I wish that I could speak with first time dog adopters BEFORE they adopt. It seems counter-intuitive, because a candid talk about what to expect might make some of them walk away. But maybe that is for the best, before any damage is done? (Then again, something might sound daunting enough to prevent someone from trying, someone who might be good at it when the time came.)
I don't know the answer to that; of course it's going to vary from person to person. But for me, I will always say that more information is good. Jeff and I researched like crazy before we became dog owners. Not just about breed specifics, but on the day-to-day care. We talked long hours about our lifestyle, and what type of dog would be able to come into our family with the most ease. Although we didn't prepare for every eventuality, I think that we were very well-prepared for taking care of a dog when we did finally "take the plunge" and adopt Argos.
Here is what I wish that I could say to EVERYONE who is adopting for the first time:
3. Dogs poop. There will need to be bathroom breaks. If you work incredibly long hours, you will need to find someone to take your dog outside. It's not fair to ask them to hold it for umpteen hours and then get mad at them when they have an accident on your floor.
4. Dogs take time. Jeff calls it the "dog tax" that we have to pay whenever we get ready to go somewhere without them. They have to be reassured. We have to quickly survey the living room to make sure that it is "Maera proof." We have to take them out for a quick potty break. We have to structure our outing around their bathroom, exercise, and meal breaks. We have to make sure that the cats are all shut upstairs so that they don't mingle with the dogs.
6. There will be damage. I don't care how well-trained your dog is, there are going to be things that happen. There may be scratch marks on the sofa, from where a dog scrambled up. He might stain a comforter by puking on it. He might have house soiling accidents. None of these are fun for anyone to deal with, but they do happen and you have to be OK with that. Dog ownership does not often (ever?) go hand-in-hand with a pristine house.
7. Are all family members on board? Does everyone know what is expected of them? . Make sure that everyone is willing to do their fair share, and that you know what each other's definitions of "fair share" are. If you find out that you're going to be the only one disciplined enough to consistently take the dog out for bathroom breaks, is this going to become a problem? We split the "dog chores" very evenly in our house, which works out really well. It means that if I need a break, then I can take one without guilt, because I know that Jeff will take up the slack.
9. You are responsible for your dog's actions. If your dog is put into a position where he bites someone, or someone's pet, both you and your dog are in serious trouble. Train him not to do so if that's possible. If you have a reactive dog, take steps to isolate him from people and animals that he might hurt. Don't set him up to fail. Don't let your dog roam freely. Most dog attacks that I read about were caused by dogs being allowed to roam around and terrorize the neighbors. A dog that is gnawing on a bone on his bed or sleeping on your couch with his head in your lap is not causing trouble for others.
These are the big ones that I can think of. Probably most of my readers have had dogs for far longer than I have. Can you think of any that should be added?