Worst Owner Ever?
September 3, 2009 12:26 PM   Subscribe

I'm single, and work 9-5. I'd like to get a dog. Is it a really bad idea?

I'm moving into my first house next month, and I'd like to get a dog. But I can't be home during the day. I've pretty much resigned myself to the fact that that isn't a good dog-situation.

But I just wanted to check with Metafilter. Would having 2 dogs be better so they could keep each other company? I have a small yard, but could put in a dog-door. What do you think?
posted by blue_beetle to Pets & Animals (26 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
What kind of dog do you want?
posted by Think_Long at 12:35 PM on September 3, 2009

We work longer hours than you do, we leave home at about 7:20 in the morning and arrive back at home 5:10 or later each evening. We have two happy, healthy dogs.

First, we were lucky I think to get two dogs so they could keep each other company during the day.

Second, we started crate training the day we got them (both as puppies). We bought a crate before buying the dogs, and so they know that every day as we go to work or at night when we go to bed, they go to their crate. It has a water bottle where they can drink without spilling, and blankets in the bottom for their comfort.

This has become their own little den, a place where they feel secure. If they are tired or frightened by a thunderstorm, they go to their crate on their own.

We have ensured that they have no injuries many times over, so they are not fighting in the crate, nor gnawing their own skin out of boredom. I even set up a webcam one time, and they just slept all day.

One thing that I feel is important is that you make sure they get plenty of exercise when you are there. Cooped up all day, I find my dogs have a lot of energy at night. I make sure they get plenty of run time and take them for walks so they are tired out, and they sleep when in the crate during the day and during the night.

So no, I don't think it's a bad idea for you to get a couple of dogs so long as you're a careful and loving dog owner. Being gone that long each day is not detrimental to a dog, and they'll be very happy to see you when you get home.
posted by arniec at 12:36 PM on September 3, 2009

I'm single and work and have two two year-old pups (I got two for that reason). When I first got them, my job was flexible enough that I could leave at lunch to go walk them. Now they go every day with a dogwalker to a doggie playgroup. Ridiculous, but true.

Are you considering a puppy? You would definitely have to take some time at the beginning to make sure it/they got out enough during the day. But if no one got dogs because they worked, most people wouldn't have dogs. You can figure it out.

Shelters will ask about your work schedule though.
posted by Pax at 12:38 PM on September 3, 2009

What about adopting an older dog? They can hold it in longer than little pups. Single people all over the world have dogs, you'll find a way to make it work. Maybe take some time off from work when you first bring them home so they can get accustomed to you and the house. When you return to work you could always get a dog walker or send them to doggie daycare.

I'm not sure I would be comfortable with letting my dogs out into the yard when I'm not around, but I have little yip yap dogs and I'm always afraid they'll get stolen.

We got our second pup to keep the first one company. And honestly, I think he preferred his solitude over his new sibling.
posted by mrsshotglass at 12:39 PM on September 3, 2009

Also, like arniec, my dogs are crate trained (starting day 1). Although I don't put them in crates when I leave now, they still run into their crates when they think I'm leaving (tidying up, coat, keys, etc). They also really love their crates and go in them to chill all the time, with the door open.
posted by Pax at 12:40 PM on September 3, 2009

Unless you're very good with dogs, I'd say no. Dogs prefer to be part of a social group in a way that cats don't. Dogs can suffer separation anxiety when left alone, and will do all the things anxious dogs do, like whining all day, making a mess, and damaging things.

Whether you can train your dog (or dogs) to tolerate being left at home all day will be down to a combination of the animal's personality and how willing you are to persevere with the training needed to get them used to being left alone. An hour every morning and evening for walks, except in the harshest weather, is another part of being a responsible dog owner. Or you could pay someone of course.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 12:41 PM on September 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'd definitely be looking at rescue dogs, puppies would be nice, but I'm not that particular. I'd rather find a dog that needs a good home.
posted by blue_beetle at 12:44 PM on September 3, 2009

Oh, and I'd be looking for anything from small-medium to largish. (No Chihuahuas)
posted by blue_beetle at 12:45 PM on September 3, 2009

Dogs are social, yes, but as long as the dog gets enough exercise when you are home, leaving the dog alone for 8 hours a day means he'll sleep for a good portion of that time. You should think about hiring someone to come in once a day to let the dog out for a potty break. A dog is better off in your home than in a crowded shelter.
posted by Meg_Murry at 12:58 PM on September 3, 2009

A puppy is a bad idea if no one's home. I'd get an older dog.
posted by desjardins at 12:59 PM on September 3, 2009

We're nine to fiveish and our girl hangs out with her best friend, kitty. Again, like the other posters, I got two animals so they could keep each other company--we got lucky that they have a good cross-species friendship. I would definitely get a companion.

Also, make sure you have an emergency plan--stuff comes up. When Mr. Llama, who gets home first, can't make it, we have someone we trust come over and take her out so we're not stressed and panicking on the way home.

