We got a puppy. Was this a bad idea?
September 19, 2011 10:15 AM   Subscribe

Should we keep our puppy? What do we do?

We recently bought a house. I wanted the house so we could have a backyard for a dog to play in. I wanted to wait until December AFTER some work was done on the house (kitchen renovation), the current school semester ended (in grad school), and things slowed down a bit at work (my wife and I both work full time). I love, love, love dogs, and try to donate money to animal rescues when I can. However, it's a living creature and I wanted my doggy decisions to be well thought-out and deliberate.

My wife's nephew called us this past weekend. He'd adopted a German Shepherd puppy (not even 7 weeks old), took it home, and his mom freaked out. She said to get rid of the dog, or she would. So he'd not planned this out well.

The nephew called and BEGGED us to take the dog. They knew we wanted a dog, but I never wanted a puppy. I wanted a dog that was at least a year or two old. But then my wife's brother called and begged. I was afraid where the dog would end up (what kind of family or shelter) if we didn't step in, so we caved. That was this past Friday.

So now we've had this puppy through the weekend, and my well thought-out doggy plans are shot to hell. I knew it'd be like having a baby, but it's harder to experience than to just KNOW. He needs constant attention. He wakes up every 30 minutes to an hour through the night and needs attention (usually after peeing or pooing).

So here are the pertinent facts that I worry about, followed by a couple of questions:
1) Wife and I work. I leave for work at 6:30 AM, and return at 5:30 PM. She leaves for work at 9:30 AM and returns home at 7ish PM. In between those times, there's nobody home (please don't rob us).
2) We have no other pets.
3) We just moved to this neighborhood, so we don't know our neighbors well enough to ask them to come and look in on the dog through the day.
4) I want the dog to be happy and well adjusted. Our schedules are incredibly busy.
5) My wife has never had a dog, and doesn't seem to understand how much furniture and things the dog will chew up.
6) He's a purebred German Shepherd. I wanted a rescue mutt, but I do like German Shepherds.
7) I can't imagine it would be too hard to adopt him out, if necessary. Again, I worry about the freakshow who might adopt him.
8) My wife has already developed an attachment to this dog. Out of the two of us, in this case I've been the more practical one. Sure he's cute, but he's a pile of responsibilities.
9) The dog is only 7 weeks old. I was told he can't go out for walks until at least 4 months, and can't even go into the backyard for another week.

1) Are puppies best for people who always have someone home?
2) Do you have any recommendations of what we should do?
3) Should we find a family who could offer the kind of time he requires?
4) Is there any way you can see of making this work out?
5) HELP!!!
posted by rybreadmed to Pets & Animals (35 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
This dog is way too young to be at home alone for that long. If I were in your situation, I would find a different home. It doesn't sound like you want the puppy, and that your brother forced you into it. Post the puppy on craigslist and call the local german shepard rescue and see if they can help you match the puppy up with someone.

You can make it work, but it's gonna take alot of work on your part, including hiring someone to come over and make sure the puppy can go to the bathroom and to spend some time with it.
posted by TheBones at 10:22 AM on September 19, 2011 [3 favorites]

You will be fine. Keep the dog. Turn your laundry room/kitchen/bathroom into a puppy room and put up a gate and lay down papers. That's fine for now. Crate the dog at night and follow all of the crating/housebreaking rules that you undoubtedly already know.

I wouldn't judge you for giving up the dog, but I truly think this will work out for you. It's just going to take some time to adjust. When we first got our dog, I had more than one crying fit where I was convinced we should just return her. However, we just had to get used to having a dog and she had to learn to love us. It sounds like you guys are dog people and will love having this animal in your lives - just give it time.
posted by jrichards at 10:24 AM on September 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

Puppies are work, but not *that* much work if you're willing to make some compromises (and get a dog walker, or find someone or somewhere to watch your dog during the day).

You can take your dog out for walks before 4 months -- talk to your vet. Your vet will tell you when your puppy can safely be around other dogs, get immunizations etc.

If you are unable or unwilling to get a dog walker, find a caretaker or change your schedule -- you should not keep the dog.
posted by wrok at 10:25 AM on September 19, 2011

I'm with jrichards. Sometimes love just falls into your lap and you've got to adjust!
posted by thinkpiece at 10:25 AM on September 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

I agree with finding a breed rescue, I'm sure they would be happy to take him.

When I got my dog, I went through a breed rescue (not german shepherd) and I recall that there was a pretty long wait time to get a puppy (fortunately, I didn't want one.) So, I think purebred puppies are in high demand through rescues and he would have no problem getting placed with a great home if you went that route.

