32 things you only know if you’re a dog owner

Man hugging his golden retriever
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Being a dog owner offers a unique perspective on the intricacies of the human-canine bond that goes far beyond what can be comprehended from an outsider’s perspective. As “man’s best friend”, a dog really is part of the family.

The daily routines and interactions between a dog and their owner require a nuanced understanding of non-verbal communication, as the human becomes adept at deciphering their pet’s body language, expressions, and vocalizations. The unconditional love and loyalty exchanged in this relationship create a profound sense of responsibility and emotional connection that is hard to grasp without first-hand experience.

The practical aspects of dog ownership rely on routine, patience, and adaptability. From dealing with the challenges of training and behavioral quirks to the joyous moments of shared activities and play, dog owners gain an intimate understanding of the commitment required for their pup’s well-being. 

Dogs teach us lessons in empathy and responsibility, and reward us with the joy for fostering a strong bond with a creature of a different species. 

Let’s take a look at some of the things you probably only know if you’re a dog owner – ranging from the delightful to the downright disgusting!

32 things you only know if you’re a dog owner

1. Fur all over the place

Dog shaking fur

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Anyone would think their dog would be completely bald, with the amount of hair that they shed. Dog hair lands up everywhere: on your clothes, on your furniture, and even in your food. 

If you’re worried about fur, you’ll be looking for the best dog breeds that don’t shed, but your home still won’t be fuzz-free.

2. You start spelling out words

Couple with dog

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Time for a W-A-L-K or D-I-N-N-E-R? Dog owners find themselves spelling triggering words out to their family members for fear of over-exciting their dog at the prospect of hearing the subject being discussed.

3. Dawn rituals

Man cuddling dog in bed in the morning

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Dogs have an uncanny ability to make sure you get up at the same time (early) every morning, for breakfast, a walk and attention – including on holidays and weekends.

4. An expansive repertoire of nicknames

Girl with dog, laughing

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Not content with calling your dog a funny name – Cookie, Waggle, Smurf – you’re bound to have a large selection of endearing nicknames, ranging from Mr Biscuitpants or Sassypaws to Doggy Darling.

5. Dogs have selective hearing

Lady playing with her dog

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Dogs can hear the click of their food container opening almost before you’ve touched it. But their own name shrieked in the middle of a forest when they are chasing a squirrel – it’s like they are tone deaf...

6. Poop inspector

Woman picking up dog poop

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As a dog owner, you somehow acquire the strange, rather disgusting habit of inspecting your pup’s poops for consistency, color and content. The lengths to which we go in the name of our dog’s health. 

7. Over-the-top greetings

Man being licked by cute dog

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Whether you have just popped out for a pint of milk, come home from a day at work or you’re back from vacation – either way your dog greets you like a long-lost, dearly loved friend. And you reciprocate (minus the licking and jumping up). 

8. Late-night trips to the bathroom

Man outside his house at night with dog

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Late every evening, you find yourself outside in the back yard, sometimes in the pouring rain, imploring your dog to do his business so you can all go to bed. 

9. You understand “doggish”

Girl talking to her dog over the table

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Your dog’s whine might mean “feed me”, a certain bark means “play” while another means “go away”. You may not be able to speak the lingo, but you certainly understand it, with all its nuances. But someone else’s dog is likely to speak a different “dialect”, so don’t ever think you’ve nailed it. 

10. Emergency vet visits

Dog visiting vet

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Dogs seem to know the most inconvenient time to stage an emergency – when the vet is closed, and you have to shell out for expensive out-of-hours emergency treatment. Like when Fido ate all the chocolate coins on Christmas Day, or ripped his ear on barbed wire on your holiday walk. 

Very often there is nothing wrong, and you’re so relieved that somehow you don’t mind the huge vet bill.

11. You know the forecast better than the weatherman

Dog owner and dog walking in the rain

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Your daily plans are governed by the weather – because you need to know when you will walk to dodge the rain, wind or heatwaves.

12. Pawprint decoration 

Terrier with muddy paw prints

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Dog owners have the knack of turning a blind eye to the paw prints adorning the house, whether it’s a muddy trail through the corridors, or even an unexpected leap on to your clean white linens on the bed. Sometimes even a good wash won’t deal with it, so you might as well embrace pawprint decor.

13. Strangers become friends...

Two dog owners chatting in public space

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Simply because they also have a dog. You head to the park where you will happily strike up conversation with a complete stranger because of your common canine ground. Out on a stroll, fellow dog-walkers passing by exchange smiles and a comment or two, whereas between those without dogs there isn’t even eye contact.

14. Sharing the sofa

Woman sharing sofa with her golden retriever

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Before you had a dog, you vowed you would never allow them on to the couch, but somehow he’s wheedled his way on, and now it’s you who has to ask the dog to move over and allow you to share his space.

15. Zoomies

Whippet sprinting on grass

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That sheer unadulterated delight in their own speed as your dog tears around the park, back yard or any available space – for seemingly no reason. Most brilliantly demonstrated by whippets and greyhounds, even the less speedy dogs love a good zoomie. 

