Raising a pet dog on my own
July 28, 2011 3:54 AM   Subscribe

Is it a good idea to get a pet dog if I live alone and need to travel occasionally?

I live alone in an apartment on the third floor and have always wanted to have a pet dog, preferably a Doberman. But I'm worried about caring for the dog because there's nobody else at home. I work from home but have to travel occasionally for consulting assignments. I'm worried about leaving a dog alone at home for extended periods.

Any suggestions from the MeFi folks on whether it's a good idea to get a dog, the temperament of Dobermans when in this kind of situation, and any other advice on raising and training a dog by oneself?
posted by madman to Pets & Animals (25 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
There's nothing wrong with having a dog in your situation, but you shouldn't leave alone for more than 5ish hours at a time. There are dog sitters for days when you are away for just a day. If you are going to be gone for more than a day, board the dog - or have a friend stay with it. Don't leave a dog alone for 12-24 hours - that's just cruel and will lead to horrible behavior from your companion. It's not just a pet, it's a family member.
posted by Drama Penguin at 4:00 AM on July 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

I agree with Drama Penguin.. Don't leave a dog alone for more than 12hrs on a regular basis. If you can't afford dog walking services, doggy day care and occasional boarding, you shouldn't get a dog.

Aside from food, water and love... dogs need exercise and socialization with other dogs. I would plan on doggy day care 2x per week (for socialization and exercise) and a daytime dog walker to help out the other 3 days per week while you're working.

Bored dogs are trouble.
posted by j03 at 4:25 AM on July 28, 2011

oh wait, i just saw where you work from home. fantastic!
posted by j03 at 4:26 AM on July 28, 2011

Working from home means you'll be around for the dog most of the time, which the dog will certainly love. If you can line up a dogsitter to either take in the dog or stay at your place when you travel, you've got the problem solved. Go for it!
posted by DrGail at 4:45 AM on July 28, 2011

You're gonna get a lot of opinions like Drama Penguins. With all due respect, it varies by dog. I live alone. I have a dog. I leave for work at 7:30, I generally return by 6:30 but once a week or so I am out til 10. He has never had a problem with either poor behavior or soiling the apartment on these occasions. I walk him once in the morning, once at dinner, and once before bed. The important thing though is I walk him for 40 minutes minimum morning and dinner. When I go away, I have a local pet store come three times a day to walk him.

I did not set these patterns until I took the first month to get to know my dog. This is the important thing. Get to know the dog. Maybe foster him/her first. Pick a breed that likes so sit on the couch (greyhound) or that is older. Do NOT adopt on impulse. That's where people get in trouble.
posted by spicynuts at 4:56 AM on July 28, 2011

I grew up with two brown dobermans (not at the same time). They're good looking and nice natured (if not terribly bright) dogs. But they need an awful lot of exercise. We used to give ours two long walks a day - and they had pretty much full time access to a big garden. Even so, the second one would routinely disappear of his own volition into the woods near our house for extra walks and would often run for three hours, come back and then ask for a walk.

They were a lot of fun. But I really wouldn't recommend them for an apartment dweller who's out of the time. I live in inner London now (in a terraced house) and I have a cat. That feels about right.
posted by rhymer at 5:13 AM on July 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

sorry should an "a lot" in the second last sentence.
posted by rhymer at 5:14 AM on July 28, 2011

Thanks for all the responses, everyone.

If I may ask, what breeds are better suited for apartments then if not Dobermans? I like that a Doberman doesn't need much grooming and won't shed a lot (I'd hate cleaning up dog hair) and looks good. But when I asked my friends for suggestions, pretty much everyone said "get a Labrador!". I wonder why.

I go for a morning walk for about an hour almost every day, so walking the day at least once a day isn't a problem for me.
posted by madman at 5:36 AM on July 28, 2011

If you hate cleaning up dog hair, don't get a Labrador or any other double coated breed.
posted by crankylex at 5:44 AM on July 28, 2011

Honestly, I would also question a Labrador. Dobermans and Labs both need a lot of exercise. And friends that are Doberman fans say that they need a lot of training -- they're really strong and curious, so are going to respond best to the type of exercise where they're being taught something. Labradors are known for their high energy -- any type of high energy dog would be more problematic in an apartment, I imagine.

