Do my circumstances make me an eligible pet owner?
August 23, 2010 9:13 AM   Subscribe

I am thinking of getting a pet dog, is this a good idea or not?

I've always wanted a pet dog, but never had the right circumstances (living, money, availability, etc.). Now I think I may. I'd really look forward to having him/her to play with, be there when I get home, take for walks etc. This question is multifacted.

I recently moved to Toronto, broke up with the girl I was seeing since I got here (questions in my profile if you'd like to be invited to my pity party), and I'm pretty lonely. Although my family is visiting for the summer, in a month it's going to be just my sister and I, with me spending quite a few evenings and weekends alone. My sister wouldn't mind the dog, and would help, although it'd be my reponsibility mainly. The landlord isn't excited at the prospect, but wouldn't forbid it - the tenants on the main floor have a pretty big one; I live in the walkout basement, and landlords on the top floor.
Question 1: Is it ok to adopt a dog because I'm lonely and want the company and can accept the responsibility?

I'd also adopt from a shelter, as I think that's more responsible, plus I'm looking for one that's already housetrained, and where I can get some background info, etc. on. I know that it's a big responsibility, but can you tell me if there's anything I'm overlooking? I know I'll have to do daily walks, buy toys and a peepad, buy food, vaccinations from time to time. I realize there's going to be some hair in my house, so I'm ready to clean that up; I may even have to clean up poop inside the house from time to time?
Question 2: Am I overlooking anything here?

I am also out of the house at 730am, and get back at 430pm weekdays. Weekends I'm home most of the time, except for an occasional hangout with friends. Weekdays I don't usually go out. But since the breakup I've also been trying to reach out to friends more and be a little more sociable. I'd say my goal is apart from work, to socialize once per weekday evening, once per weekend.
Question 3: Is this going to be an ok schedule for my little doggie? Or would he/she feel neglected, and I'd be better off without doing that to a dog?

With regards to cost, is this a realistic guide to costs? I'm looking mainly at the low cost. I don't struggle financially, but I do try cut costs as much as I can, and while I don't have a great job right now, my prospects are okay-good. I think realistically I couldn't spend more than $350-$400 a month right now (excluding adoption fee).
Question 4: Can I afford a dog or not?

Finally, I'm looking for a small-medium dog, that's pretty affectionate, doesn't shed a whole lot, and doesn't bark a whole lot. The last part is really important. I know there are sites I can plug these criteria into and I'll get an answer, but the answers all seem to differ. I'd rather your opinions.
Question 5: Which type? Or just any mixed breed? I don't have to get a pure bred.

I think that's it, if you can think of anything else I should consider let me know.

I've been browsing dogs on Petfinder for my local area, the few I was excited about were already adopted, so I'm still searching, wouldn't mind ideas on searching either.

P.S. Please don't be harsh, I'm trying to be a first time dog-owner, and posting on here is testament that I'm trying to make the best decision, even if not getting a dog is the decision for me right now.
posted by althanis to Pets & Animals (31 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
If you've never had a dog before, there may be a few things you're overlooking. First, an adopted dog may have behavior issues, and you're going to have to deal with them, perhaps by going (together) to obedience classes. Second, a dog needs to be socialized, or you will have more issues, like having the dog jump on/bark at anybody who comes to the house. That means taking the dog to places where there are a lot of people and getting him/her used to being around people and not making a big deal of it. Ditto, socializing with other dogs. Third, if you ever need to travel or be away from the house for more than the workday, you're going to have to do boarding or get a dogsitter.

What you might consider is volunteering at a shelter and getting a better notion of what it means to deal with dogs. This could also give you a better idea of dog types you like, and first dibs when a suitable one comes in. You might also be able to take home for a few days at a time shelter dogs that are undergoing socialization therapy in order to become adoptable, which would give you a better idea about whether you really want a dog, because, keep in mind, this is probably a commitment of many years.
posted by beagle at 9:24 AM on August 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


I'm biased in that I am a great lover of dogs, but I think you sound like a perfect dog owner-to-be. Having a dog is great! They are wonderful companions. You seem to have reasonable expectations on what to do and buy. One more thing to think about: when you travel, where will the dog go? Can it come with you, or will you need to pay to board it? Also, do you have money set aside for medical emergencies/problems? My dog had a skin condition that ended up costing a good chunk of change to correct (drugs and weekly dips for 6-8 weeks).
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:26 AM on August 23, 2010


It sounds like you are making a great effort to think this through. I would just emphasize that getting a dog is a 15-year committment. Think about where you were in your life 5, 10, 15 years ago. Was it a lot different than it is now? Did you anticipate what your life would be like? What about the next 5, 10, 15 years? Do you see a dog fitting into this? Or are you just lonely and looking for some companionship?