16. Vacation planning

Two retrievers sitting in suitcases

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Vacations have a whole new planning layer for dog owners. Can you take the dog with you? Do they need a passport or additional vaccinations? Will he hate kennels? Can we find a nice dog-sitter? Will he miss me? Will I miss him? Shall we just stay at home?

17. Telepathic signals

Terrier waiting for walk by front door

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You think about going for a walk but have yet to move a muscle, and your dog appears, sometimes with leash in mouth ready for action. Or, people talk of their dog moving to wait by the front door long before the owner’s car draws into the driveway. Somehow they just know...

18. Odd sock woes

Bulldog with sock

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If you had trouble finding matched pairs of socks before you had a dog, it’s now an impossibility. Dogs love your socks. They’ll grab them out of the laundry basket, clean or dirty, and take back to their bed as treasure. 

19. You have a roving security system

Dog guarding home

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Whether it’s a friendly visitor, a stranger or the postman, your dog acts as a live burglar alarm alerting you to any intruders be they friend or foe. 

20. Epic yawns

Dalmatian puppy yawning

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Suddenly your dog will be overcome with a wave of apparent fatigue, and throw open their mouth to seemingly jaw-breaking dimensions, revealing every single tooth, and breathing a wave of fishy odor in your face.

21. How much dogs sleep

Dachshund sleeping on sofa

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People talk about how much exercise certain dog breeds need, but they rarely discuss how dogs sleep so much. According to a study on sleep duration, the “average” dog sleeps for 10.1 hours, with adult dogs sleeping for 30-60% of the night-time hours, and 3-28% of daytime hours. And they lie down a whole lot more.

Some adopt the cute, but self-protective, bagel position, others sprawl out, legs in the air without a care in the world. Hearing them let out a yelp or bark which may make you wonder why is my dog sleep barking but it is usually just doggie dreams.

22. Bathtime battles

Retriever in blue bathtub

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The hilarious dance that ensues when your dog realizes you intend to bathe him – involving sprints, dodges, and impressively evasive maneuvers. It may be helpful to know how to give a dog a bath to minimize any battles. 

23. Doggy dream world

Dog dreaming

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Watching your dog sleeping is entertaining stuff. They twitch, wag tails, squeak and bark in their sleep, leading you to wonder what they are up to in their dream world.

24. You pity your mailman

Dog with mail in his mouth and evidence of the postman having been scared away

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However friendly your dog is, chances are he has a personal vendetta for the mailman. This guy comes to your door every day, fiddles around with the door, then gives up, before persistently returning the next day. Surely the only reason he hasn’t yet managed to break in to your property is because of your dog barking him off the premises. At least, so says Fido...

25. Doggy eyes

Doggy loving eyes

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How to say, “I love you” without saying “I love you” – dogs are masters of the art. They are blessed with soft, liquid pools for eyes that gaze into yours, draw you in, bewitch you and ensure you are utterly under their spells. Total heart melters who will show you what unconditional love really looks like.

26. No stick is too big

Dog with big stick

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Dogs shouldn’t actually chew on little sticks because of the potential for splinters and choking hazards, but somehow they are undeterred by the biggest branch that they can possibly pick up on a walk and haul around like a prized trophy. But can dogs eat sticks? The answer is a resounding no. 

27. Limitless energy

Dog jumping off pier into lake

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Have you ever known a dog turn down the offer of a walk? While they might spend a lot of their day sleeping, when you switch the on-button, they will go and go and go and go. Even senior and arthritic dogs relish an outing, come rain or shine. 

28. The loving lick

Dog licking his female owner

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Dogs show affection by licking, whether it's a gentle lick on your hand or face. This behavior is a sign of trust and bonding, which must seem anathema to non-doggy people.

29. How a tail wag can make you happy

Dog wagging tail at owner's knee

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A dog wagging its tail will transmit his own happiness to his owner. It is the most joyful expression, especially when it takes over their whole body, wiggling from nose to tail. Who doesn’t like to see their loved ones so happy?

30. Dogs have no concept of time

Terrier waiting beside clock

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Whether you have been out of the house for five minutes or five hours, your dog will be simply waiting for you to come home and are delighted when you do so. They have no concept of time, no worries about the future; they just live in the moment. 

31. Dogs eat absolutely anything

Dachshund with head in bin

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Most dogs have an indiscriminate appetite. Despite the fact that there are many foods that are toxic to dogs, they will gleefully eat anything, including the contents of the bin, dead birds, or your Sunday roast. Not picky... 

32. The art of keeping valuable items out of reach

Dog stealing a patty

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Whether it’s your painstakingly prepared pavlova, an expensive cushion or a wooden heirloom, there are plenty of high-value items that you know to keep well out of reach of your pup and rearrange your home accordingly. They love to chew, steal – with a glint in the eye and a furiously wagging tail – and the cherished item will emerge the worse for it. 

Martha Terry
Features editor

Martha is an experienced journalist working in both print and digital media. She specializes in the canine, equine and rural sphere where she has covered a wide range of topics from cloning animals and the ingredients for a perfect yard dog, to helping owners find the best canine GPS trackers on the market. When she’s not busy writing about dogs and horses, she’ll be found either aboard a horse or looking after the menagerie of pets in her care.