WE are almost two years into our journey as dog owners and I feel like it’s a time that is not well documented online as far as discussing dogs goes.
In my experience, before buying a dog you will find a whole host of information about training puppies and managing them but, much like children, once they get older you are supposed to have it figured out and no-one really talks about how much work is still involved.
Truth be told, talking about dogs is akin to talking about children, people will always have their own opinions on how it should be done, but I am going to try and set out (without upsetting anyone!), what it is like to own a dog once you get over the honeymoon period.
We had a cat before we got the dog and in my ignorance I compared ownership of one to the other, and they couldn’t be more different.
On a day to day basis, a lot more consideration goes into a dog. If both my husband and I worked full time outside the home, I really don’t know when we would fit in walking a dog, especially during the winter months when it is dark in the morning and the evening times.
And dogs need walking, I am aware we have a Red Setter who probably needs a run off the lead as much as a walk, and if he goes even a day without a proper walk he understandably gets bold around the home. I am very lucky to have a couple of hours free in the morning between school drops offs and an hour of that is dedicated to walking himself. Sun, wind, rain or snow, he has to be walked so good rain gear is also a must.
When you go away for a break and want your cat minded, you usually use a cattery or need a (kind and obliging!) neighbour to pop in once a day to feed it. A dog, that in our case comes everywhere with us, takes almost as long to pack as the girls do and needs as much consideration on a journey as the children too.
If you bring him on holidays, the dog still needs walking so you make your daily holiday plans around him, and for us that means my holiday lie-in is non-existent because my husband usually takes the dog walking at the crack of dawn!
If you don’t take the dog with you on holiday, you need to consider the cost of a kennel for the time you are away. And the guilt, which maybe not everyone has but I’m an eldest child so it is in my nature to worry about others.
We put our dog in a wonderful kennel locally where they walk him daily and let him out to play frequently, but it’s not the same as them being home with you.
Training is another thing that in our experience is a must in the first year if you have little to no experience with dogs, and an ongoing task thereafter. We went to a dog trainer for two different courses, the second one our lad failed miserably at, truth be told.
Two years in and after a lot of training, he has finally gotten to a stage where we can let him off the lead on a crowded beach in England and not want to bury our heads in the sand as he has lost his mind with excitement and jumped on half the people and played wildly with half the dogs. He is largely well behaved but he has his moments (and those, I can assure you, are stressful). That said, maybe we all do from time to time.
Two years ago, I literally could not understand people who adored dogs, and it took me about a year to really warm to ours. The first year was stressful in terms of balancing the dog and four young children and adjusting to having yet more demands on my time.
Now, however, I adore him beyond belief, he is the best company around the house because he has mellowed. I love walking him; the fresh air and the head space it gives me is fantastic.
I was a bit nervous around dogs before and now I voluntarily engage with other owners and love talking about my dog as much as I do about the girls.
My parents-in-law, whose dogs I have always held at an arm’s length, tell me they barely recognise me now, in a good way... I think!