What if you want to go out on week nights more than you do now? What about weekend trips (do you hike, camp, like to travel, etc) ? Is having a dog going to affect what you are and are not able to do? (e.g. dogs are not allowed in National Parks) What about going on vacations?

It sounds to me like you are considering getting a dog because you're lonely from your recent breakup. And if you want to get over your loneliness (and eventually find a new girlfriend), you're not gonna do it by staying home and hanging out with a dog. In my opinion anyway...
posted by buckaroo_benzai at 9:27 AM on August 23, 2010


I think it's totally fine to get a pet because you desire companionship. The follow up to that is: what happens if/when you get another girlfriend (if desired)? What happens if/when you get married (if desired)? What happens if/when you have kids (if desired)? What happens if your hours get longer at work or you take a different job with longer days? I'm not sure how long it would be before you encounter any of those life decisions, but if it's at all possible for the dog to be around still that's something to seriously think about. Smaller dogs tend to have longer life expectancies so think about where your life will be in five years or more (depending of course on how old the dog is when you get it, but still think about the next couple of years at least). Your lifestyle *now* seems totally compatible with having a dog.

Also consider that even if normal monthly expenses are well within your budget that unexpected health problems will come up. What will you do if your dog is having some health issues? Will you try to avoid going to the vet for something that seems "small" because of the potential expense? What will you do if you get a $300 vet bill? It sounds like you will be responsible and take good care of this animal, but thinking about unexpected expenses that may break the bank is always good to consider.
posted by radioaction at 9:28 AM on August 23, 2010


Being a dog owner can be a great way to combat loneliness! Given your situation, I think a small dog would be better for you than a medium one. Being inside with a pee pad is OK for smaller dogs, but can create problems for larger ones with bigger bladders. One thing you should ask about when you're thinking of adopting is whether the dog is a chewer. If it's prone to destroying things when left alone you will either need to crate it when you're gone or put in some serious work training it not to eat your things.
posted by stoneweaver at 9:30 AM on August 23, 2010


Regarding the guide to costs, to which you linked, in most cases that is realistic, however, bear in mind that pets can have unexpected costs. Many pet owners develop such a strong emotional attachment to their pet that they will wind up spending ANYTHING that the pet may require, when a less emotionally attached pet owner would at some point say, this pet has become too expensive, and even if I insist on having a pet, I would be better off getting rid of this one and getting a new one. It is possible (and I have actually seen this happen) to buy a pet for $5 but wind up spending $2000 in medical bills. That is not usual, but it is possible. Some dogs prove to be aggressive, and if they attack someone, you are going to be sued. which can lead to very large expenses.

My sister innocently acquired a dog who is playful and lovable. She later discovered that the soil in her backyard is contaminated with heavy metals (she lives in Michigan, where this is a common problem due to many years of careless industrial practices). She is now spending $4000 to have a new layer of soil applied to her toxic backyard so that it will be safe for her dog to continue to play there. Had she known before getting the dog that she would wind up with a $4000 bill to re-do her backyard, she would not have gotten the dog, but now it is too late. The dog is like a child to her, so whatever it needs, it gets.

That said, the odds are that your costs will remain within the range described in that link. Just be prepared for the possibility that there will be unanticipated expenses. Personally, I would MUCH rather make a new friend that get a pet (and I live in Toronto too - maybe I should attend your pity party).
posted by grizzled at 9:30 AM on August 23, 2010


Question 1: Is it ok to adopt a dog because I'm lonely and want the company and can accept the responsibility?

As long as the latter piece of that is a resounding, "Absolutely!" then because you're lonely is an okay reason to adopt a dog. Dogs are great companions, as long as you can in fact accept the responsibility.

