Should I get a dog?
April 2, 2009 4:24 PM   Subscribe

Help me find consensus from the hive mind. I have been wanting and preparing and planning to get my very own dog, my first dog, for years. However the question that keeps raising its head, is should I, given my personal circumstances?

This question has been asked in several guises on askmefi and while I've welcomed the advice, none of the scenarios people have laid out have corresponded that closely to my own circumstances. So here are the facts of my situation:
  • I live in the UK in a 2 bedroom mid-terraced house with a garden and (not very high) fence overlooked on all sides by other gardens and houses.
  • I am out of the house from approximately 9am to 1pm, 2pm to 5:45pm, Monday to Friday, and my single housemate is out all day (ie I'm 4 hrs maximum out of the house)
  • I work 2 miles from home and can get back there in approximately 10 minutes.
  • While this would be my first dog, I'm of course seeking any and all advice to help me perform this undertaking to the best of my abilities.
  • I have a general size in mind, labrador, but other than that am willing to consider whichever breed or individual is best suited to my personal circumstances.
  • I intend to take on either an adult rescue dog or seek a private ad for an adult dog requiring re-homing.
  • I intend taking dog to any and all training to help me and the dog learn how to behave.
  • I'm prepared to go the crate training route if that helps.
  • The dog will be walked before work, lunchtime, after work and on weekends, I'm thinking 1-2 hrs per day.

Some caveats. I rent and my current landlord doesn't allow pets, which means either in the future I manage to convince her otherwise, or I move to somewhere that does (I realise this is not easy). The point being, if I have to move to get a dog, I will move, and will pick a place as well suited to dogs as I can, and also a similar distance from work. I consider the coming home to lunch, non-negotiable and will definitely be living in a location where that is possible, will arrange for a paid dog walker if at any time I can't get away. I'll do whatever it takes to get good at looking after a dog, this is not a hasty ill thought out decision, I moved jobs so I could be close enough to home to make the lunchtime dog deal possible. I'm aware of the great costs and responsibilities the decision to get a dog involves, having experienced some of it vicariously through various dog owning friends.

Without fail though, whenever I explain my circumstances and my plans to people, they'll give me a huge range of answers, ranging from 'Wow, most people in your position just get a dog without even thinking about it, just do it.', to 'I can't believe how cruel you are for even thinking about getting any dog. It's always wrong to have a dog unless you're home all day.' So what is the consensus? Given dog will not be left alone more than 4 hours, I'm open to the best breed for me (given my size range), and will quite likely be changing my home to one as most dog suitable as I can, is it right and fair and responsible for me to get a dog?
posted by Elfasi to Pets & Animals (37 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
posted by itsamonkeytree at 4:28 PM on April 2, 2009

Personally I'd say the fact that you spent all this time thinking about it and writing up this long question is very good evidence that you can responsibly handle a dog.
posted by davr at 4:29 PM on April 2, 2009

Get the place first, and then the dog. Since you're not going for a puppy (which will require lots of your time at home) I think you're well suited to getting a dog. Yes, acclimatizing the dog will take some time, flexibility and patience on your part, but so long as you're mostly a home body on the evenings and weekends then the dog will be in good hands.
posted by lizbunny at 4:31 PM on April 2, 2009

Definitely, and added kudos for giving this issue the proper consideration!
posted by turgid dahlia at 4:33 PM on April 2, 2009

Wow! You sound like a great future guardian of a dog!

Check out THE RIGHT DOG FOR YOU. Excellent book about what the various breeds are and how they behave.

Dogs don't mind you going out. They consider your home their den, and they'll just sleep until the head of the pack comes home. Big dogs, especially, will sleep until you can come and give them a walkie. (Ironically, I think big dogs are better for apartments.)
posted by musofire at 4:34 PM on April 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

No. Only because of the landlord situation. Once that's worked out, yes.

You seem prepared to do all of the work of owning and caring for a dog, and doing so means you'd be providing a better home for a rescue/re-homed animal than their current situation. Except! You really need to make sure you have a home they can live in for good, not one you'll bring them to and then have to return the dog to a shelter because your landlord says no.
posted by Meg_Murry at 4:34 PM on April 2, 2009

Once you work out the landlord situation: absolutely YES, you sound like a great potential dog owner. And anyone who says out-of-hand that dogs require round the clock stay-at-home supervision is crazy and may be ignored.
posted by scody at 4:36 PM on April 2, 2009

I think it could work well.
posted by caddis at 4:39 PM on April 2, 2009

Response by poster: I really appreciate the comments so far, just wanted to note that of course I would resolve the landlord or home situation before getting any dog. Once that dog was in my charge, it would be guaranteed already in advance that I would be able to keep him/her at home, this is nothing I'd leave to chance, everything has to be above board.
posted by Elfasi at 4:47 PM on April 2, 2009

I work for a rescue organization and we're extremely picky about adoptions. If you were the person applying for my dog, these would all be very favourable attributes. Some others:
- are you prepared to make an 18+ year commitment?
- who will deal with the dog when you go on vacation?
- can you afford regular vet checkups and foot the bill for a large expense if necessary?
- are you willing to go to dog class or a behavioral trainer to learn proper training techniques?
- what will you do if the dog has issues?
- will you buy them decent dog food?

