Any dog owner will tell you that becoming a pet parent is one of the best things that can happen in life.
Countless studies have shown being around them releases seratonin, the happy hormone, and reduces cortisol, the hormone that causes stress.
Plus they give us unconditional love and are always there for a cuddle.
But adapting to life as a new dog owner isn’t always easy. Last month Becky Baker told how she’d felt overwhelmed and a failure at times, and it inspired her to set up K9Nation to support owners.
Interviewing Becky made me realise others felt the same and that it would be really helpful to hear from an expert about what to expect as a new paw-rent.
So I spoke to TV psychologist Emma Kenny, who has three dogs herself, to find out her tips for new dog owners.
Emma says people can experience the blues – or post canine depression.
She said: “New owners don’t have the chemical shift or physical responses in the body as mums do when they give birth, but they do go through a period that is emotionally unsettling.
“You get a puppy and you’re responsible for it 24 hours a day. It completely takes over your life and overwhelming feelings are quite natural because you want to do right for them.
“There is period of adaption where you go from the perceived idea of what owning a dog would be like to seeing the reality of caring for them.
“But once the initial period of grieving for your old carefree life ends and the puppy settles, the joy from the unconditional love they give takes over and it’s so rewarding.”
Emma, who is dog mum to Labradoodle Poppy, 13, and chihuahua pups Wookie and Molly, shares the nine things all new pet parents need to know.
It’s ok to feel scared
Most new pet parents feel anxious, stressed and overwhelmed at first. I’ve got dogs and kids and having a puppy was harder than a baby.
Anything that takes you out of your routine and means you need to care and love something else and has cost and work involved is scary but it’s worth it.
They are a baby!
They are going to pee and poo everywhere and give you sleepless nights. They don’t know any different. They’re just like a child.
You wouldn’t expect a baby to come along and not wear nappies so it’s the same for a dog. Accept that you just have to give it time and be patient.
The puppy phase is temporary
It’s not going to be like this forever. A dog will be trained but it takes time and work. Try not to feel out of control.
Learn the basics of how to look after them, so crating for a certain time, taking them out regularly, and try to enjoy it.
Remember it’s a small period of adaption for a lifetime of devotion.
Turn the negatives into positives
Try to acknowledge that you are learning new skills as part of the process. You’re doing something amazing – learning how to care for a young animal – and they will give you so much back in return.
It’s ok to ask for help
Ask friends and family to support you. Find local puppy groups and classes in your area with people in the same situation as you.
Make sure you feel the connection with them and set up a WhatsApp group or use a social network like K9Nation.
It can feel like an anti-climax
We build up parenthood and pet parenthood to be something so wonderful and magical and people sugar coat it.
When it happens, it can be an anti-climax but stick it out. There will be highs and lows but it will be worth it in the long run.
You WILL turn into that crazy dog person
Just accept it. Before I had my chihuahuas, I used to think that people who carried them around in bags and baskets needed a good shake!
Now, I think it’s perfectly fine. I’ll see someone with one in a bag and think ‘What an amazing dog,’ and you put them in a bag because you want them with you all the time.
They’re the best friend you ever have.
They will give you more love back than you could ever imagine
When you really care about something and really apply yourself to it and get good at it, it will become so rewarding.
With pet parenting it makes you feel good about who you are and the reward is walking your dog every single day with them looking at you like you’re the best human being that has ever been born and they will do that forever.
Dogs are beautiful creatures who have an endless amount of unconditional love for you and expect nothing back from you.
If you’re not ready for a puppy, consider a rescue
Finally, if you really don’t think you can cope with a puppy, consider going to your local shelter and giving a home to an older dog which will be trained.
It means you don’t need to overcome many of the struggles puppy parents face and have the comfort of knowing you’ve given a dog a second chance at happiness.
Do you have any tips for new dog owners? We’d love to hear how readers coped in the early days so if you have something you think would help others, pop a comment in the section below.