Plus I think you'd be happier getting a non-puppy mutt. I know I was.
posted by GastrocNemesis at 10:26 AM on September 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Don't get me wrong. He's a sweet, cute puppy. I like him a lot, and his sweet puppy eyes could melt ice. BUT I'm trying to be practical for the dog's sake. I don't just want to leave him unattended and alone all day.
posted by rybreadmed at 10:27 AM on September 19, 2011

>He's a purebred German Shepherd.

If adopted from a responsible breeder, return it. The breeder will have a ton of connections and should know how to adopt out a puppy. I can't imagine why the former owner didn't return it, other than the breeder not being a stand up person, in which case the dog might have plenty of unforeseeable problems down the road.
posted by plaintiff6r at 10:28 AM on September 19, 2011 [11 favorites]

plaintiff6r - doesn't sound like the dog came from a responsible breeder or shelter if they allowed the dog to be rehomed at 7 weeks, that is way too young.
posted by radioamy at 10:30 AM on September 19, 2011 [4 favorites]

I'd vote for keeping the dog. Puppyhood, and the hassles that come with it, is temporary. But the return you get is immeasurable. A new family member who'll provide love and companionship for you the rest of his life, endless hours of laughter.... and by adopting him in his infancy you really get to shape the personality and behavior of the this beautiful creature who will be your best friend.

Sure it'll be hard for a little while. Check around your town, I bet you'll find a doggy daycare you can bring him to each day so he's not alone, or a petsitting service you can hire to pop in mid-day to check on him at your house. It's not expensive. Been there, done that... it's totally do-able.
posted by cuddles.mcsnuggy at 10:35 AM on September 19, 2011

Maybe you should not keep this puppy. Puppies need lots of things, chief among them, a measure of stability and consistency beyond what you are able to provide right now.

He's definitely spending too much time alone in the house, look into doggie day care or petsitters. Also, obedience training starting...now.

Depending on how that pans out, please contact a rescue, they'll have resources.
posted by bilabial at 10:37 AM on September 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

Can your irresponsible nephew do some daytime dogsitting while you are out?
posted by Pomo at 10:42 AM on September 19, 2011 [10 favorites]

doesn't sound like the dog came from a responsible breeder or shelter if they allowed the dog to be rehomed at 7 weeks

And it's probably not really purebred.
posted by rhizome at 10:45 AM on September 19, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Whether the dog is a mutt or purebred is irrelevant. Puppies do need stability and consistency, that's correct. Just tossing this out there though... that handing him over to a rescue or shelter will really remove all stability from his life, as he's moved from place to place and has new people constantly coming to meet him then disappearing.

When we adopted our dog we had to make some changes in our routine; one of which was driving home at lunch each day to put her outside if no one else was home. Right now I have an 11 mile drive one way from work to home, and I can manage to get home & back to work within my half-hour lunch break. Can you and your wife take turns coming home to check on puppy? And on the days neither of you can make it, then those are the daycare or petsitter days. Puppy should be crated for the times in between. An example schedule from our house: Put dog out to pee at 6:30 a.m. Crate dog when I leave for work at 7:30. (dog is crated for about 4 hours) I come home at 11:30-12ish to put dog out; Dog put back in crate. I go back to work. Come home at 4:30 for the day; first thing I do is let dog out to pee. Then we get on with our evening.
posted by cuddles.mcsnuggy at 10:52 AM on September 19, 2011 [2 favorites]

I think people who self-select not to have puppies should be trusted to know that they shouldn't have a puppy, so I'm behind you 100% in your pragmatism and your thoughts about rehoming this puppy.

As to your questions:
1) Are puppies best for people who always have someone home? Yes, or often home. Puppies need near-constant supervision. Most doggy daycares won't take a puppy so young, and most walkers won't walk one when it's that young, either, or if it doesn't have all its' shots, which it probably doesn't since it's so young.
2) Do you have any recommendations of what we should do? I think you already know that you should rehome the dog. Breed-specific rescues are a good option. Some may charge you an intake fee, which is normal. Your nephew should reimburse you for it. Come to think of it, I think your nephew (you didn't mention his age) should be facing some serious consequences here, including cleaning your house and helping you to repair or replace your furniture after the puppy finds a new home. Perhaps he should go volunteer at an animal shelter, to teach him about the responsibility of pets? They are not toys. He basically gets his cake and gets to eat it too if you keep the puppy... he still gets to have a puppy but doesn't have to have any of the responsibility. The more I type this, the more angry I get at your nephew.
3) Should we find a family who could offer the kind of time he requires? You should try. There are plenty of families who do want a puppy. You'll know they're right when you meet them. If you surrender him to a rescue group, they'll do the vetting for you. But seriously, once you give up the dog, it's not yours anymore. You can't check up on it.
4) Is there any way you can see of making this work out? If you keep the puppy, you'll surely fall in love with it. Is that worth it to you? Because if it is, let love fall into your lap, as an above poster stated. But if you truly think this is a mistake (and it sounds like you already do) you need to find a new home for the puppy ASAP. The longer you keep it, the more your wife will get attached, the more chaotic your house will be, and the more neglected the puppy will be.
5) HELP!!! I hope that pragmatic pep-talk helped.
posted by juniperesque at 10:54 AM on September 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

