What 9 Pet Parents Wish They Had Known Before They Brought Their Pet Home

published May 24, 2022
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My husband and I happened to find our dream dog mere weeks before our wedding. We made the spur-of-the-moment decision that we just had to add him to our family now. Truth be told, having a puppy in our wedding photos was damn adorable — but leaving him shortly after for our honeymoon sucked and saddled us with a lot of guilt. 

These days, I’ll tell anyone who will listen all about making sure you bring a pet into your life during the right time, and I know plenty of fellow pet parents who have equally hard-learned lessons under their belts. I tapped nine animal owners to get the details on what they wish they knew before bringing their pet home to help you if you’re on the cusp of pet parenthood, too. Here’s what they had to say.

You May Experience the Puppy Blues

“Shortly after bringing home my golden retriever puppy, I found myself experiencing intense bouts of anxiety, grief, regret, and sadness. It was baffling — I mean, I just got an adorable, sweet puppy that I’d wanted forever, so why would I feel like this? It took me a lot of Googling to know that what I was feeling had a name and that it was totally normal. Getting us into a routine was helpful, and honestly, it just took time. The puppy blues lasted a few months for me, and I wish I knew going into pet parenthood that emotions like that were even a possibility.” —Samantha Fried, Huntington, New York

Your Pet’s Personality Could Take a While to Emerge

“I’ve always been a cat person and, over the years, I’ve come to expect that there’s a pretty big gap between when you bring a cat home and when their true personality emerges. It’s taken all of my cats a decent amount of time to feel ‘at home’ with me, but it’s important to realize you’re not a bad pet parent if they’re scared at first. I’ve learned to let them lead — I try to stay on their level and stay quiet so they feel safe to approach, but often it just takes time. They’ll come around if you give them the space to meet your interactions. My two are so loveable now.” —Jessica McSweeney, Baltimore

Seriously Consider Springing for Pet Insurance

“I wish someone told me to get pet insurance right away before I got my dog. I ended up waiting a while to do so, and now a condition my dog has isn’t covered because it’s considered preexisting. I ended up going with [one that] was subsidized through my employer — it includes wellness, so all her routine visits are covered, but the medicine she takes for her allergies isn’t because I started her on it before I got insurance. It’s the most consistent expense I have for her, so it’s frustrating that it doesn’t fall under our coverage.” —Hannah Nowak, New York City

You May Feel Guilt over Your Existing Lifestyle 

“I didn’t realize this ahead of getting my dog, but I’ve felt serious guilt over how much my lifestyle takes me away from him sometimes. I adopted him during the pandemic, so I was home with him every day for a year, which made it so much worse for both of our separation anxiety when I had to head back into the office. When I travel, I always make sure to leave him with a friend he knows or my boyfriend so that he enjoys his time away from me, too. And of course, I spoil him extra hard when I return — my most recent trip earned him lots of snuggles, long walks, and a big new bone.” —Dani Freeman, Charlotte, North Carolina

Their Behaviors May Change — and So Will Your Home

“I wish I’d realized how much our cat’s habits might change as he got more comfortable living with us. We adopted Sonny, our orange tabby, when he was 2. For the first six months after that, we never once saw him display even an iota of interest in our houseplants. I assumed we’d gotten lucky and didn’t have a plant destroyer on our hands. But as he got more comfortable, he also got more curious… so imagine our surprise when we started catching him gnawing on plants and arrangements. He even once jumped into a raised planter to get a closer angle! Thankfully we don’t bring any toxic plants into the house, and he’s perfectly healthy. But it’s still been a lesson in how ever-evolving my best bud’s personality can be — and how I always have to be mindful of what’s in reach.” —Zahra Barnes, Washington, D.C. 

Training Can Be Tough but Important

“I really wish someone explained to me the pros and cons of crate training more in-depth. It’s a really personal decision but, for our family, I wish we stuck with it. I think our dog would have less separation anxiety in the long run if we had because he would feel like he had a safe place to go to, thanks to his crate. We struggle with him being alone because of it.” —Chelsea O’Donoghue, Hoboken, New Jersey

Learning About the Breed Is Essential

“When my husband and I first added an Australian shepherd to our family, we had heard that the breed liked to be active, but I wish we did more research into what that really meant. We need to tire out our dog with several walks and trips to the park a day, as well as mentally stimulating activities like treat puzzles. We’re an active pair and love to be outdoors so it’s fine, but it would have really been tough if we weren’t physically able to care for him in the way that we are.” —Cory Tate, Doylestown, Pennsylvania

Long-Term Health Issues Can Be Draining

“We didn’t know this at the time we rescued our dog Bedford, but a lot of dogs rescued from down South are heartworm positive, which he is. It wouldn’t have changed our decision to adopt him necessarily, but it is something we will deal with for a long time that affects his energy levels, how frequently he needs to see the vet, and the type (and price) of care he receives from us. We were not prepared for such long-term issues ahead of adoption.” —Cate Kalus, Los Angeles

Early Socialization Is a Must

“No one stressed to me how important it would be to expose my new puppy early and often to other dogs and people. I adopted her during the pandemic, so we spent much of our time pretty insulated. As things started to open up and I moved to a larger city, I noticed how timid she would be when out on walks, especially around other dogs — going to a dog park was completely out of the question, and she still cowers if approached by someone for pets. We’ve been working on exposing her to new situations slowly so as to not overwhelm her, but I wish I realized how formative that was in her first year as a puppy.” —Amber Casillas, Scottsdale, Arizona