What I Wish I Knew Before Adopting A Dog

By: Sara Borzatta


Owning a dog for the first time is full of humbling moments. New pups can make you laugh uncontrollably, exasperate you and make you worry about their well-being. But most of the time, they surprise you with how intelligent they are and how obedient, yet mischievous, they can be in one day.

We polled and interviewed dog owners to find out what surprised them most about being pup parents and what tips they have for newbies.

Here's what we found:



1. Dogs Will Find Things to Get Into

Sixty-six percent of dog owners interviewed said they were surprised by something their dog ate. Top casualties included: walls, underwear, dead things and poop (the top answer). Read on for real life stories of pups getting into all kinds of trouble.

“I would tell guests whenever they came over to put away purses and coats, because my Dachshund would get into it – he knows how to open zippers. He'll eat toothpaste, gum, anything. And he knows he's doing something wrong because he waits for everyone to leave the house. He also gets on the tables if you leave anything there.” - Dachshund Owner

“Molli was really good about everything, but she had a weird obsession with underwear. She used to pull underwear out of the hamper and bring it to guests. It was pretty embarrassing and it was a habit she never grew out of. I always had to make sure the hamper was too high for her to reach and too sturdy for her to knock over.” - Pomchi Owner

The Tip: Make sure to dog-proof your house before you bring your new four-legged family member home. Seal food in plastic containers and put them up high – above the fridge, on the shelf, in the laundry room – anywhere the pooch will definitely not be able to reach. Make sure you have a designated place that's too high for your pup to reach for your guests to put jackets and purses – remember even the little dogs can jump a few feet high.

And the Most Entertaining Response…

“My dog ate three $100 bills that we had to fish out later, tape to a piece of paper, send to Dept. of Treasury to get refunded $300.” - Anonymous Dog Owner

2. Dogs Need to Socialize

Pet owners we talked to said that friends or dog trainers recommended they socialize their dogs as much as possible. Owners with larger breeds seemed to be even more determined to thoroughly socialize their dogs.

“We were terrified to get a dog. We read all the puppy-preparedness books out there. When we got Rocket, we were totally helicopter parents. We started taking him to socialization classes, which was basically just dog owners drinking wine and eating cheese.” - Wheaten Owner

The Wheaten Owner explained that he also brought his dog to children's birthday parties to get the pooch accustomed to little ones running around and fussing over him. While this Wheaten owner was very well-prepared, there was one thing he overlooked…

“We got Rocket during the California drought, so it didn't rain for months and months. We socialized him with everything, but the first time it rained and he saw a man open an umbrella…" Needless to say, Rocket is still a bit umbrella-shy to this day.</i>

“When you have a big ‘scary’ dog, it's really important to socialize them. We socialized ours by bringing him to a barn, where he was kicked by a horse once, and it never happened again. Now he is good with horses, babies and even cats!” - German Shepherd Owner

The Tip: It's really important to socialize dogs at an early age. Take them around all different kinds of events and people. The Wheaten Owner's dog trainer explained to them that dogs smell adults and children differently, so make sure they're able to socialize with both. As the umbrella incident proves, you can't prepare dogs for everything, but the more they're exposed to as puppies, the less-likely they'll be to develop aversions to future stimulants.

And the Most Entertaining Response…

“My dog enjoys crotch sniffing neighbors on walks.” - Anonymous Dog Owner

3. Dogs Will Make You Worry About Their Well-being

One of the top responses we got from dog owners about what they didn't expect before having a dog, was how much they would worry about the pet's well-being.