As someone mentioned above, greyhounds are strangely low energy dogs. Also, you mention a nice long morning walk, but I think most apartment dogs need at least two walks a day (morning and night). I'm sure there are some that do fine with only one walk a day, but in my experience if you have a larger dog that likes exercise, you need two a day.

I think there are several "breed selector" quizzes online that can help you find lower energy dogs.
posted by lillygog at 5:50 AM on July 28, 2011

What is your current mental plan for when you travel?
posted by dgeiser13 at 6:00 AM on July 28, 2011

True. Dobermans don't shed much. But that is about the only apartment-positive quality they have. I seem to recall when we left ours alone for long periods they had a propensity to eat the sofa too.

They're not the cleverest of breeds either. As a child, I asked a UK policeman visiting our school why they used German shepherds and longer used dobermans. His response was "Because they're too stupid to train for complex tasks." I loved both my dobermans. But neither of them gave me any cause to disagree with the policeman's assessment.
posted by rhymer at 6:14 AM on July 28, 2011

My parents have a doberman (Ginger), and I was surprised to see someone above describe them as being not terribly bright. Ginger is sharp as a tack; she has them trained. Perhaps that's not the case for all dobermans, but my step father had another doberman previously, and that one seems to have been similarly smart. That said, Ginger was quite a handful when she was young; we went through a doggy training course with her (the purpose of which was to train us in handling her as least as much as it was to train her to listen to us), and she was a lot of work until she learned who the pack leader was. She wasn't destructive at all; she was just a high-energy animal. She's calmed down in her older years, and she's always been extremely loving and affectionate to all members of our household. She has a habit of barking her head off whenever anyone comes to the house, but she's afraid of my pet rabbit, which should tell you that she's all bark and no bite.

TL;DR: Dobermans are great in my experience, but they'll challenge you in their younger years. If that's not the kind of experience you want, you might opt for another breed, especially given that you're in an apartment (and, I presume, don't have a yard).

P.S. Ginger sheds plenty (although I suppose maybe not as much as other dogs). It's just shorter hair.
posted by divisjm at 6:15 AM on July 28, 2011

We have 2 dogs in our 850 square foot apartment and they are no problem. They are smaller dogs so only need one longer walk a day and go out for potty breaks 3 other times a day. We take them hiking and stuff on weekends so it gets us all out of the house.

If you work from home most dogs would love that, and dogs usually handle their people going away no problem, especially if you get a pet sitter to come in and walk them so they can stay in their own environment. Dobermans are a large high energy dog so it might be worth looking at a smaller dog. Greyhounds as have been stated here, are very low energy and if you like a larger dog would probably be a perfect match.

I would also agree with what others have said and maybe consider getting an adult dog, then you can have more idea of temperament too. I own a Rat Terrier who is a good example of this, if you went of dog breed guides he's be a terrible apartment dog. But he is lazy by nature and I have to drag him out of bed for walks as he likes to sleep until noon, he loves just sitting and playing quietly with his toys but everyone that see's him thinks that because he's a terrier (and looks a bit like a long legged Jack Russell) he'd be a high energy bad apartment dog.

It might be worth visiting a rescue you could tell them what you were looking for in a dog, most of the reputable places know their animals and want to find you your perfect match. If you have one that fosters the foster parents would have a good idea of dogs natural tenancies. You might even volunteer to foster a dog for a little while to see if having one really does fit in with your life style and is what you thought it was. That's how I ended up with my little Rattie Terrier.
posted by wwax at 7:12 AM on July 28, 2011

Older rottweillers will dwell on your couch and require extensive bribery to get them off. Good apt breed.
posted by spicynuts at 7:19 AM on July 28, 2011

I think you will be fine. Working from home is a huge blessing for a dog, and there are many pet-sitting services in every city that will come in and walk the dog and play with it while you are traveling. My fiancee is actually one of them, and she often takes care of dogs in their homes for up to a week at a time while their owners are gone and they seem perfectly happy.

