July 6, 2012 5:08 PM   Subscribe

I'm beginning to think that owning pets isn't right for me. But I'm an animal lover, I grew up with pets and the thought of giving my own away breaks my heart. What should I do about this?

Long story short: I'm a germaphobe. I was very young when I had my pets at home, so I didn't have to deal with the mess of potting training etc.

Now that I've moved out and have my own pets, I'm dealing with pee and poop on a daily basis, as well as cleaning off poop infested dogs etc. It's been almost a year now and potty training hasn't gone well, and I still haven't gotten used to it and gotten over my phobia like I thought I would with more exposure.

I get sick to my stomach, I feel like bugs are crawling all over me, etc. I can't stand bodily fluids and disgusting things of that sort. My partner gets upset because I use so many paper towels, toilet paper etc cleaning it up because I can't stand the thought of the mess touching my hands. They'll say, "That's what soap's for."

I love my dogs with all my heart, and the thought of not seeing them grow up and not having them in my life, or indeed not having any pets at all in my life is absolutely heartbreaking. At the same time I feel that my quality of life is being lowered by the constant reactions I'm having to the disgustingness. When there isn't a mess things are fine, the dogs are great and I love them. They're amazing. It's the visceral reaction I'm having to the cleaning more than anything. I don't want my life to be filled with poop, pee, etc. The other problem is that once I've cleaned up a disgusting mess everything else, such as going into a public bathroom and seeing a mess on the seat, gives me an even worse visceral reaction.

To give you an idea of how bad it is: Unless required for work, I've always had family members clean/unclog/etc the toilets because I've been too disgusted to touch it. If I'm alone and it clogs I'll wait to unclog it and will go to a store to use it.

My question is, how can I deal with this difficult decision? If it turns out pets aren't for me, how do I deal with the loss of what's basically been my entire life? I grew up around animals, I'm an off and on vegetarian, I feel a deep connection with them. I just can't stand being disgusted and having these visions of poop in my head and ugh.
posted by Pericardium to Pets & Animals (27 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I think the answer isn't getting rid of the pets but rather pursuing therapy to deal with your visceral reactions to a normal part of everyday life (like they say, everybody poops).
posted by The Michael The at 5:13 PM on July 6, 2012 [27 favorites]

I would recommend getting a different kind of pet. I don't have the same phobia of germs and bodily fluids that you do, but I've still always found the idea of picking up dog poop super gross and I would also be super grossed out to have to be frequently cleaning up a 'poop infested' dog. Ew! I can see why you don't like that!

If you can deal with the pooper scooper tasks but not the potty training, how about adopting an older animal that is past this stage? If even the pooper scooper turns you off, how about an indoor/outdoor cat? We had a cat when I was growing up that we'd let outside during the day, so he primarily did his business outside and buried it. (There was a litterbox in case he got trapped indoors, but we had too poop-scoop maybe 1 time per month.) If you control the going in/out rather than using a cat door, then kitty can't bring in gross dead animals (though they may still end up on the porch on occasion). You could also try an indoor cat with one of the fancier litter boxes that involves minimal interaction with poop.
posted by rainbowbrite at 5:28 PM on July 6, 2012

I don't understand what you mean by "poop infested dogs." In my experience as a dog owner, that's not an everyday occurrence. I don't have a phobia, but I'd be pretty upset too about poop and pee on the dogs and in the house on an ongoing basis. How many dogs do you have? Also, are you feeding your dogs a super-premium dog food, which typically results in firmer, less frequent poops? I don't quite understand the scenario, but maybe a trip to the vet or a consultation with a dog behaviorist would be helpful. (And I agree with The Michael The that therapy could be helpful with somebody specifically experienced in treating phobias.)
posted by Wordwoman at 5:28 PM on July 6, 2012 [2 favorites]

Random question: You say "poop infested dogs" but what kind of dogs do you have? Would they benefit from taking them to a groomer's, especially if their fur is often dirty, dragging, or if poop clings to it?
posted by DisreputableDog at 5:29 PM on July 6, 2012

What is the problem with the housetraining? Housetraining done properly should result in dogs who have very few accidents in the house, and most of those will be related to you not taking the dogs out in time. I worry you are turning your dogs into real problems when it comes to housebreaking if it is taking this long, there should be at most a couple of accidents here and there, you are making it sound as if your dogs are walking poop machines (my dogs poop twice a day, because they are fed appropriate amounts and eat twice a day). Your dogs should not be "poop infested" if they are fed and managed properly. By all means rehome the dogs if you do not enjoy them, but if they are not housetrained, and are "poop infested", this is down to you, not them!

And that is aside from the germ phobia aspect, I'm something of a germophobe, and you sound way way out there to me. Germs are not all bad.
posted by biscotti at 5:34 PM on July 6, 2012 [7 favorites]

I have 3 dogs. To clarify poop-infested: One will either poop in the cage or in the house. Before I notice it, they've run through it or have layed in it or otherwise come into contact with it. If it's in the cage, I'll need to remove them myself which requires me to touch poop fur or get gloves. Then I'll have to bathe each of them, and this usually happens multiple times a week and ends up with me getting poop on my clothes, skin, etc while handling the dogs. It makes my skin crawl.
posted by Pericardium at 5:35 PM on July 6, 2012

Wait, wait is up with the housetraining? It's not normal at all for dogs to be regularly pooping and peeing indoors after a year. My older dog NEVER had an accident indoors in his whole life. The closest he ever came was the day before he died of cancer. One of my new dogs has an extremely sensitive stomach but with him an indoors accident is at most a once-a-month thing, and I think it could be less if I were more hardcore about getting banned food away from him if he gets into it.