If your wife is bonded, and you are tempted, and you have a loving little dog of a breed you like, I would try to make this work.

The really tough part is not long -- just a few months -- but until your puppy is a little older he needs regular pee/poop outings (and lots of praise for doing it.) I wouldn't worry about your dog chewing up your house -- devote some time to picking appropriate chew toys and training to leave inappropriate things, and use crate training, and you'll have a lot less trouble than with an adult dog who may never have been properly trained.

So one option is to find a responsible pet sitter for your home for weekdays over the period when your puppy just can't hold it and needs someone to take him out and praise him for elimination in the right place. Or, alternately, can you find anyone who is home during the day and fond of puppies with whom you can drop off/pick up your puppy?

I strongly recommend checking out this site. There is oodles of good training information, including lots about puppies.

Dogs of any age are indeed like kids. They give way more than they receive, but all need plenty of care and attention.
posted by bearwife at 11:07 AM on September 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

Whether the dog is a mutt or purebred is irrelevant.

It's not irrelevant if the assumption that it is purebred creates an extra desire (or not) to hold on to the dog. In fact, it would appear that the OP included the info for just this reason.
posted by rhizome at 11:12 AM on September 19, 2011

From the op: "I wanted a rescue mutt, but I do like German Shepherds."
posted by cuddles.mcsnuggy at 11:15 AM on September 19, 2011

Contact breed specific rescue asap.

It's a great thing to do! Someone who has time and knowledge needs to step in and take care of this precious bundle... You are being a very good person if you facilitate this!
posted by jbenben at 11:22 AM on September 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

You will have a puppy for the next few months, but it won't be long before he goes into a very large, strong dog with lots of energy. Adequate socialisation and obedience training are essential. He will need to be introduced to lots of other dogs and people (especially children) before he reaches six months, not to mention the hours of time it will take to train him to reliably respond to your commands. If you don't have time for the above then you may soon find you have bigger problems than chewing and peeing in the house.

In my line of work I have met many dogs that are nice enough around their owners but turn fearful or aggressive in new situations because they don't know how to react. I'm not trying to be harsh, but I think it should be stressed that the first six months of a dog's life can be the most important for developing good behaviour. Unfortunately that takes a huge time commitment.

On top of all that you will need to have the time to visit the vet for inoculations and castration when the time comes - not to mention any little emergencies you may have if get into trouble while unsupervised, for example.
posted by wigsnatcher at 11:25 AM on September 19, 2011 [2 favorites]

I agree with Pomo. You should insist that your nephew come over to care for the pup after school. He'll be alright from 9:30-3:30 in a secure environment. Just leave a lot of toys around or crate train him. Your nephew loved the puppy enough to bring him home and beg you to take him so he should be more than willing to help with the puppy's care.

My other thought is that you can still have your dream dog. Raise this puppy for a few months. Learn the ins and outs of caring for a dog. When all of your renovations are done, look into adopting the dog you want. You have a house and a yard. Having two dogs is no harder than one. The benefits include: the dogs keep each other company while you are not home, a greater security force for your house, endless fun, and twice the love.

Put in a doggie door as soon as possible (the puppy is probably too young to safely have free access to the yard right now). Start off with a medium sized one so you can make it bigger if you need to, because you can't make the hole smaller. Make sure your fence is secure (dogs are tricky) and allow the dogs to go in and out as they please. You won't be sorry. Problems arise when dogs are locked inside all day and can't go to the bathroom when they want. Wouldn't you hate it if you couldn't go to the bathroom until someone let you?
posted by wherever, whatever at 11:28 AM on September 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

Well in my view your nephew and your sister do not just get to wipe their hands of this responsibility they begged you to take on and which so you willing did take on. They are owe it to you to help. So my first thought is how far away are these people? Couldn't a rotation be agreed upon which would involved at least once a day one of them coming over to care for the dog? Clearly the kid wanted a dog, he should learn the lesson of what it means to care for something that can't protect itself from his decisions. So, keep the puppy but don't let the kid and his mom get away with this 100%.
posted by spicynuts at 11:53 AM on September 19, 2011

Quick, get a copy of The Art of Raising a Puppy. It's vital that this little guy, who was taken way too early from him litter, be properly socialized and trained. In the book, it basically states that a puppy taken from its litter too soon (i.e. before 8 weeks) is almost destined for problems later on.