I would suggest visiting several animal shelters and picking out a dog that is around 1 year old. This is when they first start to calm down a little and fall into reliable patterns of behavior, but still have the energy and youthfulness and adorable-ness of a young dog. If you don't like dealing with dog hair, get a short haired dog and a Furminator (another benefit is that you won't have to get it groomed once a month which is annoying.) You'll also be able to get a sense of which dogs are going to be too barky for an apartment. I wouldn't put too much stock in breed, it varies so much from dog to dog. Just pick one that feels right and I'm sure you'll be happy.

The thing about having a dog is that once you have one, actually have brought it home, you fall so in love with it that the little chores you have to do don't bother you. I was worried I'd be annoyed by having to walk my dog, train him, etc but he is like a great friend who I love spending time with and enjoy observing in different scenarios. 99% of the time it is a pleasure to care for him.
posted by ohsnapdragon at 7:28 AM on July 28, 2011

If you'd hate to clean up dog hair, I respectfully suggest that you either suck it up or refrain from getting a dog. There are dogs like poodles that require frequent grooming and stripping because they really don't shed much at all. But shorter hair, like on a Doberman, does not AT ALL mean they don't shed as much as other dogs. It just means what they shed is shorter. Which can often be a pain because shorter hair like on Dobermans and Boxers will stick like little pins into fabric and make it harder to brush off or remove with a lint roller than longer hair, as from Labs.

If you work from home, that's a fantastic mark in your favor as far as being around the dog enough to train it and bond with it and make sure it's well behaved and not lonely and bored. As far as breed, if you're inexperienced at training, I suggest you either visit a good shelter and look for an adult of any or mixed breed, or that you work with a rescue group in your chosen breed. Both avenues have a much better chance of someone already being familiar with the dog's personality as well as what typical breed traits are there, which people often overlook. e.g., I could train and train a Beagle all day long, but if he's a typical Beagle, he's going to bay and annoy the neighbors. And most adolescent Labs will eat your shoes or chair legs. And Dobermans are known for being velcro dogs.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 7:41 AM on July 28, 2011

I have a friend who just got a puppy and travels frequently for work. She's planning on leaving the puppy once a week with an elderly woman she knows from church so the two can get to know one another and the woman can take the dog when my friend travels. Nice for the older lady, too.
posted by i_am_a_fiesta at 8:00 AM on July 28, 2011

I agree with what other people have said. There's absolutely nothing wrong with getting a dog regardless of whether or not you live alone. A lot of people believe that they can't take care of dogs if they are not home all the time, but realistically, most people aren't home often anyways, especially with long work days. I think it's important to have a routine for the dog so that they can become familiar with staying at home alone and how to take care of themselves when alone. However, when you are not at home for a certain amount of days then you should have someone else take care of it.
posted by sincerely-s at 8:33 AM on July 28, 2011

Do you plan out your travel in advance or do you leave on short notice? Do you have the budget for boarding the dog or hiring an in-home dogsitter? If you board the dog, can you afford to keep it current on its shots (paperwork will be required)? Do you ever spontaneously spend the night at a significant other's house? What will you do with the dog then?

Dogs are expensive to board and a big pain in the ass if you want to just get away for a weekend on short notice. Do not underestimate the inconvenience or cost of this. Have a plan before you get the dog and regret it.
posted by desjardins at 8:36 AM on July 28, 2011

i used to work from home and occasionally traveled. when i did travel, i either boarded my dog, had a house/dog sitter or a friend come to stay with him, or brought him to a friend's house to stay. it's just a cost you need to factor in. i'd had him since he was a baby and being at home with him every day was fantastic in terms of the time i was able to devote to training him as well as bonding—and i think that's why he's so great now when he is home alone (def no separation anxiety from him): apparently, he just sits in "his chair" all day waiting for me to get home.

i did a stint working in an office for about a year a few years ago and i'm now contracting in an office causing me to be out of the house before 8a and return around 6p. he's fine staying at home but i do bring him into daycare once or twice a week. i also run about 3-7 miles 3-5x a week with him when we get home from work (he's a weimaraner and needs a lot of exercise altho he's good going without for short periods as well). if you can't provide enough exercise for your dog, don't get one that requires it (such as a doberman). they will get bored (and possibly destructive) and you (hopefully should) feel guilty about that. if you can't devote time to exercise a high energy dog regularly and with the amount needed, rescue a greyhound. they're pretty much couch potatoes.

with regard to short hair = no shedding, that's not necessarily the case. weims have short hair but my weim's short hairs are everywhere—it's almost as bad as when i had medium haired cats.
posted by violetk at 9:06 AM on July 28, 2011

I believe Grayhounds are supposed to be great apartment dogs.