Question 2: Am I overlooking anything here?

Chewing. Many dogs chew on things. Many dogs do not. Just be aware of this as you consider getting dog. You may come home to a chewed baseboard or shoe.

Question 3: Is this going to be an ok schedule for my little doggie? Or would he/she feel neglected, and I'd be better off without doing that to a dog?


This, I think, depends on the dog. Some of the time for one of our dogs, this was an okay schedule. But most of the time my mom was home during the day, and the days she wasn't, we kids were out of school by 3 and were able to let the dog out. I certainly know dog owners who have a schedule of this sort and their dogs are fine. But again, others may not be. And even if the dog is house trained, if you adopt one, there may be a regression or a territorial period where things get marked up. If you adopt a dog, I'd plan on taking a few days off from work to helping the dog with the adjustment.

Question 4: Can I afford a dog or not?

That looks about right.

I'd recommend that you start going to shelters, preferably at the same time each week so you run into the same employees or volunteers. Ask them questions, see the dogs, but don't make any finite decisions until you're more comfortable and sure of yourself. The rabbit rescue I volunteered with worked under the premise that they'd rather someone come by ten times and not adopt a rabbit than come by twice, adopt a rabbit, and return it. I think many shelters would also prefer this. Nothing's so heartbreaking to a shelter as a returned animal.
posted by zizzle at 9:32 AM on August 23, 2010


I have no idea where you're getting $350-400/month from. We have two dogs and don't spend anywhere near that. Your schedule is fine. Go for a walk in the morning, a run after work. Your reasons for getting a dog are fine - unless it's a working dog, I don't know why anyone else would get one if not for the company.

The major shift you'll face is that you cannot spontaneously go away for the weekend or even overnight without planning for your dog's care. This was a major adjustment for me when I first met my husband (who already had the aforementioned 2 dogs). Suddenly we had boarding fees or were imposing on family and friends. It's also inconvenient to take the dog with you - lots of motels don't accept dogs, and some campgrounds don't either. When you move, you'll have more difficulty finding a new place to rent because many landlords specifically prohibit dogs - especially if they're more than ~15 lbs. (Ours are 40 lbs, and I've had prospective landlords hang up on me.)

That said, I couldn't imagine being without them, they are great company and they're much more obedient than the cats.
posted by desjardins at 9:32 AM on August 23, 2010


1. As long as you realize that this dog is going to be around a lot longer than you are going to upset about your breakup.

2. Of course you are, bringing a dog into your life is wonderful and tiring thing. Just because they say it is house trained doesn't mean anything, they are probably going to have accidents in the beginning. Daily walks? maybe more than that depending on the size of the dog. smaller dogs need to go out more often.

3. Quite frankly I don't think that is a great schedule for bringing a dog into your life but other people make it work. In our house someone is home in the middle of the day for a walk (we have small dogs though). Have you thought about getting a cat?

4. Do you mean you couldn't spend more than 350-400 per month every month on the dog? If you have that much to spend every month then yes, you can afford a dog. The major outlay comes at the beginning, food and toys are really the only monthly expenses but other things come up. I just spend $600 getting a tooth removed because it had to happen. A vet office visit runs about $30 but you will also need shots/tests/etc. so other costs come up.

5. If you are adopting from a shelter you're going to get a mixed breed dog (otherwise you will be waiting a long time to find the right pure bred). If you get something with short hair you won't notice shedding nearly as much and will therefore seems like the dog sheds less. As you walk through the shelter you'll see pretty easily which ones bark and which ones don't. If you adopt from a rescue group they can tell you a lot more about the temperment of the dog.

