal regardless of human behaviour also misses the mark a little. While many dogs are wired to please their humans, without trust and understanding – this one can go wildly amiss if we get it wrong. 

Learn more about the signs your dog trusts you here (as well as how to grow more of it).

4. Things rarely go as expected (even if you’ve had dogs before)

Expectations are the thief of joy! If you grew up with dogs or have had dogs before, you may expect your new dog to be similar… particularly if you stick with the same breed. 

Screenshot of a facebook comment that reads "raising a dog yourself is VERY different from growing up around them. Progress is lumpy and there will be at least a few months where you feel it's all gone out the window. Your dog is communicating with you all the time. If you know what they're telling you, you'll save yourself a lot of pain and hassle."

The truth is, even dogs of the same breed, from the same genetic lines will be different. They’re no more cookie cutter than human siblings – every dog is unique with their own personality. 

5. Every dog is different

No two dogs are the same – and you can’t predict what you’re going to get. Being prepared and committed to handle whatever comes your way will make the ride a lot smoother. 

Screenshot of a facebook comment that reads "this absolutely, even if you do all the research about breed or type, your dog may not conform. Gorgeous, crufts-qualified Charlie doesn't have the temperament typical of the breed. We've just come to accept he'll always be anti-social, snarly, worried wee lad who gives the best cuddles and not put him in difficult situations. He's quite a contract to ex romanian street dog Evie who came to us after a couple weeks in foster, housetrained, eager to learn and whip smart. Very loving, friendly with people and animals, seems to instinctively know which dogs want calm, play or left alone. In addition to each dog is different, I'd add puppies aren't always blank slates and as others have said, are very hard work. Consider an adult, especially a rescue and be patient to find the right dog for you.

A big part of living happily with dogs is understanding and accepting them for who they are… even if it doesn’t match your expectations. 

6. Researching your breed is essential

While every dog is different, thoroughly researching your breed and thinking carefully about your lifestyle can make a big difference. 

Screenshot of a facebook comment that reads "on a serious note, researching breed and their needs. Don't get a dog that needs a lot of exercise and stimulation if you can't give it and then moan that they eat the sofa.

You can’t predict exactly what your dog will be like, but understanding the activity levels and common traits of the breed you’re considering can give you some insights. 

Choose a breed who’s needs match your lifestyle, rather than a dog breed you like the look of. 

7. Perfection and dogs don’t go well together

Perfect doesn’t exist – when it comes to dogs or humans! Striving for perfection will only make you feel bad and could lead to you putting undue pressure on yourself and your dog. 

Dogs are autonomous beings and they behave like… dogs! 

If you accept your dog for who they are and enjoy life together, you’ll both be much happier. 

Screenshot of a facebook comment that reads "oh - also - enjoy it! Have patience, have a sense of humour, accept your dog for who they are. You only get this dog once. Treasure them and your relationship.

8. Puppies are not a blank canvas

There’s a lot of emphasis put on choosing a good breeder before getting a puppy and rightly so. But getting a puppy from a good breeder doesn’t mean you’re getting a blank canvas. 

All living creatures are affected by their epigenetics, their lived experience, and their environment. And that includes dogs. 

Your dog is a living, breathing sentient being who will likely have their own opinions and feelings about the world. We can socialise our puppies and dogs, and attempt to influence their view of the world, but we don’t get to choose what they do and don’t like. 

9. Not every dog is a social butterfly

Just like some of us don’t want a million friends or to be the centre of attention at a party – dog’s can feel the same. 

Some dogs are super social with other dogs or people. Some have a select few doggy pals. And some prefer their favourite people and their own company. 

Screenshot of a facebook comment that reads "that socialising your dog also means teaching being neutral and NOT to interact with every dog or person. 46kgs of social enthusiasm is a bit harder to manage than 10kgs."

Socialising your dog isn’t about forcing them to become a social butterfly, it’s about making them feel at ease in the world. 

You can learn more about proper puppy socialisation here. 

10. Dogs cost more than you expect

The cost of buying or adopting your dog is the tip of the iceberg! Food, vet bills, training and behaviour help, pet sitting and dog walking can all add up to a lot! 

Screenshot of a facebook comment that reads "how much they can restrict your life - holidays, nights away etc. and (linked to that) the expense - I had no idea how it could mount up. Having said all that don't regret it for a second!

Pet insurance is a godsend for making sure you can afford the care your dog needs if unexpected health issues arise. Nobody plans for an injury or a health scare, but these things do happen and it pays to be prepared. 

Since dogs are all individual, you can’t predict how much training or behaviour support you might need. Setting yourself up from the start with good foundations can help prevent behaviour problems developing. 

Check out our affordable online dog training courses here. 

11. The puppy biting phase will feel relentless

We all expect puppies to be a bit bitey – but most of us are not prepared for quite how long this lasts! It’s also totally normal for puppies to have a witching hour at night, usually when you’d most like to be putting your feet up and relaxing. 

Screenshot of a facebook comment that reads "the biting/nipping phase and how long it lasts! My kids (or me) weren't prepared for that, they wore wellies all the time around the house for the first 3 months!"

Puppies bite for all sorts of reasons and contrary to popular belief, they don’t just grow out of it. You need to teach your puppy what to do instead – learn why puppies bite and what to do about it here.  

Screenshot of a facebook comment that reads "that you'll be bitten and nipped every waking moment of the day when they first come home, and that is hard as you finally get this gorgeous little bundle but they're happy to hurt you whenever they get the chance when they're tiny as it's how they suss out the world. But, but, the love you have for your dog will grow and grow every day as your dog grows. And you'll find it hard to believe, but it is possible to love them even more tomorrow than today.

Get your free guide to stopping puppy biting and keep your hands and house in one piece.

Just sign up below and I’ll be winging my way into your inbox with a sanity-saving webinar packed with puppy biting tips.

Puppy biting download

The bottom line: They’re worth all of it

One thing that everyone in the East Coast Dog Training community could agree on, was that dogs are addictive and worth all the effort. 

Even if there are moments where you regret or second guess getting a dog, the positives will outweigh the negatives. 

Dogs bring us joy, make us laugh, give us a reason to go outside… and most of all, they have hearts of absolute gold (yes, even the naughty ones)!

Screenshot of a facebook comment that reads "one more. The positive. How much fun you'll have and how much happier you'll be even when it's 5.30am."

Read next:

Preventing resource guarding: How to help your dog feel secure

Dog Development Stages Explained

The puppy blues (why it happens & what to do about it)

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Becky Milne East Coast Dog Training with Border Terrier

Hi, I’m Becky

I’m an ethical and positive dog trainer who wants to help you create a fantastic relationship with your dog.

I offer fun and effective dog training that makes you WANT to train.