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50 Things I Wish I Knew About Dog Care When We Adopted Our Dogs

Through the Lens of Kimberly Gauthier, Blue, Rodrigo, Dogs in Mud, Dog Rescue, Cattle Dog Mix, Mixed Breed Dogs


When we were doing our homework about adopting a dog my entire focus was on long walks, dog parks, and puppy kisses.  Although I knew adopting a dog was a lot of responsibility, I was entirely focused on the fun stuff and not a lot on dog care.  I still am most of the time.  The other day, I read an article that listed 50 things the author wish he knew when he was younger.  That article inspired this one of 50 things I wish I knew about dog care when we adopted dogs.

Dogs and Their Personality

  • It takes a while for two people to come up with a dog name they’re happy with; it took us a couple of hours to name Blue (his name was Edgar Frog) and two days to name Sydney (I wanted to name her Princess or Ava).
  • Yawning doesn’t always mean “I’m sleepy.”  Dogs have so many ways of telling us how they feel and what they’re thinking.  We just have to pay attention.
  • Dogs will steal your heart in seconds.  I fell in love with Riley on the way home from picking her up.  We were fostering her, but I couldn’t let her go.  I love watching videos of her playing with Rodrigo and Sydney even though I cry every time.
  • Dogs bark.  Sometimes for a very good reason.  Sometimes just for fun.  And it’s loud.
  • Dogs don’t know what coyotes or skunks are; so it’s up to use to keep them safe.
  • Dogs hate baths and think they smell just perfectly; it’s the humans who think they stink.
  • No matter how big a dog is, they can always be a lap dog.
  • Dogs read our energy; if we’re stressed, they’re stressed.  If we’re comfy and happy, so are they.  If you make “night night time” fun, they’ll be excited.  And sometimes they’ll put themselves to bed.
  • Dogs will cringe away from you as if you abuse them in front of strangers.  Blue!  The UPS guy thinks I beat you now!  Stop barking at him.  I’m just trying to leash up your harness.
  • You will laugh every single day.
  • Crunches, sit ups, lunges, and jumping jacks look like a fun game to dogs.  Work out when they’re outside.  You can also do lunges and squats while walking the dogs.  When they stop to smell something; knocked out a set of 15.
  • Taking pictures with dogs is like trying to collect raindrops in your hands.
  • Not all dogs like other dogs.
  • Every package that comes into the house is something for them; carry it high.
  • Dogs are smarter than you think; one of your dogs will know how to open doors.
  • Get used to poo and muddy paw prints and don’t become too attached to those shoes.

Dog Training

  • Confidence and consistency is key.  If you freak out, you’re just giving your dog the cue that he or she needs to step up, because the human is out of control; plus it’s scary.
  • Even our dog trainer’s dog sometimes doesn’t come when he’s call, so it’s pointless to get frustrated when our dogs misbehave.  I choose to go with the 90%/10% rule – if our dogs are well behaved 90% of the time, then I’m winning!
  • Dogs don’t understand English, they understand some words and they mostly read our body language and energy.  Check all of the negative emotions at the door and bask in the love of all things canine when you get home.
  • Cesar Milan is evil.  It doesn’t matter what he’s done for dog rescue or rehabilitating un-adoptable dogs, he’s evil and if you plan to say anything positive about him, prepare for the attack.  I have been attacked many times for saying something positive about Cesar Milan.
  • People will judge you harshly for the smallest mistake or for simply doing something that they wouldn’t do.  For some, crate training is imperative, while others think it’s abusive.
  • Some dogs aren’t able to greet one another on a leash; it can be stressful and a play session can quickly morph into a fight.