I strongly recommend that book so that you can understand the early development of a puppy. The trainers in the book also raise and train German Shepherd's so they're a good go-to for your breed.

Can you take a vacation from work? It's best (as you know) to be home with the little guy, especially for the first 2 weeks of introducing him to a new home.
posted by Sassyfras at 12:09 PM on September 19, 2011

Good stuff above. Personally I'd contact a rescue org but you can make this work if you want to make the sacrifices.

3) We just moved to this neighborhood, so we don't know our neighbors well enough to ask them to come and look in on the dog through the day.

If you're still in the LA area it shouldn't be hard for you to find a dog-walker.

Alternately, you could approach this as an opportunity. Do you know your neighbors at all? Is this the kind of neighborhood where people DO know each other? You could pick the one you trust more and go approach them with your story that you're looking for a dog walker, do they know any or of anyone in the neighborhood who might want to earn some beer money?
posted by phearlez at 12:21 PM on September 19, 2011

Best answer: I think you should contact a breed rescue and rehome this dog, or get it back to the breeder who (IMHO) deserves to fix this problem. A German Shepherd is rarely a good choice for a casual or novice dog owner (they are a very intelligent working breed, they need involved owners who want to do things with them), and a German Shepherd from an indifferent or lousy breeder (which this one in all likelihood is, since the puppy is too young to be in a new home, and the breeder clearly didn't research your nephew as an owner at all) is very likely to also be a German Shepherd with some serious problems (health, behavior, or both) lurking down the line. Again, not something a casual owner really wants to get into.

My vote is to contact a breed rescue, start here. Puppies are easier to rehome than adult dogs.

However, if you do keep the puppy, get yourself some good books, like Ian Dunbar's Before and After Getting Your Puppy (I would forget the Monks of New Skete), and start looking into positive training classes. The puppy needs to see a vet and get started on parasite control and vaccinations, and it is certainly NOT too young to get out into the world as long as you are careful (see Ian Dunbar's book for suggestions). More dogs die from behavior problems directly related to a lack of early socialization than from disease. But really, rehoming is probably your best option, this is likely not the right choice of breed for you in my opinion.
posted by biscotti at 1:48 PM on September 19, 2011 [8 favorites]

Good heavens, listen to biscotti. Believe me, a purebred (or even one that looks purebred) GSD will go fast at a rescue. Unless he's got some obvious, current health issue, he's not going to waste away at a shelter. Just be sure to use a breed rescue group, not your city pound or humane society. And research the group as best you can, so you're not letting the puppy go to someone who won't know what to do with it.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 4:04 PM on September 19, 2011 [2 favorites]

Biscotti for the win, here (she's a dog breeder, fyi, so she knows what she's talking about!). I think you've accurately summarised why a purebred German Shepherd puppy is not the right choice for you guys at this time. For a host of reasons but number one for me: you guys simply aren't around enough.
posted by smoke at 4:40 PM on September 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

Also note, U.S.-bred German Shepherds tend to have major (painful and expensive) hip issues due to inbreeding/breeding to "standard". Not saying that you should give up the puppy because of this, but you should be aware that it is a distinct possibility that this dog will develop hip problems in the future. Reputable breeders will get their sires and dams certified before breeding.

OFA (Orthopedic Foundation for Animals http://www.offa.org/ ) is a certification wherein hip x-rays are taken of the dog at age two, at which time growth is more or less complete. The x-rays are sent out to a panel of veterinarians and rated on a scale: excellent, good, and fair, all being breeding ratings. I've known some breeders who get upset as the verdicts at times appear arbitrary and there are stories where a dog with a " fair" rating received an "excellent" when the same x-rays were sent in another time. HOWEVER, I have never heard anyone complain that a dog with hip dysplasia received an OFA certification or a dog with good hips did not. In other words, though the difference between OFA good and OFA excellent and fair may be marginal, the difference between getting the certification or not is clear. A dog without an OFA certification or equivalent should not be bred.