I'm going to ask again...have you thought about getting a cat? There are cats out there that are really affectionate. Why do you want a dog in particular, other than you're lonely? Mostly I don't like how much you are going to be out of the house, dogs don't like being alone. Cats usually don't really care.
posted by magnetsphere at 9:33 AM on August 23, 2010


1. Yes if you want a dog because you want a dog. No if you want a dog to help you deal with your breakup.

2. Things you might be missing:
a. A properly house trained dog who is taken out regularly should almost never have "accidents" in the house. IMO using pee pads would undermine your house-training and are kind of gross.
b. Your current landlord may be ok with a dog but you'll probably want to move at some point during the dog's lifetime and finding places that will allow pets can be hard and expensive (pet fees / deposits).
c. Any time you want to travel you will have to take the dog, board the dog, or find some conscientious person to take care of it (and still expect to find some messes and chewing when you return).
d. At some point in the dog's life you may have to make a choice between putting the dog down and spending thousands of dollars on veterinary care.
e. The dog has to go out every 8-10 hours, every day, for the next 10+ years. Even when it's raining, snowing, hot, or cold. Even when you're sick, or tired, or feeling lazy.

3. 8-9 hours without peeing is probably the high end of the reasonable average range for dogs. My dog can go 10-12 hours, but I wouldn't like to try it frequently. How the dog deals with being alone for that long will vary on the breed and the individual dog. My hound mix just sleeps the whole time, a herding breed might destroy your apartment in 6 hours if they're bored.

4. That cost breakdown is kind of odd but I think you would spend substantially less than $350/month.

5. It's hard to get a good picture of how a dog will behave at the shelter, they're excited and there are a lot of other dogs and a lot of stuff going on. If you go that route try to spend as much time as possible alone with the dog.
posted by ghharr at 9:33 AM on August 23, 2010


I may even have to clean up poop inside the house from time to time

Just to expand on that one, you will definitely have to clean up poop and urine and vomit inside the house from time to time. This is particularly true (at least for poop and urine) when you first get the dog, because it will be nervous about its new home and it may take a couple weeks for it to figure out 100% the appropriate place and time for it to eliminate (even if it's already housetrained). If you take the dog out at the same times every day, it will get its bathroom habits on that schedule.

The dog will never learn not to vomit in the house though. Some dogs hardly ever vomit, and some dogs vomit at the drop of a hat.
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 9:35 AM on August 23, 2010


1. Yes, this is absolutely okay.

2. There will always be things you'll overlook. Other things you'll need/want to buy: chew toys, collars/leashes, treats, toothbrush, hairbrush, flea/tick medication, heartworm preventatives, beds, etc etc etc. Nature's Miracle is great for cleaning up accidents. And yes, ghharr is absolutely correct at realizing that this is a huge commitment, and also can be a drain on your social life. My dog's on a regular schedule. I'm always home by 11 to give him his evening walk, and up by 7:30 for his morning walk. Even in the snow. Even when it's 100 degrees outside. Even when he's kept me up all night making noises and wandering around and I've only gotten 2 hours of sleep.

3. 9 hours is a long time for a dog to be alone, but some dogs do fine with it. Mine sleeps all day anyway, so he doesn't care. I can't comment on how well pee pads work for smaller dogs, so hopefully some other commenters will chime in on that score.

4. Your costs per month will probably be very different from that link. I know for my 80-pound hound, my main costs are food ($30 for a 40-pound bag, lasts about a month) and heartworm/flea/tick meds ($40 for 6 months of heartworm, $40 for 4 months of flea/tick). Other things like treats and toys and even vet fees pop up every once in a while, so it's hard to figure exactly how they come out month-to-month. Leave yourself a buffer, because vet bills can be real bastards, especially if you pay e-vet charges. Also, don't underestimate the initial investment; it's more than just an adoption fee. Factor in the one-time purchases like beds, possibly a crate, spay/neuter (if not covered by the shelter). See if your landlord wants a pet deposit. They can get pretty hefty.

5. Considering your criteria, I'd be looking for a mixed breed, probably one that doesn't have any hound in him. Yes, there are well-behaved hound mixes, but if you get a barker/howler, they're quite loud. If you want less shedding, look for one of the mixes that has hair instead of fur. Think poodles, yorkies, etc. But then don't forget that certain breeds/hair types need regular grooming. If you'd like to go purebred, check out some of the breed rescues in your area. They're usually exceptional at explaining the pros/cons of the breed, and also provide an excellent support system after you've adopted.
posted by specialagentwebb at 9:38 AM on August 23, 2010


Question 1: Is it ok to adopt a dog because I'm lonely and want the company and can accept the responsibility?