I have a Weimaraner in an apartment, which I would highly recommend you do NOT do. I spend way to much money and time on my dog (who I love with all my heart, but is a giant pain in the ass)

Seriously though, owning a dog is much more work and money than you probably expect. So, make sure you have doggy daycare or boarding options available and that you can afford them.
posted by LZel at 9:55 AM on July 28, 2011

Your home/work/travel situation is fine for owning a dog. It's finding the right dog that you need to work on. This site has a questionnaire for finding an ideal dog. It lists both pure and mixed breed dogs.
posted by deborah at 10:42 AM on July 28, 2011

My perspective is slightly different than that of many other folks in that I grew up in a NYC apartment with a dog, and know perfectly happy city dogs of all breeds from Akitas to Alsatians to Cavaliers. I have always maintained that is is not about the breed, it is about the dog. I have owned a German Shepard, a Standard Poodle, a couple of Boxers, and a Char Pei, never with a back yard, and I don't really believe in "apartment dogs."

Case in point: I live in a 500sq foot house with a 42-lb boxer, in the middle of a city with no garden or back yard. Everyone will tell you that boxers need one 1 hour walk a day and plenty of exercise. My dog goes out to pee three times a day and gets one, 15-minute off-leash walk around the tiny local park every evening. We take her to the local campus for a big romp about once a week. She's a couch potato and is completely content with this arrangement, which would not suit a more energetic animal. But it is not her breed, it's just her.

If you work from home, you are well set up for a dog. My advice to you as a new dog owner would as follows, but I don't live in India so I have zero idea what your practical options are.

1) Do not get a puppy. Puppies are Advanced Dog and you need to cover Dog 101 first.
2) Work with a shelter or rescue organisation that really knows each dog. They will work hard to match you to a dog who will thrive with what you can offer. You may be well-suited to an older Doberman; I don't know, but a Doberman rescue would. A dog who is already house trained is a real, serious bonus.
3) All dogs shed. If this is an issue for you, consider a standard poodle or standard poodle cross-breed. They are super smart, pretty laid back, and do not have to have stupid fou-fou haircuts - they can in fact look way butch! We used to shave ours like a lamb with a pair of #5 clippers. Easy. Regardless, you're going to need a vacuum cleaner that works.

I can see that there is a rescue in Bangalore; it might be worth speaking to them if they are local to you. Their site says they have 200 animals at any given time, so I can only imagine the need is great. Potentially you could meet a lot of dogs and get to see their different personalities, etc, which might help you have some more data to work with.

If you do decide to purchase a full-breed dog instead of adopting, please be careful, educated and informed. Again, I know squat about India but backyard breeders and puppy mills are a HUGE problem in lots of the world (including the US and here in Ireland) and you really, really do not want to contribute to the hell of suffering that means for so many animals.
posted by DarlingBri at 10:47 AM on July 28, 2011

I highly recommend going to a shelter to find a good fit! You can get one who's a few years old and already trained. You can look into one that doesn't shed. (Some dogs don't shed, it's true! My mini schnauzer doesn't shed in the slightest. She has to get groomed every several weeks, but she doesn't even need brushing or anything in the meantime.) You can tell the folks there about your work/life situation, and they can recommend a guy who is right for you in terms of when you're home/not home, and how much energy you can handle.

(Data point: I live alone, and my little one does just fine when I'm at work every day. She used to have a walker, but not anymore, and she does great. I take her to day care once a week because the mental stimulation/socializing is great for her. I'm super lazy...if I can do this by myself, anyone can!)
posted by violetish at 8:11 PM on July 28, 2011

« Older Clock in, clock out, clock back in   |   The science behind contempt? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.