The Europeans have a system similar to our OFA certification which is called the “A” stamp. Unlike the OFA which is done at age two, with the A Stamp, hips are checked when the dog is one year old. When looking at pedigrees, be aware that the European dogs must receive an "A" stamp prior to being bred. You can safely assume that any dog bred in Germany, E. Germany, or Czechoslovakia listed on a German Shepherd's pedigree has the “A” stamp certification.

posted by longdaysjourney at 4:58 PM on September 19, 2011

I also wanted to say that a German Shepard is not the dog for you guys, but didn't want to start an internet fight. Truly though, that was my first worry when I read this question.

I too know that this pup will get rehomed quickly through a shelter or org, and I'm not worried one bit if you go that route!

Um... Update?
posted by jbenben at 5:31 PM on September 19, 2011

I don't know where in California you are but these folks are very nice, they pull a lot of shepherds from the shelters and have helped us with pug rescue is the past. They are always short on foster homes and money, as are almost all rescues, but they could probably give you some really good advice.
posted by yodelingisfun at 7:33 PM on September 19, 2011

Response by poster: Good God, we've been back and forth between "We can do this!" to "Holy shit, what are we doing?!" It's been a very emotional day. We both love the dog, but I've started contacting rescue shelters. It's very hard. The guy loves us and relies on us, and it breaks our hearts that we will likely give him up. But he's also basically a baby. He needs the attention. I keep asking what's best for him, though, and keeping him seems to be more of a self-centered decision.
posted by rybreadmed at 10:24 PM on September 19, 2011

The thing about rehoming a puppy--they are usually so much easier to find homes for than older dogs! A lot of people (rightly or wrongly) want a puppy, so the sooner you rehome him, probably the better his chances.

I totally understand wanting to rehome him. The difference between a puppy and an older dog is huge, and is like having two different species of animal.
posted by The ____ of Justice at 2:29 PM on September 20, 2011

Thanks for the update, rybreadmed. Before your update my reaction was:

1. Pup is WAY too young to be away from his mum and siblings (10 weeks is better all around).

2. I, personally, would not begin to raise a pup if there wasn't someone at home with him/her all day. They need to eat, poop and play fairly often in short doses. You can't do that if you're not home.

3. Read what biscotti says and take it to heart.

With your situation as it is and how young the puppy is, getting it rehomed really is the best for the puppy. You are doing the right thing.
posted by deborah at 10:49 AM on September 23, 2011

Response by poster: UPDATE: Some people in the same situation might later wonder what happened. It was a huge, very difficult decision, but we ultimately decided to keep him.

I'd contacted a German Shepherd rescue, as well as other rescues in LA. The German Shepherd rescue offered to take him, and actually had a family ready and able to take him. But my wife had already grown attached, and I wasn't sure if it was right. He'd already started growing accustomed to our home in the few days we'd had him to that point. I knew that we also were very capable of providing him a happy home. He have a yard, he has his own room, and we were both willing to make some sacrifices to make it work. I even have a coworker who said he'll take him as long as he's less than a year old, but we're decided to stick with our decision.

My wife's work allowed some flexibility in her work schedule. They let her work from home for the first week we had him so she could be with him. I changed my work schedule so I can go in earlier (and thus leave earlier) each day. My wife already leaves much later than I do. She returns each day for lunch--to take him out, feed him, and provide some company. We have a nice high school kid from the next street over (her coworker's son) come over every day after he gets off of school to take him outside, play with him, talk to him, check on him, etc. He plays with him fro about an hour. He goes back into his doggy playpen, and I get home about an hour or two later.

I also reduced my school load (by dropping a class before it started).

Cartman (our puppy) seems to be adjusting well. He's learning to spend his time by himself. The first time we left him alone was for two hours. I pulled into the driveway and already heard him barking. I came in, and he was a shaky nervous wreck. However, we did it a few more times (particularly on work days with our new schedule), and he got used to it quite quickly. He (and dogs in general) seem to thrive on routine. He spends a lot of alone time sleeping or playing with a couple of toys.

We also had a certified pet trainer (referred to me by one of the rescues) who came in and did a session with us. We're going to do the clicker training, and he already seems to be responding to it. Overall, he seems like a very happy puppy. Even the trainer was surprised by how well adjusted and even-tempered he seemed for being taken from his litter too young.
posted by rybreadmed at 10:40 AM on October 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

Omg, I think I have a something in my eye....sniff. Congratulations!! If only all dogs had such caring and motivated owners. Good luck to you and Cartman!! (Also, pics please?)
posted by SuperSquirrel at 8:25 AM on October 2, 2011

Response by poster: Here are a few pictures of Cartman!

Here's one.

And another.

And yet another.
posted by rybreadmed at 12:31 AM on October 15, 2011 [4 favorites]

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