Sure, but only if you're able and willing to accept the responsibility for the ten to fifteen years. Are you sure you're going to be lonely for that long? If not, consider volunteering at the shelter instead -- you'll meet people as well as animals, which is always nice for combating loneliness without a long-term commitment.

I'd also adopt from a shelter, as I think that's more responsible, plus I'm looking for one that's already housetrained, and where I can get some background info, etc. on...but can you tell me if there's anything I'm overlooking?

Dogs in a shelter usually end up there after being abandoned, neglected, abused or lost. You will likely not find one that is "already housetrained", and similarly you likely won't know its background prior to arriving at the shelter. Adopting a shelter dog is extremely rewarding and I wholeheartedly encourage it, but realistically you should assume you'll need to train them and you won't know their background.

I know I'll have to do daily walks, buy toys and a peepad, buy food, vaccinations from time to time. I realize there's going to be some hair in my house, so I'm ready to clean that up; I may even have to clean up poop inside the house from time to time?
Question 2: Am I overlooking anything here?


You're going to have this dog for more than a decade, so think long term: excessive medical expenses as your dog gets older (before one of my dogs passed, we incurred many thousands of dollars of medical cost in the final three years), and due to injury/illness (my other dog has back problems which require attention, care and occasionally hospitalization, and there was no way to know this when adopting him.) Also, unless you plan to live in this apartment for the life of the dog or buy a house, know that finding a good apartment that allows dogs is not easy -- there will definitely be an impact on your housing options going forward. You'll also have to board him or find friends to stay with him when you travel, which can get very pricey and/or jeopardize friendships.

I am also out of the house at 730am, and get back at 430pm weekdays. Weekends I'm home most of the time, except for an occasional hangout with friends. Weekdays I don't usually go out. But since the breakup I've also been trying to reach out to friends more and be a little more sociable. I'd say my goal is apart from work, to socialize once per weekday evening, once per weekend.
Question 3: Is this going to be an ok schedule for my little doggie? Or would he/she feel neglected, and I'd be better off without doing that to a dog?


Dogs are happiest when they're with their pack 24/7. Many dogs left alone as often as you describe develop behavior problems, separation anxiety, and so on. Often owners get an additional dog to help ease the loneliness.

Ultimately, you can make the decision you want to make, but if you're asking my advice, I'd respectfully suggest volunteering at a shelter and/or finding other ways to be less lonely in the short term -- and reassess your dog desire every few years, as your life changes.
posted by davejay at 9:39 AM on August 23, 2010


Just to expand on that one, you will definitely have to clean up poop and urine and vomit inside the house from time to time.

Oh yeah, this. My house's hardwood floors have been uncovered for years now, because any rug we brought in was inevitably puked on and ruined within a week. It was uncanny.
posted by davejay at 9:41 AM on August 23, 2010


I think you're good to get a dog.
That said, one option to try is volunteering with a dog foster group. Foster a dog for a few days/weeks, and then you'll really know if you're ready to have a dog full-time.
posted by inigo2 at 9:42 AM on August 23, 2010


On the pee pads question, I have a small dog who uses pee pads (I put them in a dog-sized litter box) and they work well. My dog is around seven pounds -- I'm not sure you could go much more than maybe 15 lbs. before the volume of urine would overwhelm the pad. Also, I have a female dog -- not sure how well they work for male dogs.

My dog used to only use the litter box at night and would just pee on her walk during the day otherwise, but she has since developed some health problems that make her have to go more often. It's nice that she was already trained to use the litter box so that I can leave her alone for more than a couple of hours. People seem to worry that using pee pads will interfere with housetraining, but she's never had accidents in the house that weren't related to the health problems.
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 9:59 AM on August 23, 2010


You sound eminently prepared to me. Dogs are great companionship, I've found it to be less work than I was expecting, $400 seems much higher than you need (I spend perhaps $100/month for a 30-pound dog who gets premium food), 9 hours is on the high side but millions of dogs do it every day without incident.

I would not worry too much about getting an already housetrained dog... A- I would take a shelter's claim to that effect with a grain of salt, B-If the dog really is housetrained, this probably means the last owners gave him up, which makes it more likely he has some problem behavior, and C- It's really not that hard to housetrain an adult dog!