It is a big lifestyle commitment though -- it's not just the hours you spend at work, but the hours you spend with friends, at the gym, going out, so you might want to evaluate your whole life and your expectations for how much time you really spend at home. Dogs are highly social creatures and they can adapt, but they need you. A lot.

You'll want to evaluate any adoptees ability to tolerate boredom -- some dogs just can't handle that kind of thing and will eat your couch, no problem. How much you care about that sort of thing is another thing to consider.

Dogs are great.

We don't do a crate thing, she has full run of the house during the day. We do make every effort to see that she's getting lots of off leash running around time, to mitigate the inactivity during the day.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 1:01 PM on September 3, 2009

An older dog would be best as other have said. Can you afford a dog walker to come and give the dog a walk at mid-day?
posted by caddis at 1:18 PM on September 3, 2009

A rescue dog is a great idea, not just because they're older, but because they're likely to have been fostered with people who know their personality very well. I got my girl (mini Australian shepherd) from a rescue and a) no potty training! but also:
b) I actually initially expressed interest in another dog. Upon receiving my application, they thought I'd be better suited to the one I ended up getting, as she was more of a velcro dog and less active. Sure enough, Poppy's been exactly right for me -- a more active dog would be trouble, and me working at home means I'm around most of the time and Poppy chills out at my feet.
If the rescue you go through knows what your schedule is like, they can help you match up with a dog who will tolerate long absences well.
posted by katemonster at 1:30 PM on September 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

I wouldn't worry about being away at work so much as the time commitment in general. I waited to get a dog until my boyfriend and I moved in together. We split up responsibility for her walks, etc which is nice. However, we still have to think about her before we accept invitations to parties and such...especially on holidays like New Years when there will be fireworks and we don't want her to be scared and alone. I'm fortunate that my dog is really chill and my friends let me bring her to their homes for parties...but if the situation was different I might have to decline some social invitations.
posted by radioamy at 1:32 PM on September 3, 2009

This is not necessarily a bad dog-situation.

So much depends on:

1. The breed
2. The individual personality of the dog.

A high energy breed, which requires a lot of physical and mental stimulation (like a border collie and other herding dogs) would probably be a bad fit. But not all dogs want a lot of action. I'd search Google for "low energy" or "low activity" breeds.

Once you identify some good breeds, I think going with a shelter is a great idea. Many dogs, especially in no kill shelters, have been there weeks, months, or years. The people at the shelter know them, their needs and their personalities and could help you make a good match.

And I think two dogs is a great idea. Often in shelters, two dogs will bond. Or an owner with two dogs will surrender them both to a shelter. (In a shelter where I volunteered, an owner bred a pair of poodles for 6 years to sell the puppies, then ditched them to the shelter when he didn't have any more use for them. The poodles were VERY attached to each other- they'd whimper if they couldn't see each other. The shelter wouldn't adopt out one without the other.) It would be awesome to help them stay together.
posted by Ashley801 at 1:35 PM on September 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

Eight hours alone is no big deal for many dogs. They'll just sleep. Basically, the house is his den. He won't mind being in his den.

Our dog generally goes out twice a day. He's a big dog, though.

You probably don't want a puppy because you can't really be around to train him. Adopt a grown-up dog from a shelter or better, a rescue organization. They can tell you which rescues are even-tempered.

Also, breed matters. Check out Dan Tortora's RIGHT DOG FOR YOU, which has a lot to say about which dogs are going to tear up your house and which won't. For example, don't get a border collie. On the other hand, a Bouvier will tend to sleep whenever he's indoors.
posted by musofire at 1:37 PM on September 3, 2009

If you can't afford a dog walker, it's a pretty bad idea. I know there are some breeds who are ok with being alone for 8 hours, but still, wouldn't you find that a bit rude? Otherwise if your social life and habits mean you're usually home or can bring doggie with you.. it will probably work out fine. Most people who have dogs work normal hours.
posted by shownomercy at 1:59 PM on September 3, 2009

You have some great advice here.

I have a dog at home during the day, a medium sized dog, she has a cat buddy that is home with her. I was home when she was a pup, we crate trained, which made it so easy to housebreak her.

I was initially looking at pound dogs. My husband said this is a new family member, and it pays to really research the dog we want. So we looked at a ton of dogs. He wasn't opposed to a pound dog, but we ended up finding the dog we wanted from breeder. This isn't ideal, because there are really loveable dogs in the dog pound. But we did get a wonderful dog that we totally are ga-ga over. Rescue dogs can be great too. And I would get two dogs in the future when I do this again. Dogs love to be with other dogs.
posted by chocolatetiara at 2:20 PM on September 3, 2009

It depends on the kind of dog. I have a super-lazy basset hound who naturally sleeps approximately 22 1/2 hours each day. But I still have a dog-walker who walks him in the middle of the day. He could hold it all day (usually about 10 hours), but I think it's good for him to have the exercise and the social interaction. Keep in mind that a dog-walker is a huge expense, though. Mine is about $300 per month.
posted by JennyK at 2:39 PM on September 3, 2009

It's not a bad idea assuming that you:
Don't get a puppy; have a decent-size disposable income; understand that you will have to sacrifice a lot of your limited free-time (I think you understand that already); do the breed research, as suggested in lots of these comments; get your dog from a shelter or rescue; learn about the individual dog you're interested in, not just the breed; make sure your dog is spayed/neutered.

