7 things I wish I would known before adopting a dog
- Dogs provide happiness, companionship, and unconditional love to owners all over the world.
- Despite the benefits of adding a new pet to your family, certain dogs can have more health problems, be more prone to anxiety, and cost more than you think - especially if you're adopting.
- Here are seven things I wish I knew before adopting a dog.
I had just broken up with my boyfriend of three years when I decided to take the plunge and adopt my first dog. When I went to the shelter and surveyed the pups up for adoption, my gaze settled on a miniature dachshund, lounging on a pillow, seemingly oblivious to the commotion around him as the other dogs jostled for my attention.
It was love at first sight, and that weekend, I took Finnegan - Finne for short - home.
That was eight years ago. And although I grew up with dogs, having one that's solely my responsibility has been a learning process. I expected nonstop cuddling and play time, but things haven't gone as smoothly as I had hoped.
Here are seven things I wish I'd known before adopting a dog.
1. Rescue dogs may experience more separation anxiety
When I brought Finne home, he would not leave my side - he was my permanent shadow. And when I'd leave home - after placing him in his crate, as professionals recommend - he would go berserk. Not only would he cry and bark endlessly (just ask my neighbors), but he would also urinate and defecate in the crate.
Now, I know that my dog was showing symptoms of separation anxiety, which the ASPCA says is common in dogs adopted from shelters.
2. Crate training doesn’t always work
I thought Finne would eventually get used to his crate, but he didn't. When I told friends and family how much he hated the crate, including his having accidents in it, they were shocked.
Dogs often come to see their crates as their homes - crate training appeals to dogs as den animals, according to The Humane Society of the United States. Since the crate is their den, dogs don't usually make a mess of them.
However, The Humane Society also acknowledges that crate training isn't a solution for dogs with separation anxiety, and they may even injure themselves trying to escape their crates to reunite with their beloved person.
3. Dachshunds are difficult to train
Another factor that played a role in the training challenge was that dachshunds, although intelligent, are stubborn, independent, and difficult to train, according to the American Kennel Club. Once I realized this truth, I resigned myself to the fact that Finne wouldn't be playing fetch or rolling over any time soon.
4. Dachshunds are prone to back issues
Because dachshunds have such long backs, they are susceptible to spinal injuries, according to the American Kennel Club. For the health of their backs, dachshunds should not be allowed to be overweight and should get enough exercise to develop strong supportive muscles.
Despite the best efforts of my husband and I, Finne developed Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD), which is a ruptured, prolapsed, slipped, herniated, or otherwise damaged disc in the spine, according to Universities Federation for Animal Welfare.
Apparently, about 25% of dachshunds get this at some point in their lives. When Finne is injured, I confine him in close quarters, like a bathroom, so he doesn't aggravate the condition with rigorous activity. When he's not, I keep a close eye on him, don't let him jump off the couch, and ensure he uses a doggie ramp to reach our bed.
5. Dachshunds are predisposed to seizures
Dachshunds are also genetically predisposed to seizures, according to All Texas Dachshund Rescue, and, lo and behold, our poor little guy developed epilepsy a few years ago.
We spent thousands of dollars getting scans and tests to make sure a brain tumor wasn't causing the seizures, but it turned out to be idiopathic epilepsy, which has no identifiable cause.
He's on medication three times a day to keep the seizures at bay, and the meds cost about $100 a month. He still gets a seizure once in a blue moon.
6. Small dogs experience different dental issues than larger breeds
Although a larger dog is more likely to break a tooth from aggressive chewing, according to the American Kennel Club, smaller breeds are prone to tartar buildup, gum recession, and tooth loss.
Shortly after I got Finne, he had to have two teeth extracted because he originally came from a puppy mill where he wasn't taken care of properly. Now, I brush his teeth at home once a month, and he gets regular cleanings at the vet.
7. Costs quickly add up - even for small breeds
My vet recommended Hill's Science Diet dog food, and a 35-pound bag can set you back $40 or more. So, in a year, including treats and pill pockets for his meds, we spend about $450 to $500 on food for one dog.
I love him more than any animal I've known before
This little dog with the big personality has completely stolen my heart. I've never loved an animal this much in my life, and he has my husband completely wrapped around his little finger (paw?).
He adds so much laughter and joy to our household that - despite the aforementioned challenges - I can't imagine life without our little Finnegan.
Chelsea Greenwood Lassman