I would suggest getting him when you have a few days off from work. Better to be there to observe him while you figure out if he has any chewing/barking issues or neuroses.

Particularly for shelter dogs, I don't see much point to fixating on breed. Look at a bunch of different dogs in the size you want, and pick one who seems calm and friendly.
posted by deadweightloss at 10:00 AM on August 23, 2010


Dogs are excellent companions, and as long as you understand that it's going to be with you for years, and are willing to make that commitment, you should be fine. It sounds like you are putting a lot of thought into this, and that's a really good sign.

The one thing I would really strongly encourage anyone looking at a dog to consider is the energy level; getting a high energy dog if you are a low energy person is a recipe for disaster. Consider the dog's intelligence as well; a smart dog sounds like a really good idea, but unless you are keeping it challenged, it will get bored and find other ways of occupying itself. This could, for instance, manifest itself in the creative destruction of, say, a room.

It's also a wise move to consider the possibility of a medical emergency from the outset, and make sure you have money set aside for any eventuality.

(Personally, a small-to medium dog that's pretty affectionate, sweet, and not too bright to be dangerous? In my house it's a Rat Terrier. Fantastic dog that one is.)
posted by quin at 10:02 AM on August 23, 2010


Yes, get a dog! You sound like a great potential dog owner. I just wanted to suggest that once you narrow down what breed you want that you consider finding a rescue organization and adopt from them instead of from a shelter. These dogs need homes, just as the shelter dogs do, but typically they will have been living with a foster family first for weeks or months. You'll be able to get much more information about their habits and potential problems, and the rescue organization will be just as eager as you to make sure you are compatible. Ask your local shelter for a referral to the local rescue for the breed of your choice, or start here.
posted by Wordwoman at 10:12 AM on August 23, 2010


Hi everyone, thanks for the answers so far.

Since a number of answers suggested that if I do decide to adopt a dog, I should take a few days off from work to aid in the transition process, I have this followup question:

Since I have a few family members visiting, who will be here for the next 3 weeks as I maintain said schedule, do you think it would be a good idea for them to help in getting the dog accustomed to his new home?

The real nuance in this questions is, when they all leave at the same time, will the dog take it really hard, to have them there almost all the time, then be home alone from 730-430 until I get back?

I think the biggest reservation I have is being leaving it at home for such a long period. I'd hate for it to be unhappy or develop issues.

With regards to fostering a dog, again, my schedule makes it a bad idea, especially considering I haven't owned a dog before, and I'd probably make any dog with issues get more issues.

I'll keep thinking about it some more, and update the post whenever I make a final decision.
posted by althanis at 10:34 AM on August 23, 2010


You are being very thoughtful about this; a thoughtful pet owner is a good pet owner. Agreeing with deadweightloss -- definitely bring home your doggie when you are going to be home for at least four days. That way s/he can get used to you, the new environment, and feel safe before being alone in a strange place.
posted by missmary6 at 10:35 AM on August 23, 2010


I would recommend you look into rescue organizations in your area that keep dogs in foster home situations rather than at a shelter. Although it's a noble thing to adopt a dog out of the "pound," even at the very best of shelters dogs are not kept in a home-like environment, and things like house training may not be firmly in place. It's also harder to judge in such a setting whether separation anxiety or boredom destruction will be an issue for any given dog.

You can check for available animals from rescue organizations on a site like petfinder.org, and they often hold "adoption events" at local pet stores where you can come in and meet some dogs, talk to rescue volunteers, etc. If you work with a large and well-organized multi-breed rescue org, they should be able to match you up with a dog that will be suitable for a first-time dog owner in an apartment situation. Almost any adoption organisation will require confirmation from your landlord that pets are allowed.

There are several "what dog breed is right for me" quizzes out there. This one allows you to specify not only a large number of traits, but also indicate which traits are more important and which don't really matter much one way or another. Even if you don't get a purebred, it's probably a good idea to know which breeds or breed mixes to steer clear of.

As a first-time dog owner, I'd not recommend getting a dog that's less than 2 years old.