Ideally, you're looking for a dog that has already had some obedience or house training and wouldn't be described as "high-strung" by anyone. You don't want a dog with socialization issues, since that can take a lot of time to work out.
Getting two dogs would be good in a situation such as the one Ashley801 describes, but don't assume that any two dogs would hit it off just because dogs are social animals. If they don't get along from the start, I don't know that you have the time to appropriately work on the problem.

You probably shouldn't let the dog into your yard while away from home until certain that he couldn't/wouldn't jump over the fence or dig under it. Especially since your ideal dog is going to be kind of independent.
If you can commit to these things, then the dog(s) would be better off with you than in a shelter.
posted by Hdog at 2:54 PM on September 3, 2009

There is absolutely no reason that you can't have a dog and work a regular job, and I can't imagine anyone thinking differently. I've had dogs for most of my adult independent life, and have always had a job, been in school full time, or both. I have never hired a dog walker to let my dogs out mid-day, and they are fine. On the rare occasion that I end up working a 10-hour day, my dogs are still fine.

I do recommend an adult dog, just because house-training can be very difficult if you are gone all day. Crate training is of course a good thing for both adult dogs and puppies, but you can let your dog stay loose in the house providing it can be trusted not to eat your couch.

As far as two dogs, I don't buy the whole "they need a playmate" theory. Not all dogs like other dogs, first of all, and secondly, when you are gone, they literally will sleep all day. Do you want 2 dogs potentially roughhousing and playing around while you are gone?

So, I suggest you hit up petfinder.com or a local shelter/rescue in your area, find you a nice, young adult dog (already housebroken would be a plus), bring it home, and love it to death.
posted by tryniti at 5:02 PM on September 3, 2009 [3 favorites]

Thanks for the answers everyone, it's lots to think about. I appreciate both the positive and negative opinions. I haven't decided yet, but if I do, adult dogs definitely sound like the best bet, and I'll look for personality matches.

Most of my non-work (but outside the home) time is with my girlfriends family, and they all have dogs that they bring everywhere, so any dog I get would be coming with me to socialize.

I hadn't thought about dog-walkers, but that's definitely a possibility.
posted by blue_beetle at 5:15 PM on September 3, 2009

Having another pet with the dog is not the answer. The dog doesn't understand "companionship" or feel "loneliness". It's a dog. Stop projecting human emotions and feelings onto animals.

Animals need the outdoors. They need to run. Leaving a dog in a house for 10 hours is something I would never do to a dog.

Get a dog walker if you deicde to get a dog.
posted by Zambrano at 5:48 PM on September 3, 2009

It really depends on what you do OTHER than your 9-5. The 9-5 is OK, but if you wanted to go anywhere after work, you have to go home first. How long would your commute be? If it's more than a half hour, chances are you'd never drive back in the work direction after going home to walk them, so you might be missing out on stuff, or adding an unnecessary hour of travel to your day. You also have to always come back that night, so if you're ever too tired to drive back, or too drunk, a dog might be a bad idea. What about going away on weekends? If for some reason you can't bring your dog, would you have someone to watch it? What if you have to fly somewhere? Are you OK with leaving your dog in a doggy hotel if no one can watch it? What about if the dog has diarrhea in the morning, can you come in to work late because you have to clean up the mess. I think things like that are easier if you have a roommate or a partner.

Don't mean to sound negative, having a pet is amazing, but I have a couple of single friends who live alone, and while they love their dogs and wouldn't give them up, it's hard to do whatever they want to do. It's kind of like having kids, sometimes what you want isn't what comes first.
posted by KateHasQuestions at 8:58 PM on September 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

Lots of good advice here, but by far the most important, if you do decide to get a dog, is to get one who is already known to be OK on his own. This probably means an older dog, from a low-energy breed, who has lived in a house/shelter for long enough that the current owners can tell you "yes, he doesn't mind being left alone for 4-5 hours". The reason I say 4-5 hours is because you should get a dog walker to let your dog out in the middle of the day.

And as I always do in these threads, I'll put in a recommendation for a retired racing greyhound as the type of dog most likely to meet the above requirements.
posted by primer_dimer at 3:18 AM on September 4, 2009

If you look around North America, you will find that there are teaming millions, or at least hundreds of thousands, of single working people with dogs who are healthy and happy and enjoying life - both when they are home alone during the day and otherwise.

Why don't you live in the house for a few months, think about how a dog would fit into your life, and then if you still want a dog, get one.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 7:06 AM on September 6, 2009

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