Everything I Wish I'd Known Before I Got A Dog
Did you know Josie, that leggy, pointy nosed black hound you see in the photograph above has been in my life for nearly 2 years and her little sister followed along 11 months later. The time has absolutely flown by and my life has changed an extraordinary amount since having dogs of my own, even though I lived with Bella (the westie) for 7 years being entirely responsible for a living being is so different. And there are so many things that I wish I’d known before welcoming a dog into my life as it’s certainly not as easy at the films like to make out. I know this post is a little niche but I often get lovely messages from people who are thinking about welcoming a long-legged hound into their lives so this might be handy if you're having similar thoughts.
puppies are hard, like seriously hard
I know a lot of people compare puppies to babies but as I’ve not yet given birth to a human I can’t really say if that really is the case. Although if Clemmie Hooper has had 4 babies and now has Pablo the sausage dog and she says it’s true then I guess it must be? Welcoming a puppy into your life is exciting, there is no denying that but there is so much that goes into it and that first couple of months can be exhausting. When we bought Josie home I thought I was prepared, I knew she’d need house training, settling at night and a lot of attention and love but I certainly wasn’t prepared for the absolute whirlwind that came home. We got so lucky in some respects as she was house trained very, very quickly but the nights were a battle and it leaves you frazzled and exhausted. Getting anything done was hard, keeping an eye on Josie not only to make sure she wasn’t going to the toilet in the house but also making sure she wasn’t chewing anything she wasn’t supposed to be like my plants, the walls, the furniture and well anything quickly started to take over my life. And when it’s your first dog it can be seriously overwhelming as realistically there is no amount of research in the world that can prepare you for it. I shed tears on plenty of tears when she was a pup and felt awful for it but after speaking to plenty of puppy parents it turns out we’ve all been there.
not all dogs learn the same way
Training any dog is hard, there is no doubt about that. And any sighthound owner will know that training the breed isn’t always the easiest thing in the world and I knew it was going to be somewhat difficult but I wasn’t expecting how little interest Josie seemed to have in learning anything. Looking back at it, we certainly made our mistakes but you’re never going to do it perfectly the first time or ever really. Each dog has their own way of learning and I certainly don’t believe any dog is an untrainable lost cause but some dogs are way more difficult than others. For us, we have to make training super fun and something that both dogs are excited about doing otherwise they’ll make their own fun which is hardly surprising. Shouting and using super strict forms of training which so many people suggested we do not only didn’t sit right with us but it certainly didn’t work. Even when I am upset and frustrated letting it show to the dogs doesn’t help anything, it doesn’t make them behave so taking a step back and some deep breathes works wonders.
you’ll spend a small fortune on them and they’ll have a better wardrobe than you
Something that I’ve very quickly learnt is that for the most part, you get what you pay for when it comes to dog stuff. And after wasting money on things that didn’t last longer than a month or gave Josie a horribly upset tummy I realised that I was going to need to invest in what she was eating and wearing. I now spend far more on the dog's clothes than I do my own but when you’ve got odd shaped hounds the option for nipping to the local pet shop simply isn’t there and you have to order things online. Which is pretty great really because it gives you the option to support brilliant small businesses but I had no idea just how obsessed I’d be finding things that we’re not only practical but looked lovely on too. And Josie and Edie have a beautiful wardrobe if I do say no myself. Here is what I spend the most money on when it comes to them;
Food: The girls are fed a complete raw diet due to allergies and they’ve both thrived on this, not a bad tummy in sight over here anymore.
Collars & leads: Hounds have an unusual body shape and their heads are often only a tiny bit bigger than their long necks which means regular collars aren’t a safe option as they can escape from them. We use martingale collars as they cannot be slipped out of and they’re much softer on their delicate skin.
Harnesses: For really long walks we like to use a harness and finding one to fit their odd bodies was a serious task, Perfect Fit are what we use and love.
Outerwear: Edie especially struggles with the cold and will violently shake if it’s less than 12 degrees so an option of a coat and fleece or even a onsie when it snows is needed.
Beds: Josie loves to have her own space so a comfy bed that she can sleep the day away in is necessary, as well as something with a washable cover.