“We were horrible pet owners. I thought dogs were just a product of evolution, that they didn't need that much. I never realized dogs could have allergies! He (the dog) caught a parasite from something, and then proceeded to swell up because it turns out he was allergic to the antibiotics that they gave him for the parasite! Now I carry Benadryl for my dog, my dog who has allergies…” - Golden Retriever Owner

The Tip: Make sure you pay attention to anything new you use on your dog – new shampoo, flea medicine, or even a new collar – you never know what your dog might be allergic to. If you notice any skin rashes, swelling or anything out of the ordinary, you'll know what the likely culprit could be. The more you know about your pet's usual habits and products, the easier it will be for your vet to understand the problem. Talking to other dog owners can give you peace of mind and give you context for what's "normal." It's also important to find a veterinarian that you like and feel comfortable calling on a regular basis to ask any questions that arise.

And the Most Entertaining Response…

“He (the dog) killed two of my neighbor's chickens after escaping my yard and swimming downshore about a quarter mile. Lucky I was able to find him with the Whistle collar.” - Anonymous Dog Owner

4. Housetraining is a Proactive Activity

"Buster had all of his accidents when I didn't take him out after playing. I learned that if he had an accident in the house, it was usually my fault.” - Golden Retriever Owner

“We put Marco's crate in the kitchen with a fence around it. We then surrounded the crate with Pee-Pee pads. Everytime he went poo on the pads, we would pick it up and take it outside to one corner of the yard where we wanted him to go. We used this method for about a month, he always went to his corner of the yard after that.” - German Shepherd Owner

“He used to pee every time he got excited, once I was holding him and our neighbor started to fuss over him, so he peed on me.” - Cocker Spaniel Owner

“We got Franklin to a point where he wouldn't pee in the apartment at all anymore. But we had to be really careful to always pick him up to take him outside, otherwise he would just pee in the hall as soon as we exited our apartment. We started carrying him from our apartment to the outside of the building before putting him down.” - Owner of small mixed breed

“Vitas didn't understand the connection between drinking too much and peeing. I would take him out to play, sometimes trying to hit activity goals at night before bed. Then he would drink non-stop until I told him to stop. Later, he'd pee himself in his sleep. So I had to cut down on the evening exercise.” - Carolina Dog Owner

The Tip: Be proactive about housetraining. You have to make sure that you're taking your pup out frequently enough to minimize the chance of an accident in the house. Once a dog starts peeing in the house, it's harder to break them of the habit. If your dog is sniffing or walking around the house instead of relaxing, it probably means it's time to take him out for a walk. Make it clear where you want your dog to relieve himself, and always reinforce the same spot to avoid confusion. A regular walk schedule with times that work for both you and your pup is helpful for some dog owners.

And the Most Entertaining Response…

“My dog was taking a poop in the bed of my truck. When I was driving past a bus full of (people).” - Anonymous Dog Owner

5. Your Dog Will Always Have a ‘Squirrel’ Reaction to Something

Even the best trained dog will have a certain trigger that captures his full attention. Think of ‘Dug’ the dog's squirrel obsession in the movie Up. Your dog might not share the same affinity for squirrels, but there will be something else that sends him into an unbreakable, tranced frenzy.

“Rocket would zone-in on specific people. He'd just stop and stare, without moving. Our dog trainer mentioned that we should try and check-in with him and ask him ‘Who's that?’ to try and interrupt his attention and bring it back to us. It's actually really weird when he does it.” - Wheaten Owner

“Molli had an unhealthy obsession with lizards. If she saw one, she took off and there was no stopping her. She really couldn't see or hear anything else while she was on a lizard pursuit.” - Pomchi Owner

“I'd watch Buster make moral decisions from my window while he was out in the yard. He's really into pine cones. He would go outside in the yard to go to the bathroom, but then he would stay out there and play with the pine cones. We'd call him and I could see him stop and think for a second, but then decide to ignore us and keep playing. We had to train him with food so he knew when he went outside, he would get food if he came back in.” - Golden Retriever Owner

Other triggers that dog owners mentioned ranged from picnic eaters in dog parks, to popcorn and ramen noodles.

The Tip: Note your dog's triggers early on. Pay attention to the things that draw his attention away from you more than usual. The more you know about your dog's triggers, the more prepared you'll be to prevent or react to them. Make sure your dog has his Whistle on, so if he runs after a trigger and can't find his way back, you'll know where to look for him.