Dog Health

  • I will call the vet at least once a month or two.  Something is always going on and we’ve learned that if the dogs aren’t displaying a drastic change in personality or crying out in pain, we need to give it a day so that we know what we’re calling the vet about.  Having three dogs gives us 3x the opportunity for an injury or allergy.
  • Everything is dangerous – their food, their environment, the dog park, other dogs.  After reading some blogs and following Dr. Becker, sometimes I wonder if I should put my babies in a bubble.  Dog parents have to educate themselves about dog care.
  • There are old school veterinarians and new age veterinarians and vets who have a foot in both worlds.  If your vet makes you feel like an idiot for asking a question or doing your own homework, run and find a new vet!
  • You can use social media to connect with holistic veterinarians across the country who will make dog parenting a lot easier and open your eyes to new dog care methods.
  • Pet insurance isn’t cheap and researching for the best pet insurance carrier pretty much sucks.  Oh and they don’t offer discounts; if you come across one that does; run.
  • Dogs get car sick; pumpkin and frozen yogurt (for dogs) is great for car sickness.
  • Hiding pills in peanut butter doesn’t work forever; shake it up and use marshmallows or turkey hot dogs.
  • Just like with humans, stress exhausts dogs.  Prepare for thunderstorms and fireworks with long walks and play sessions before the noise starts.
  • You’ll need a first aid kit for the house and each car.

Dog Food

  • There is a dog food recall every single month and even the premium brands can experience a dog food recall.  The FDA may not act fast enough so (once again) dog parents need to be educated.  And don’t toss the packaging; you’ll need to be able to match up the UPC code should a recall be announced.
  • Premium kibble isn’t enough.  Grain free isn’t enough.   Even a raw food diet may not be enough.  There are so many options and everyone is only too happy to tell you what’s best.
  • Cooking for your dogs is fun, but time consuming.  You will not keep it up even though you have the best of intentions.  And buying the food in bulk at Costco doesn’t save any money.
  • Dogs can be allergic to chicken; but that doesn’t mean they’re allergic to turkey – go figure.
  • Many pet food companies will talk to you about nutrition and their food; especially if you’re a blogger with a big mouth who can help them promote their product.

Dog People

  • Unsolicited advice will fly at you regularly.  Everyone means well.  They’re advising you based on their experience with dogs and other dog parents.  There will be days when you want to scream, but pause, count to ten, take a deep breath, smile and say thank you.  By the way, if you do this in front of someone, they’ll notice.
  • If someone touches your dog (or acts like they plan to), flip the hell out; show people how you and your dogs expect to be treated.
  • If someone makes a false claim about your dog (they’re aggressive, violent, have caused injury), flip the hell out, but politely.  There’s nothing more satisfying than throwing logic back into the face of a liar.  Especially when they threaten to call the police and you can point to your boyfriend and say “he can take your report, the’s a deputy.”  Booo-yow!
  • Not everyone is a dog lover.
  • Not everyone wants to look at new pictures of the puppies or hear new, cute stories about their antics. Shocking, I know.
  • Not everyone thinks walking dogs off leash is a great idea and loads of fun.
  • Not everyone thinks it’s adorable with your dogs bark and lunge at them.  They’re on the leash.

Dog Rescue

  • Dog breeders are greedy, selfish, evil animal abusers.  If you even hint that there is such a thing as a “reputable breeder” then prepared to be called several not so nice names from people who have only interacted with people who run puppy mills.  I’ve been personally attacked for believing reputable breeders exist.
  • Dog rescue workers are a very passionate group of people, it’s fantastic to support dog rescue, but set boundaries on what you’ll take into your experience.  If you can’t handle the pictures, don’t allow someone to make you feel like you’re not really as supporter.
  • You can set up a recurring donation to your favorite dog rescue group.

Dogs and Finances

  • Two dogs are way more than twice the work and twice the expense; three dogs are expensive.
  • If you’re dog parents, then recognize that raising dogs is a partnership and you’re not alone.  Talk about finances, training, chores, nutrition, and health regularly.  Make sure everyone is on the same page.
  • Sick time doesn’t cover when you stay home with a sick dog.
  • Vacation plans include the dogs; either you take them with or you hire a pet sitter.


Now it’s your turn – what are a few things you wish you would have known before you adopted a dog (or two, or three).


  1. Great list Kim…I’d add that meditation with a dog on your chest and a cat on your head teaches a whole new level of focus :)

    • Very awesome addition!!!