But everything else you say sounds good and that you'd be an extremely devoted and responsible pet owner. If you work with a rescue organization they'll likely help you find the mutt of your dreams - they'll know the dog's personality and traits after s/he's been in foster care for a while. I always know exactly what kind of situation in which my fosters would tolerate or thrive.

Good luck - you'll love it!
posted by barnone at 4:49 PM on April 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

Yes, absolutely yes. Please follow up with pictures of your cute new dog.
posted by booknerd at 4:53 PM on April 2, 2009

Best answer: I also say yes. You sound really aware of what many people don't realize: that you must modify your life somewhat to make it dog-workable. The problems arise when people just expect to seamlessly plop this living creature with complex social needs into their pre-existing life and not have to make any adjustments.

Two small caveats you've probably thought of: 1) Since you have to be gone for 8 hours every workday (even with that lunch break at home to exercise and socialize with Doggy), then you need to accept that M-F, you won't be coming home from work and going back out again in the evening, at all unless the dog goes with you or it's for a few minutes to pick up groceries or take-out, etc. Most dogs very gracefully accept the (for them) totally alien isolation they face when their pack-leader-humans are absent, but "alone" is still a deeply unnatural state for a dog, so I think we do need to make the absences as few/short as reasonably possible.

2) Even if you get an adult rescue dog (smart plan), see if you can take a few days off from work if that's feasible -- or plan the homecoming for a long holiday weekend? It's helpful to have some nice uninterrupted bonding time just to hang out and let the woofer get acclimated before the workaday routine starts up.
posted by FelliniBlank at 4:58 PM on April 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

definitely! as long as you are willing to do it the right way and adopt, you should get a dog as soon as possible. as someone else said, just find the right one for you. and kudos indeed for giving this such consideration. good luck!
posted by austere at 4:59 PM on April 2, 2009

Yes. In addition to the things you've listed, do some background research about the breeds once you've narrowed it down to a few, if you don't know much about them. Then you're less apt to get surprised by a breed feature (e.g., shedding, drool, runny/gunky eyes, distinctive/possibly-annoying howls).

And anyone who says out-of-hand that dogs require round the clock stay-at-home supervision is crazy and may be ignored.

This. Especially if you're talking about dogs from a shelter or rescue organization. Those places have limited capacities. Thus your adoption opens a space for a new dog to be rescued from a bad living situation (and eventually put into a good one) and/or decreases the financial stress on the organization. You adopting the dog is a net positive, even if you can't be at home 24/7.
posted by CKmtl at 5:02 PM on April 2, 2009

Response by poster: barnone,

- I am absolutely prepared for an 18+ year commitment, to be honest I wish medical science would make that a lot longer.
- I have a short list of friends who have indicated to me their willingness to look after my dog if I'm away, with the caveat that my dog manages to get along with their dog. If that didn't work out I'd consider boarding kennels (and I'm aware for rescue dogs this can be a real problem). If I wasn't satisfied dog could tolerate kennels, either vacation wouldn't happen, vacation is delayed till I can find a friend, or dog comes with me on vacation (I have a friend who takes their dogs with them on vacation all across Europe by car).
- I'm on a decent salary with solid job security and have family to fall back on if things got really dire. If I got landed with high vet bills, I'd do whatever it took, sell stuff off if necessary, though I hope to find a decent pet plan insurance deal.
- I intend going to dog classes, as much for me as for the dog, I would want to emerge confident in my own abilities and experiences as well as the dog's training, before unleashing myself upon the world.
- I read and I read and I ask friends and lifetime dog owners and consult all the advice I can about dog issues, already. Nobody has all the answers, not even Cesar Millan, but I hope at least I have a good frame of mind for finding them as best I can. It seems a great many issues stem from getting the wrong dog for your situation, so I hope to avoid that one entirely.
- I have a number of mentors in this field and though I can't guarantee I'll be hand cooking their meals myself, it is apparent to me that most of what you could buy in a supermarket, isn't very good, and you have to go further afield if you really care about what your dog is eating. So yes, I will buy them decent dog food.
posted by Elfasi at 5:08 PM on April 2, 2009

The only other thing I think you need to do is to learn about positive training methods and how you will handle common training problems *before* you get the dog, because things go so much more smoothly when you have thought through all the likely problems beforehand. A really great book that I have used for both my dogs is My Smart Puppy. Despite the name, the advice contained is equally applicable to adult dogs.