As far as cost, the "average" number on the site you link seem reasonable--I'd say $75-150/month is a reasonable amount to budget for food, routine vet care and ongoing misc, for a small-medium dog (it's good to set aside another $50/month into an emergency fund). Figure on $500+ for initial start-up costs, including a round of obedience class. I think the "low" annual figure of $287 (that's less than $25/month) is simply not adequate to properly care for a dog. When you say you wouldn't be able to spend more than $350-400 a month but are focusing on the "low" range, it makes me think that perhaps you're reading the annual figure as a monthly figure?
posted by drlith at 10:35 AM on August 23, 2010


It's a commitment for the life of the dog. You may have trouble with future landlords.

You sound well-prepared.

My advice is to really take your time and choose the right dog. I've only adopted adult dogs. One dog I adopted was @7, and was imperfect about housetraining, but otherwise awesome. Current shelter-adopted dog was a stray @ a year old, seems purebred, and is really terrific. One shelter-adopted dog had been badly neglected, and ended up with unresolvable health issues. Ask the shelter what they do in a case like that.

I share good times and bad times with my friends. Kind of a peculiar analogy, but I share good times and bad times with my dog. He seems pretty happy either way. No need to feel bad about giving a shelter dog a good home.

You must, however, post pictures. Mazel tov.
posted by Mom at 10:52 AM on August 23, 2010


Alot of dogs get left at home for that period of time. Is it alright? I don't think so, but that's just my opinion. It would be great if you were able to come home for lunch and walk the dog, spend some time with it. 3 weeks really isn't going to be enough time to get the dog situated- he/she will start to understand the routine, and will fall in line, but then everyone leaving and you being gone most of the day...

It will also really be dog specific as well. Some dogs don't care, some flip out and chew everything. Crate training would be a great first step as well as obedience training.
posted by TheBones at 10:55 AM on August 23, 2010


DO NOT get the dog while your family is visiting. Your first few days with the dog should be quiet and laid-back. You don't want to be worrying about house training and basic obedience while trying to juggle family responsibilities. Plus, the dog's probably going to be crazy overwhelmed at first anyway, and adding more people to the mix is going to make it more overwhelmed. Your best bet is to get the dog at the end of the week, spend a few days just getting it settled in, then slowly work up the amount of time it's left alone. Don't introduce too many variables into the equation.
posted by specialagentwebb at 11:00 AM on August 23, 2010


If you have it in your budget (and it sounds like you do), you might get a dog walker to take the pup out for a midday walk, which would get him/her some exercise and socialization. As a first-time dog person, I also found that the walkers reinforced good behaviors, especially recall, in ways that were very helpful as I learned what was necessary to train him.

In terms of the initial adoption period - I spent about a week transitioning him into the home, making sure we were both clear on housebreaking needs and safety issues around the house. I think it's probably going to be easier on you to do this without juggling visiting family, but that's your call - I wouldn't worry about the dog being upset when they leave - he'll know you're his person.

In terms of choosing a dog, if you read any of the other dog threads here, you'll see lots of advice on choosing the dog, not the breed. I had my heart set on getting a greyhound, and ended up with a Jack Russell Terrier, which is pretty much the opposite of a greyhound in every single way - you can't help who you fall in love with, sometimes. Best of luck!
posted by judith at 11:05 AM on August 23, 2010


I used to work as an adoption counselor at a shelter. You sound like a great potential dog owner.

I am also out of the house at 730am, and get back at 430pm weekdays.

In general, this is acceptable for adult dogs, but not a puppy. This is the general vibe I'm getting from your post: you would be a great dog owner, but you should probably look for a dog that is at least a year old.

Since I have a few family members visiting, who will be here for the next 3 weeks as I maintain said schedule, do you think it would be a good idea for them to help in getting the dog accustomed to his new home?

How much family are we talking? If it's just your parents visiting, I don't think it'll be a big factor either way. If things are crazy stressful, you should wait.

Finally, I'm looking for a small-medium dog, that's pretty affectionate, doesn't shed a whole lot, and doesn't bark a whole lot. The last part is really important. I know there are sites I can plug these criteria into and I'll get an answer, but the answers all seem to differ. I'd rather your opinions.