And the Most Entertaining Response…

“Matilda is a wanderer, and she loves to visit anyone. But she swims the river near our house to get to the park. There's bound to be a picnic in good weather. Well, one day Whistle told me that she was out of her safe zone, so I drove to the park to get her (I don't swim the river). When I arrived, she was paddling up right in the middle of a group baptism in the water. All God's creatures.” - Anonymous Dog Owner

6. Your Dog is Smarter Than You Think

Even with nearly 72% of dog owners we talked to claiming they read a book about dog rearing and/or training, everyone still had a story of the time when they were totally duped by a dog. Never underestimate your pup!

“She (the dog) could open doors by herself. One time we lost her and searched the house for a couple of hours before we found her asleep in a laundry basket in the closet. She had just gone for a nap and shut the door behind her!” - Jack Russell Terrier Owner

“Samson hated going out for his last walk of the night. He wouldn't come when we called him to go out. One night we really couldn't find him, turns out he had crawled inside the duvet cover and was sleeping in there, hiding from us.” - Dachshund Owner

“When we got our dogs, we were happy that the backyard was nicely fenced in. We would leave the house and let them go out to the yard while we were out. We thought everything was fine, until we bumped into a neighbor one day that told us that she, and a few other neighbors, had been returning our dogs to the yard when they would find them out roaming around. Apparently the dogs figured out how to open the latch on the gate and would just go out when we left!” - Owner of multiple Bullmastiffs

The Tip: Make sure you lock doors and gates in a way that dogs won't be able to push or pull down on, a key would be the most secure. Always check-in with neighbors to ask if your pup has been up to anything while you're away. Dogs are capable of finding creative hiding places, turning into professional escape artists and figuring out how to open and close a whole array of doors, cupboards and fences (see Tip 1). A ‘nanny cam’ is a good way to see what your pup does when he's home alone. Your Whistle GPS Tracker is going to come in handy anytime your dog transforms into his escape artist alter ego.

And the Most Entertaining Response…

“My dog was always a Houdini… escape artist. One day I got a call from the neighbor asking me, ‘Why is your dog on the roof?’ My dog bit through a screen, crawled out a window and onto the roof.” - Anonymous Dog Owner

7. Bonding With Your Dog Starts From Day 1

Perhaps the most important lesson of all, don't be surprised by how much you are going to love and need your dog. Bonding starts the moment you meet your pup. Spending a lot of quality time with your dog in the first months of ownership will benefit both human and canine.

“We went to get a dog that came from a big litter of 14 pups. Someone told us that we should go in there and call out the name we chose and see which one comes up and shows initial interest but then goes away. Only one did that, and it was Marco.” - German Shepherd Owner

“When we first got Luke, he was already trained because he was not a puppy. It was really hard for me to establish my dominance around him. He didn't respect me as an owner at all. He respected my partner, but not me. I literally had to train him on my own and keep telling him not to get on the couch or not to do things.” - Owner of large mixed breed

The Tip: Take time out to bond with your dog from the beginning. If you have a family dog, make sure that each member of the family has time to feed, groom and walk the dog. Talk over training methods with friends and family, so everyone is on the same page when it comes to enforcing rules for your four-legged friend. When you go to adopt a dog, take time to interact with each dog – they need time to smell you and gain enough confidence to approach you. Many shelters will allow you to take dogs for a walk, play outside with them or sit in a quiet place with them.

And the Most Entertaining Response…

“I believe my dog is the reincarnation of my previous dog.” - A beautiful thought from an anonymous dog owner

That wraps up our list of what to expect when you're getting a dog for the first time, but check back each week for more tips, tricks and treats to living life with a dog by your side.



*Content for this article was collected from 39 survey respondents combined with interviews from ten different dog owners at Whistle.


Oct 24, 2016

Tags:   pet parenting   dogs   dog training   pet tips  

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