3 Mistakes I Made As A First-time Dog Owner

If you’re planning to get a dog, please avoid doing these things so you won’t regret later.

  1. Getting a dog just to keep you company without ever thinking of the responsibilities that come with it.

    I grew up thinking that some dogs are wild and that placing them outside the house to guard against intruders is fitting. You can’t blame me for it because that’s what I perceived growing up in my neighborhood back home. I also had this thinking that cute hairy dogs are usually fallen into the possession of rich people. Dogs are either properties or signs of social class. These misconceptions had caused me to be indifferent and ignorant towards dogs for a long time. Never in my life did I think that I would be owning one.

    I ended up having one when my husband initiated it. He was worried that I’d be lonely every time he walks out the door to work and I’m left all alone. He also dreamed of owning one. I didn’t agree when he first brought it up because I was scared that the dog might suddenly bite me or something. I witnessed someone got bitten by a dog that was owned by a family member. It was a traumatic sight that is difficult to forget. He carried on convincing me that dogs are wonderful creatures and I will change my perception once we have one. So 2 years after living here in Japan, I said yes without thinking how big of a responsibility it would be. This is definitely the very first mistake I made.

    Taking care of a dog isn’t as easy as I thought it would be. It’s also a bit pricey. We have to spend money on regular vet visits, dog food and stuff, and many other things. Then there’s this emotional aspect. Your dog won’t trust you immediately. In order to earn my dog’s trust, we have to show her kindness, feed her, play with her, walk with her, and all other things I never thought I needed to do. To be honest, I was having a hard time coping with this whole situation. I mean I wasn’t even that lonely in the first place. I think I only agreed to make my husband’s dream come true. After some time and pondering on things, I’ve learned to appreciate having our dog.

    A word of advice: don’t get a dog if you can’t keep up with its needs. It’s true that they’re amazing buddies but you have to remember that they have needs just like humans. The most important thing they need is proper training. I’m telling you that’s where I was having difficulties the most. If you can’t be totally committed to giving everything they need including positive training, you might end up giving them up which is a devastating thing to do to your own dog.
  2. No knowledge about the characteristics of the dog you’re getting.

    My husband picked a female Jack Russell Terrier because he saw her eyes looking gloomy. I saw the same thing as well so I went along with it. Unbeknown to me, my ignorance would put me to a stormy chapter of my life.

    The first night she arrived at home, she was very timid. I held her seemingly fragile body and cuddled her feeling nervous. She was 3 months old and never barked the whole night even when she was sleeping all alone in her crate downstairs. I thought it wasn’t bad at all. This dog was right for us until 3 days later. The timid dog we got was gone and turned into a tireless ball of energy. Turns out that her breed belongs to the high energy type of dogs. They’re known to be intelligent and independent. Sometimes, they can outsmart their humans. They’re small but they think they’re big. They’re feisty and love to be the center of attention. My mistake I only found out about all these things maybe a week after we got her. I couldn’t keep up with her energy, gave me headaches. What made me more disappointed about being ignorant is learning that they have the tendency to be unfriendly with other dogs if not properly socialized which we didn’t do well. We had no idea how proper socialization works among puppies. When she was less than a year old, we took her to dog parks thinking it would be fun for her but there were times that what we thought were okay for her to experience didn’t define proper socialization at all. My heart breaks whenever I remember all those episodes. Now she’s 2 years old and is having problems being near other dogs except for those she already knows. This one particular fact gives me hope that one day, she’ll be fine meeting all other dogs. I shed tears due to frustration a few times thinking that I might not be able to help her with her anxiety when seeing strange dogs. But after educating myself with her breed qualities, common behavior problems, and solutions to curb the unwanted behavior, the stormy chapter of my life is now becoming sunny. My advice is that if you can’t be 100% patient, pick a low energy and easy to train dog.
  3. Using aversive tools/methods as solutions to curb unwanted behavior.

    The worst mistake you could ever make is thinking that it’s okay only because it is quick. You think they’re quick solutions but they’re not serving your pet well, emotionally speaking. Again, our ignorance led us to using one of those tools. We used an anti-bark device when Sushi started to discover her voice. Jack Russell Terriers are also loud dogs. When not properly trained, they bark at things that upset, scare, or even excite them. During our first night camping with her, she barked for hours and hours. We were clueless that time so my husband consulted the internet and these “quick solutions” came up. That was the beginning of a terrible mistake. These anti-bark devices or ultrasonic dog bark device control work by discharging a high-pitched sound when activated. They come in different types. Like collars or hanging figures. They detect barking and emit a high-pitched sound in response that only your dog can hear. I noticed that Sushi would flinch at it. She would stop barking only for a few minutes and would appear terrified with her brows furrowed. It didn’t help her after using for over 2 months. I felt something was wrong.

    So I started doing some readings and I discovered a compassionate way to teach her not to bark at things. It’s called positive reinforcement training. Things have changed since then. Sushi is now showing us her trust and recognizing us as her humans. I’m still working on her anxiety towards strange dogs. I know it will take time but I won’t give up. After realizing how wrong we were, I promised myself to make up for the fear or psychological pain we caused her.

    If you’re having trouble getting your new dog to listen to you, I beg you to read about positive reinforcement method or see a dog trainer or visit a training center that advocates that kind of method. Using “quick fix tools” may seem to work for a short period of time but not in the most benevolent way and they can certainly hurt the bond between you and your dog. Take it from me, it’s really a sad path to go down to.

    I wish I could turn back time. Had I educated myself first before deciding on something that made a big impact on my life, things would have been totally different. I don’t regret having a dog. I regret that my ignorance contributed to my dog’s anxiety. We could have had a beautiful beginning. On the bright side, I’m thankful for stumbling on videos of dog trainers who believe that training your dog has to be in a humane way. They have saved our relationship with our dog.

    This is our Sushi posing after running and walking around the baseball field.

Author: The Pinay Ajumma

1990 | Socially awkward | Chocolate addict

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