Tell the shelter staff these things! They know the dogs and will be able to find one suited to you. The adoption staff doesn't want you to bring a dog back because he doesn't fit your situation either. Don't put full on trust into what you read about dog breeds; a lot of shelter dogs are mixed and not even purebred dogs fit all of the general characteristics. I think taking a few days off work to meet some dogs in person and get a real feel for personality beyond pictures online is a great idea.

Also, read up on crate training!! This is an ideal situation to crate train. It will help your dog adjust to housetraining in a new place, help him with loneliness when you leave, and prevent your things from being torn up.

I would recommend you look into rescue organizations in your area that keep dogs in foster home situations rather than at a shelter. Although it's a noble thing to adopt a dog out of the "pound," even at the very best of shelters dogs are not kept in a home-like environment, and things like house training may not be firmly in place. It's also harder to judge in such a setting whether separation anxiety or boredom destruction will be an issue for any given dog.

Many shelters have foster programs, just like rescue organizations. Don't let this be a deterrent.
posted by almostmanda at 11:10 AM on August 23, 2010


I've fostered 30-some dogs for local animal shelters and you sound like an excellent adopter!

Petfinder is a good place to start, as might be Craigslist (heavily used by foster parents in my area, less sure about other areas). You seem interested in adopting a homeless dog (as opposed to a dog from a breeder) -- the adoption fees are typically $75-$150. You can go to specific breed rescues -- their fees will be a little higher (but if they are over $600, research the rescue -- they might be a breeder in disguise!). Nthing dog in foster care will already be living in a home and has a human who's been working with them on house-training and possible behavioral issues -- plus they are probably hooked up with a network of other foster parents who may have a good fit for you, if their dog isn't a fit. If you have your heart set on a puppy, let the shelters know -- it may be a month or so but they end up at the shelters, too. If you want, you can ask if the foster parent is going to go get a new foster (thereby nudging them to save 2 more lives -- the dog in the cage and the next dog that can use that cage at the shelter).
posted by MeiraV at 11:25 AM on August 23, 2010


Yes wanting love and companionship and unconditional love is of course a great reason to adopt a dog! (Why do you think people have babies?)
posted by radioamy at 12:46 PM on August 23, 2010


I'm late to this discussion but you sound like a wonderful prospective dog owner. Just a few things to add to the great comments so far:

1. Dogs live in the moment. They also sleep a lot. So most dogs are OK with time alone provided they have something to engage the mind (I favor frozen large raw bones or kongs stuffed with baby food and a few treats and frozen) and water and the ability to pee/poop. We have a fenced dog run.

2. Your budget sounds ample. If you are worried about unexpected vet bills, and they do crop up, pet insurance comes at an affordable monthly rate. Just do some on line research. Memail me if you want the the name of a decent pet insurance outfit.

3. Please plan to clicker train, that is, to train your dog with positive reinforcement. You tube has a great collection of videos on clicker training. Also, you may want to check out Karen Pryor's website.

4. Dogs are a long term commitment. Don't do this until you are ready to own your dog for its natural life. You will find a friend and companion and source of love and laughter that cannot be matched. Really, in the end, the hardest thing about being a dog owner is that dogs just don't live long enough.
posted by bearwife at 1:44 PM on August 23, 2010


There are many wonderful suggestions in this thread.

I need to second bearwife's insurance suggestion. My pet insurance costs about $13 a month and has saved me several thousands of dollars over the past four years; it's covered everything from a broken pelvis to a minor bee sting. I'd also recommend asking around to see which shelters offer a month of free veterinary care post-adoption since many dogs leave shelters with some form of kennel cough and insurance companies won't pay for any pre-existing illnesses.

You could also look into a dog walker to spend time with your dog for half an hour to an hour each day. Mine costs $15 per day and walks my dog for forty-five minutes. That's a pretty great deal in the dog-walking world, but I found it rather easily by asking around at the dog park.

Re: barking: My dog developed a bit of a barking problem a couple of months after I adopted him. I invested in a remote-control citronella spray collar. I only had to use it twice and the incessant barking stopped. We've been bark-free for three years now. I sold the collar on eBay and got most of my money back.

Lastly, I'd like to add that I think it would be best to wait to adopt until your family members have left. Your dog needs time to bond with you and to enjoy some stability!
posted by pineappleheart at 3:03 PM on August 23, 2010


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