puppies arent for everyone

Puppies Aren’t for Everyone and That’s OK

Written by Steph McCulloch
In this personal article, explore the joys and challenges of pet ownership and discover the honest truth about why puppies aren't the perfect fit for everyone…and why that's absolutely okay.
A puppy looking up at a camera surrounded by torn tissue

Anyone who knows me personally knows that I’m a huge dog person. I adore puppies and gush over any I see when I’m out in public. I will unashamedly admit that it often gets to the point where my friends keep walking ahead whilst I get lost in conversation with owners about their dog’s likes and dislikes. 

So it may then sound controversial or contradictory when I say, and hear me out, that puppies aren’t for me. 

Allow me to explain. What I mean is that when it comes to choosing a pet, I wouldn’t actively decide upon a puppy. And whilst you might be thinking, “That’s your choice” it goes a lot deeper than just personal preference.

Don’t get me wrong, I grew up with puppies and loved every moment of the experience. It was special having a little companion who was growing alongside me. But in adulthood, and especially in today’s society, when we have so much choice it feels natural to me to question what type of pet really suits my lifestyle instead of just opting for what I’ve been told is the natural next step. 

I also think many people get swept up in the vanilla scent of tiny toys and personalised dog beds without realising the true reality of what owning a puppy is like. If you’re half-heartedly entertaining the process or trying to talk yourself into it, the puppy period can trigger intense emotions of stress, regret and guilt. 

Puppies aren’t considered adults until they’re around one to two years of age. This is quite a long time to struggle with a pet you’re not entirely sure of. It’s an undeniable fact that lots of pet ownership journeys have ups and downs and sometimes huge downs before the ups but if you don’t fully lean into the puppy period, or your new reality is different to the canine dream you fantasised about, it’s more than likely you’ll experience something known as the puppy blues.

The puppy blues is a term relating to feelings of anxiety and depression some owners experience after bringing home a puppy. It refers exclusively to the negative feelings of stress, upset and regret when the fuzzy, warmness of having a new pet wears off leaving (often) first-time owners overwhelmed and panicked.

There seems to be a general idea in society that getting a puppy is a way to prove that they’re your dog from day one, even though they have to be at least 8 weeks old before they’re separated from their mother. People want to buy into this and have a dog as young as possible with whom they can share many memories. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this but once you settle into the first few weeks of puppy ownership, you may just realise you’re not ready to have a puppy and providing them with almost 24/7 care is a lot to deal with.

Many parents buy puppies to help teach their children about responsibility and what it really means to look after an animal. But who’s to say a 5-year-old dog can’t teach this too? Or an 8-year-old one? Many dogs in shelters are approved to live with children, other dogs, cats and even small animals meaning that if you’re serious about getting a dog, you can find one suited to your lifestyle that may be a tad older than what you initially expected. Debunking myths surrounding rescue dogs is one of the most important ways to help them find forever homes.

A puppy pulling on it's leash

I like to think I’m not alone in my preference for older dogs and wonder if more people stopped to check in with their situation and performed more in-depth research on puppies and breeders whether we’d find fewer dogs surrendered to shelters. I also wonder if our collective obsession with new, shiny things is what leads us to automatically think of puppies when we want to welcome home a new addition.

Instead of jumping into hours of online searches for the perfect puppy, perhaps you’d be better suited to an adult or senior dog, or a rescue cat. Or perhaps a pet is the last thing you really need right now and the desire to “shake things up” isn’t going to be resolved by bringing home a puppy who requires your constant support, patience and understanding - things you can’t currently give.

Whilst puppies may seem like the expected next step in the excitement of considering a pet and general adulthood, it’s not always the experience you’re looking for and can lead to stress, upset and tension meaning it’s so important to recognise why you want a pet. Are you bored? Do you want something new? Do you feel like doing something impulsive? Or, are you ready to fully commit to ownership and provide a pet with unconditional love?

I’ve witnessed the impulse happen to a few friends - usually those in relationships where one partner plants “the puppy seed” and they continue to bounce back and forth in excitement, getting giddy and online shopping at Pets at Home. Flash forward one month and they realise that they feel awful, they weren’t ready for a puppy and something has to give.

A puppy playing with a chew toy

In all honesty, I think it’s time to question the idea that bringing home a puppy is the best experience in the world. For lots of people, it’s the opposite and can cause a lot of complicated feelings to work through. For others, the reality of an exciting yet miscalculated decision quickly dissipates into stress, resulting in puppies being surrendered for adoption or passed back to breeders who may not be of an ethically high standard to begin with.

I want to make it incredibly clear that puppies can bring an immense amount of joy when bought or adopted at the right time. However, it may be time to question the automatic bias that makes us immediately consider puppies when getting a pet. This also means debunking the myths that rescue dogs or older dogs who need rehoming are riddled with behavioural problems or physical health conditions.

Perhaps if we were to extend our understanding and patience to realise that many older dogs are often surrendered to shelters for no fault of their own and can live harmoniously in family settings, we’d find fewer cases of the puppy blues and fewer puppies with an unclear future.

If puppies are your thing and you know you’re 100% committed to raising them, congrats! However, when it comes to pet ownership, it’s important to respect diverse lifestyles and preferences.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach meaning it’s equally important to advocate for a more empathetic and understanding attitude towards those who choose not to own a puppy.

Admitting that owning a puppy may not be the right choice for you isn’t defeatist but actually rather empowering. Pet ownership isn’t just about walking puppies and handing out treats for good behaviour, it's about making informed decisions based on your lifestyle, the resources available to you and your personal circumstances.

Rather than succumbing to societal pressure or unrealistic expectations, take time to make an honest assessment of your readiness and suitability for pet ownership -  this is a far more responsible and commendable decision than bringing home a puppy which you’re not 100% set on.

And when you’re ready to take the first step in the pet ownership journey, why not consider visiting a rescue shelter? You may just find a friend who you connect with in ways you didn’t think possible.

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