Confessions of a First Time Dog Owner

You are currently viewing Confessions of a First Time Dog Owner

I have a confession to make.

My very first dog came from a breeder. I found an ad in the newspaper for an English Bulldog puppy, $2000. Never doing any research, I drove about 2 hours away to pick up our first puppy. Excited, I walked into a stranger’s home and fell in love instantly with the only female they had. The people were nice enough. We gave them $2000 and drove home with Sophie, our new bundle of cuteness.

When I think back to 15 years ago and spending $2000 on an unspayed dog with only initial vaccinations, I’m appalled. Today, we could save 5 dogs with that money. The breeders never asked any of the questions we as rescuers ask: How many hours will the dog be left alone? Where will the dog sleep? What type of training methods will you use? The breeders also never provided us with any education on being first-time dog owners. We took Sophie to the park the next day without thinking twice. We had no idea we should not take our new puppy to any public parks until she received her full round of shots. How were we to know? This was our very first dog and we wanted to show her off. Unfortunately, she contracted an upper respiratory infection in that first month. Upper respiratory infections are especially dangerous for bulldogs because the breed is predisposed to compromised breathing due to its short snout (see this article for more information). Thankfully, Sophie made a full recovery.

We got very lucky, in some ways, and so did Sophie.

We adored her, spoiled her. She was very loving and made us laugh every day. However, she was true to the bulldog breed, stubborn, lazy, and hard to potty train. She also developed skin allergies and problems with her eyes. We spent money on a specialized vet ophthalmologist to fix her eyes. She also needed her anal glands expressed frequently. Due to the breed’s barrel chest, bulldogs have issues taking care of that area. I was starting to realize that our first dog was more high maintenance than we anticipated.

As I began to do more research on the breed, (I know, a little late), I learned that most bulldogs can only be born via C-section. And, apparently, the nursing mothers need constant supervision so they don’t lay on the puppies and suffocate them. Some puppies require bottle feedings. Lifespan is only 8-10 years due to all of the medical issues and genetic engineering over the years.

Sophie lived just over 10 years. Her passing was difficult and thinking about it still causes me to tear up. I will always have a soft spot for bulldogs. And yes, I see plenty of them in the high kill shelters. People are not prepared for the medical costs, the training costs, the stink from infected anal glands, the shedding, and all the other issues that can accompany this lovable breed.

I learned my lesson. And I am fortunate to have the opportunity to share my experiences and hopefully educate those who are thinking of purchasing a dog from a breeder. If you do have a specific breed you’ve got your heart set on, you can still rescue. Many dogs in high-kill shelters are purebred, and some rescues specialize in specific breeds. Take a look around before you needlessly spend thousands to produce a dog who is already languishing in a shelter.


Kathy Toomey
Co-Founder, The Rescued Dog