Good luck! I think you're going to be great.
posted by HotToddy at 5:12 PM on April 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: FelliniBlank,

I was planning on taking 1-2 weeks off work when the time does eventually come, I really want to do my best to ensure they're settled in well. But yeah I've been planning this some years, and it seems crazy to me to just get a dog and not expect to change your life at all.
posted by Elfasi at 5:17 PM on April 2, 2009

Professional dog walker chiming in, here. (West Michigan)
Elfasi, you ought to be CLONED as a dog owner (or more precisely, potential dog owner.) I wish some of my human clients had your planning ability. Please, do get a dog when your housing circumstances allow.
posted by BostonTerrier at 5:29 PM on April 2, 2009

Nthing the above... your pooch will be very fortunate to find you and you them!!

I grew up around dogs and have been fortunate enough to have known both small breeds and larger breeds.

It was mentioned that the larger breeds are actually better at dealing with time on their own and for the most part that is true.

It's wonderful to hear you are looking into a rescue dog! That will also be helpful as you will be able to talk to someone who is already familiar with the dog's personality helping you find a pooch suited to your schedule

Best of luck, hope your living situation resolves right quick!!!
posted by Weaslegirl at 5:47 PM on April 2, 2009

i, too, concur. and (having worked at an animal shelter for many years) wish there were more dog caretaker people like you.

and parenting is just like human parenting -- things dont' always go perfectly. be kind to yourself -- you will make mistakes (and so will the dog!). it's a life-long commitment -- not going to be perfect 100% of the time.

have fun! and come back and tell us what you decided, and how things are going!!
posted by CitizenD at 6:12 PM on April 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

Sounds awesome. Go forth and rescue!!!!! And post photos when you do.
posted by barnone at 6:17 PM on April 2, 2009

Seriously, you are ready to go - jump in once you get the housing situation under control. My only 2 cents would be to research the "breed" (albeit it's hard if it's a mutt) and truly ask yourself what you're comfortable with. We have a pug, so I thought I was cool with shedding - until we got our German Sheppard - who totally redefined my view of shedding. Drives. Me. Nuts. We also have a big lot (over an acre) and 2 hyper-active children, and I thought we could keep up with her exercising needs.....Not so much! So really just try to match your lifestyle with the dog's personality.
posted by texas_blissful at 6:30 PM on April 2, 2009

Personally I'd say the fact that you spent all this time thinking about it and writing up this long question is very good evidence that you can responsibly handle a dog.

This was my reaction too. I wish I could have one, and have to pass because I'm just not home enough. I wish some of the people I know who got dogs and who, in my opinion, neglect them, had even half your attitude. Go for it!
posted by CunningLinguist at 7:28 PM on April 2, 2009

Best answer: Right now there are hundreds of homeless dogs in your region. Lonely dogs are yearning for a kind, conscientious person like you.

Make haste. Get a dog-friendly house and adopt a furry friend.

I got my first dog when I was 45. It's amazing how a dog will brighten your life.
posted by valannc at 8:26 PM on April 2, 2009

Yes, yes, hie thee to a doggery!

May I suggest you look into a retired racing greyhound? Just because everybody else can resist putting in a plug for their favorite breed, doesn't mean I can!
posted by metaseeker at 10:32 PM on April 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

Dear Lord, yes! In fact, get two. That will help with lonely-dog-while-you're-at-work issues.
posted by magstheaxe at 6:10 AM on April 3, 2009

In light of all you've considered and said, I would say yes yes yes, there's a rescue dog out there waiting for you! Be very careful in selection. Just because a dog is adorable doesn't mean it is a good fit for you. For an obvious example, don't adopt a dog surrendered because of separation anxiety. And one last thing... make sure you are not allergic to the dog before adopting. Good luck and congratulations. You're about to share your home with the best friend you could have.
posted by Breav at 8:11 AM on April 3, 2009

I think you sound like you'd make a great owner. I would suggest that you keep in mind that Labs are sporting dogs bred to run around in bad weather all day, some individual Labs are certainly very mellow dogs, but most Labs who end up in rescue end up there because they were too high-energy for their first owners, and ended up eating their houses because of it (I know more than one person in Lab rescue in the US, and the VAST majority of dogs who come through are surrendered for (usually destructive) behaviour problems directly related to energy level/lack of exercise). But since it sounds like you're already doing things right, I'm sure you will research breeds and individual dogs carefully before you make a decision, just remember that you can change a lot about a dog, but you cannot change what it was bred to do (terriers want to dig, herding breeds want to herd), and you cannot change its exercise needs, take both of those into account, and you should be fine.
posted by biscotti at 8:12 AM on April 3, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks again for all the comments everyone, you've really set my mind at ease. For anyone keeping tabs, this isn't actually likely to happen till towards the end of the year or early next year, various commitments and engagements and practicalities preclude it being an easy prospect till then. But I do absolutely intend this to happen and I'm going to keep gathering advice and also check out all the books recommended here. I'll send pictures too!

