WHAT IT’S REALLY LIKE GETTING A DOG, VOL. I

I adopted my cutie rescue pup, Lexie, this year (you can follow her on Instagram: @MissLexie_chi). Prior to that, the most dog experience I had was with my friend’s two huge lab mixes. If you’re thinking about getting a dog, here are five things I wish I knew when I started the process.

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#1 All dogs, no matter the age, will need some training

Lexie was five years old when I adopted her, and I figured that she would not need much training. While she is a great dog and I really lucked out on some critical things (she was essentially house trained when I took her home), I discovered quickly that we needed to work on a few traits, like leash reactivity. No dog will ever be perfect in the training department. Part of me hoped that I would find a dog who already knew all the important commands, was totally house trained, didn’t beg, loved people, and greeted dogs with a friendly smile instead of endless barking. In the end though, I had to select which qualities were most important to me in a dog and understand that I would need to work on the rest (pro tip: use lots of positive reinforcement).

#2 The adjustment period is very real

I thought that Lexie and I would both quickly settle into a routine once I took her home. The first few weeks turned out to be some of the toughest, which I was not prepared for. I figured all the research I had done before taking her home would mean that I could settle in much faster. Yet, I had to get used to a new life of waking up earlier, going on frequent walks, and being completely responsible for another living creature. Lexie had to get used to a new environment, a new person, and new rules. But once we got through that adjustment phase of learning about each other, things became much smoother.

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#3 Explore different adoption options

By this, I mean both breed and rescue organization (or breeder, if you are going that route). Northern Virginia is great because it has so many rescue options. This meant that I was able to take time to research and figure out what I wanted my adoption experience to be. And trust me, I took my time! This was years and years worth of research in the making (partially because I have a really great ability to talk myself out of life changing decisions).  When I was finally ready to adopt, I started out at one agency that wasn’t a good fit for me, but turned to Lost Dog & Cat Rescue Foundation and found Lexie pretty quickly. For those of you in the DC metro area, I’ve listed a bunch of rescue organizations at the end of this post.

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#4 It takes a village

I had this crazy expectation that I could handle it all on my own. Yet I quickly discovered how wonderful it was to have friends who would come over to watch her when I was running late at work, supportive siblings who would walk her on days I had class, and fabulous parents willing to dog sit her when I had to go out of town. Having this support system is crucial. Of course, there are services you can use for dog sitting (such as DogVacay) or dog walking, but either way, having your village makes life so much easier. Dog ownership is no joke, but it is totally worth it.

#5 It will all work out in the end

The time, research, and money will pay off once that little fur ball comes home with you. Lexie, who is quite possibly one of the weirdest dogs you’ll ever meet, makes me laugh every day, and has been there for me during some challenging times. I’m so glad I took the time to find her instead of rushing into doggy ownership.

Tell me, what are your tales of doggy ownership? What do you wish YOU knew?

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A SAMPLING OF RESCUE ORGANIZATIONS IN THE DC METRO AREA

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