  2. My advice would be to BE PATIENT when looking for a dog to adopt. Make a list of required characteristics and stick to it, even when you’re staring into beautiful brown eyes and your heart is melting.

    About five years ago we made snap decision (long story), and inadvertently chose a dog who was used to roaming the countryside all day. Life in our snug Vancouver condo wasn’t for her, and we spent months watching her slowly go stir crazy, since dog parks and long walks just didn’t cut it. Eventually we re-homed her, to a wonderful home (on Vancouver Island with acreage) that suited her better.

    If we had spent more than 10 minutes with the dog beforehand, we could have avoided the whole episode. I’m happy she ended up in a fantastic home, but the experience was hard on my daughter, who was 7 at the time.

      • Hee hee – as always, great comment, Renee!

  3. Never realized that a water bowl inside the house could be so messy and dangerous. I have a Boxer and a Doberman. When the doberman drinks it’s like someone turned the water hose on inside my house…I am constantly mopping up the water, even with a rug underneath the bowl.

    • I know! And if you have a rug beneath the bowl – the water makes it a foot away from the rug’s edge. Crazy!

  4. Kimberly, what a great post – should be mandatory reading for all prospective pet parents. I would add one of my favorites: you get more exercise…especially if you have active dogs, you HAVE to walk them or run them even if it’s just around your yard. When we first got Jack I lost a few lbs too just because he needed three times the exercise that Becca needed.
    Appreciated the one about the naming of dogs…that’s been a challenge – you wouldn’t think so, but it is. I’ve named the last two (Jack & Maggie), so I think it’s dad’s turn on the next one.

    • Not to mention, I exercise more on my own just to keep up with them. Rodrigo and Blue are super active and I have to move to make sure Sydney is moving and to keep up with the boys. I hated feeling winded after 1 mile, now 4 or more miles is a breeze :)

  5. What a great post, Kimberly! Love it and sharing it. :-)
    I use fat-free, plain cream cheese to hide pills in. The dogs love it and it doesn’t stick to the roof of the mouth like peanut butter does. Re: Cesar Milan; I have been stunned at the level of vitriol. He offers much excellent advice, IMO.

    • Thanks for the tip about cream cheese.

      That’s how I feel. He says that we need to be confident and consistent and that well exercised dogs are well behaved dogs – so very true!

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing!

  6. What I wasn’t prepared for was waking up every morning to a pair of canine eyes watching me intensely from the foot of the bed. If I so much as move my arm, they get incredibly excited because they think I’m about to wake up. No such thing as ‘sleeping in’ anymore. But I love waking up and hanging out with them, so it’s all good.

    • This time of year is hay fever season for me so my boyfriend let’s me sleep in on the weekends, but the dogs know I’m in the house so I’ll hear them coming up the stairs and after they eat the cat food, they walk into the room and do the same. I try to stay as still as possible, but eventually a giggle will sneak out and it’s over. 3 huge dogs dancing on my back and head. I love it!

  7. The dog factors into everything! From working late to weekend plans…she just comes in at the top of the list. Everybody’s happier that way! Great post.

    • Thanks and so very true! We were invited to meet a friend at a dog park. I’m not a fan of dog parks so I chose a time when it would be less populated and I’ll only bring one of the three dogs, because our playmate is a small dog and Blue will like him. Sydney is too shy and Rodrigo is too protective/territorial. Blue will have fun. We always keep their comfort in mind :)

  8. Wow, Kimberly, what an exhaustive and complete list! And every one of them true. This should be required reading for everyone contemplating getting a dog – it should be printed out and handed out at every shelter. Very nicely done!

    • Can you believe I made it to 50? I actually started with 10 and hit 40 before I knew it so I rounded to 50, which wasn’t hard. It’s astounding how much we learn when we bring a dog into our home.

  9. That really is a great list and will be most helpful to those considering a doggie. Even though we’re a 7 cat family we used to have 2 sweet doggies here.

    • It’s scary how easy it was to come up with 50 things. I would be interested in seeing a list from a cat parent’s POV.

  10. Great tips! I had no idea dog food was recalled so often. I’ll definitely pay more attention going forward.


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