One further note for anyone still keeping tabs on this question, sadly the person in my life most against my getting a dog, is still unconvinced by everything that has been voiced here. For one he believes you are all very biased, pro-dog, probably all dog owners, and not capable of enough objectivity on the question. For two he believes it would be difficult or impossible to ever tell if my future dog was unhappy home alone, as he/she would always be happy to see me when I came home (but I'd set up a camera if necessary). For three, he thinks I'm putting my own needs and wants above the needs of any future dog and that its the dog who's going to suffer for that, for my selfishness. I can only give so much credence to such opinions now, but if anyone can come up with some good rebuttals, maybe he'll see the light and I'll avoid having a good friend spending the rest of his life thinking I'm cruel.
posted by Elfasi at 2:27 PM on April 3, 2009

Your friend seems a little extreme. So only people home all day can have a dog without being cruel? That's just not rational. Even kids can happily play by themselves or nap for hours.

Also, dogs can be stimulated by toys when people aren't around. See Victoria Stillwell, on It's Me or the Dog, for excellent tips on making sure your dog is happy when you are away.
posted by CoralAmber at 5:18 PM on April 3, 2009

For one he believes you are all very biased, pro-dog, probably all dog owners, and not capable of enough objectivity on the question.

So he thinks only anti-dog cat lovers are qualified to answer the question? This is unreasonable, illogical, and frankly bizarre. If there was any real credence to his position, there'd be international "Work At Home!" campaigns to accompany the international "Spay/Neuter" campaigns. But, you know...there's not.

You're an adult and you don't need someone else's permission or approval to provide a home for an animal you're obviously qualified to care for. Please don't let your friend's extreme position dissuade you.
posted by scody at 5:38 PM on April 3, 2009

I own a dog, cat, & bird - all rescues. I work full time and they are fine on their own all day (no destruction of property, soiling, etc.) while I'm at work. When I get home from work we eat, play, exercise etc. and if I go out for the evening, they are fine with that as well. They adapt. I spoil. We're a happy family.

FWIW, tell your "person in my life" that on the occasional day (weekend or weekday) that I'm off/home all day, I have observed that my critters tend to SLEEP most of the time I'm there. I've actually thought about installing a "critter-cam" while I'm gone to observe them, but realized that it would be a waste of time and money 'cause they mostly sleep. My rescues, I'm convinced, are so grateful to be out of the situation they were in before I adopted them, that they are ecstatic with just a moderate amount of attention and (still) overjoyed with anything beyond that. It's a win-win situation.

I don't see how, in all of your research and willingness to accommodate your new dog, your SO/good friend (or whoever) thinks that you are putting your selfish desires above those of your future dog?!

Just from this thread, I can tell that any future dog of yours would be a happy and lucky one for sure.

And, to reiterate, we want pics when the time comes!
posted by ourroute at 7:06 PM on April 3, 2009

I do strongly feel that it is only fair to puppies that someone be with them for the first few months. However, my life circumstances have allowed me to be home with my two dogs (now 2-1/2 and 10 months old) for the past several months, and I am here to report that they mostly sleep from about 10 to 3 and couldn't care less about you during that time. I am very confident that if you take your dog for an hour walk or spend 30 minutes playing a fast game of fetch and doing some training in the morning, and then do the same at lunch, it will happily snooze the rest of the day away until you get home.

I appreciate your friend's concern for the future dog's well-being, but he is letting the perfect be the enemy of the virtually darn perfect. And he doesn't seem to know all that much about dogs, either.
posted by HotToddy at 8:34 PM on April 3, 2009

Response by poster: Final update. I got a dog from a rescue centre at the very end of December last year. He is a Dutch Shepherd dog, just over a year old now and has utterly taken over my life. Please mefi-mail me if you'd like pictures!

It was absolutely the right decision to get him, even though I have moved now into a slightly smaller house, a house I own, a house a few hundred yards from where I work. I could type for hours about him and how wonderful life with him is, but just wanted to give this one final comment here.
posted by Elfasi at 1:26 AM on March 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

Congratulations! Not surprised, though--you sounded like you'd make a fantastic dog owner. Wishing you many long, happy years together.
posted by HotToddy at 9:59 AM on March 17, 2010

Thanks so much for the update, and what a beautiful breed. I'm glad you followed through -- for both you and your pup!
posted by FelliniBlank at 1:50 PM on March 18, 2010

Yay! What a happy ending. And it sounds like it's a match made in heaven. Thrilled for you both. I'd love a photo. And if you want any training resources online, let me know. I've got a few good sites to share. Congrats!
posted by barnone at 8:01 PM on March 18, 2010

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