If you’d told me how much I’d spend on my dogs before getting them I would have laughed at you and said well is that really necessary? And the option of 5 fleece jumpers isn’t no but there isn’t anything that the dogs own that isn’t useful and seen as I bought them into my life the least I can give them is some good food and a comfortable bed.
dog ownership politics are a minefield
Before I got Josie I always presumed that all dog owners were super nice and friendly as whenever I walked Bella I always met lovely people. However, when you have a sort of medium-sized dog who can run close to 40mph it brings out a very different side of dog owners and it’s not always a nice side. We all know that you can never agree with everyone and it’s certainly the same when it comes to dogs. These days I tend to give owners a wide birth unless I have to meet them on a small path and don’t get me wrong, there are some truly wonderful dog owners out there who make walking your dog just that much nicer but there’s also a lot of judgement. And far too many people are quick to tell you what you should or shouldn’t be doing. My rule is that as long as my dogs aren't bothering anyone else and are safe then it's nothing to do with anybody else how I train them.
They’re wild animals
Sounds obvious right? But it’s really, really easy to forget that dogs are wild animals and although they’ve become a member of the family that doesn’t mean that they’re instantly going to lose all of their natural instinct. And it’s so easy to call their natural instinct bad behaviour and obviously, there are some things that are not desirable for your dog to be doing but ultimately they’re dogs. When you get a puppy you try and teach it everything you can in order to make it best dog that they can be but does that mean they’re always going to listen? Certainly not. Josie and Edie are sighthounds, which means they’re stimulated by sight and things moving and whether that is a butterfly or a crisp packet blowing in the wind they’re more than likely going to want to see what’s going on. After trying to train that out of them which is pretty much impossible we’re now trying to work with it to make it work in our favour and that’s way more rewarding. And as for rolling in the stinkiest fox poo, they can find, I’m not sure any dog owners found the answer to that one…
A DOG TRAINER IS A GOOD Investment
I spent over 3 months taking Josie to ‘traditional’ dog training classes and if I’m honest, it was a waste of time and money. Looking back the classes weren’t suitable for us and after being told I loved my dog too much for her to learn I left with a bitter taste in my mouth about trainers in general. That was until recently where we worked with a one on one trainer and it’s the best thing we’ve ever done not only for Josie but for us. There can be a little bit of stigma around working with a trainer like it’s only for hopeless cases but I don’t think that’s the case at all and it’s something I wish we’d done sooner. It cut out all the crap that I’d read on the internet and I was given the tools to help train the dogs that made sense and not so surprisingly they work. As I said, sighthounds are known for being a little tricky but they certainly can be trained with the right tools and a whole lot of patience and cheese.
they’re incredibly special and unique
Nothing could have prepared me for the love I feel for Josie and Edie. I spend all of my days with them and they’re the most wonderful company and have done wonders for my mental health. Although sometimes I do wish they could offer a little more to conversations as it’s pretty one-sided at the moment. I have no idea how any dog owner can say a dog is just a dog because they’re not. They have their own personalities and quirks, Josie is an independent girl who generally likes her own space but will always come in for a serious cuddle in the evening. Meanwhile, Edie, is probably the most affectionate dog I’ve ever known and she will quite happily sit on my lap at any opportune moment and her love for a cuddle never gets old. They’re the complete opposite of each other in so many ways but together they are the best duo I could have wished to spend my days with and I’d be lost without them. They’re far from perfect despite what their Instagram may look but what dog really is?
it’s not weird to want to spend all your free time with your dog
Whatever free time I have it’s spent with Josie and Edie, whether it’s taking them on another walk if the weathers nice or doing some sort of training with them. And whenever my boyfriend and I have a day off together we’ll more than likely plan something that involves the dogs as we love spending our time with them so much as well as the chance of exploring somewhere new. I know there are so many running jokes about dogs being better than people and I obviously know the dogs are not humans as much as I like to somewhat humanise them but they bring me so much joy why wouldn’t I want to spend all my time with them? When you get a dog you try and give it the best home that you can but they’re still inside the same four walls a lot with only you for company which is why we like to get out as much as we can as, although being the lazy hounds that they are they’re perfectly happy being wrapped in a blanket with some sort of chew.