Maybe start from working on that instead of thinking this is just an intractable problem. I suspect there's a lot of potential for improvement.

About the paper towels, I really think your partner should not give you grief about that. If I have to clean up a mess indoors I use rubber gloves, lots of paper towels, bleach, and other toxins to make sure all the germs are destroyed and don't get spread around. I don't think it's weird to really, really not want to come in contact with poop germs. I don't have a phobia about that but I still don't want it either.
posted by cairdeas at 5:35 PM on July 6, 2012 [3 favorites]

How much time are the dogs spending in the cage? Do they indicate when they need to go out? How often do they get to go outside to do their business?
posted by cairdeas at 5:36 PM on July 6, 2012 [2 favorites]

Take your time finding good homes for your dogs. Offer to dog sit for the new owners when they go out of town.

Then sit back and enjoy your dog-free life.

And remember that it may not be forever. If you get to a better place with the ick, you can bring dogs back into your life (dog sitting would be a good re-entry, too.)
posted by vitabellosi at 5:37 PM on July 6, 2012 [3 favorites]

You are responsible for these animals that you so gladly brought into our life. Everything takes time and patience and so will this. Don't get mad at the dogs but train them with care and patience. They don't deserve to be given away, moving from one family to another, being rejected by them and finally ending in a shelter where they will be put down, all because you couldn't take responsibility for them
posted by pakora1 at 5:42 PM on July 6, 2012 [5 favorites]

If your dogs are routinely pooping in their crates you're not taking them out enough or for long enough. Get the dogs on a regular going out schedule.

And yeah, look into some therapy. Everyone poops and this aversion you have is messing with your life.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 5:43 PM on July 6, 2012

I think you should tackle this on a few fronts:

First, for your own peace of mind, consider therapy (as mentioned above) to deal with your germaphobia. It seems to be affecting your quality of life in circumstances that have nothing to do with your pets -- so rehoming your animals won't solve this problem.

Second, take your pets to the vet to rule out any health-related reasons for their accidents. I'm certain they don't enjoy pooping or peeing in their crates. Crate-training works because animals don't eliminate where they sleep. If yours are doing it, there's a reason, and you need to find out what it is.

Next, consult with a good animal trainer. Find one that will do a private lesson or two with you and your animals in your home. A good trainer will help you find an approach to housetraining that works with your unique animals -- but more importantly, s/he will train YOU how to best work with your pets. You may also wish to ask the trainer about the best products to use for clean-up in the meantime; for example, Nature's Miracle works on an enzymatic level to eliminate all traces of odors from pet messes (which helps prevent repeat elimination on the same spot/area). Such products may speed the housetraining process as well as help you feel better about cleanliness in general.

If, after really trying, you can't make this work, please at least make the effort to find good, responsible new owners for your pets. They deserve that. And please really do try -- this isn't just a pet-related issue for you. Someday you or your partner or child may be sick, and you'll have to clean it up. You deserve to be able to address a mess without it being a devastating event.

Best of luck to you.
posted by Boogiechild at 6:07 PM on July 6, 2012 [10 favorites]

It looks like you have three problems:

1. An insensitive partner: Tell them to cram it. Nobody likes getting poop on their person. There's nothing wrong with not wanting to get poo on yourself. I think where it would get into some kind of disorder is being so grossed-out that you can't bring yourself to clean it up at all. But that's not where you are; you find a way to do what you have to do. That's good!

2. Dogs who aren't potty-trained: Either find them a new home or commit to spending the time and effort to get them trained. Hire a trainer to come to your house and teach you how do this. If you love the dogs this much, then give it a shot! I have a cat who decided she was now peeing on any available soft surface, such as my bed. It went on for quite awhile and my partner (the cat's owner) decided she wasn't going to the vet because the vet had already tried and failed. I decided I couldn't deal with pee in my bed or anywhere else any more. I did some research into diet (on AskMe) and tweaked her diet - now she only pees where she should and everyone's happy again. Moral of the story is that some problems that seem monumental are actually easily solved. It's not like your dogs like what they're doing, they just don't know better.

3. If you do have such an aversion to poo that you can't deal with a clogged toilet, treat that separately.
posted by bleep at 6:09 PM on July 6, 2012 [2 favorites]

I don't have the visceral reactions that you do, but cleaning up poop and pee is gross. I use rubber gloves (the kind that doctors use, you can get them at the drugstore) which really brings down the ick factor for me.

Three dog is a lot, even for anyone without anxiety issues. Heck, going from one dog to two was a huge adjustment for us.

I agree with above that your dogs shouldn't be pooping in their crates on a regular basis, if ever. My terrier will puke in his crate but he will hold diarrhea for a while before he will poop in his crate. Have you talked to the vet? How often are the dogs going out?
posted by radioamy at 6:16 PM on July 6, 2012

Also, check with local rescue groups. They may be able to foster the dogs, or post a courtesy post for you on petfinder.com.
posted by vitabellosi at 6:17 PM on July 6, 2012

I definitely agree that you have multiple problems going on here.

A healthy dog (who is not a young puppy) should not be pooping in the house on a regular basis. I have a dog, and the only contact I have with her poop is picking it up outside, using the bag as a glove. I have never gotten her poop on my hands. So, I think you need to address the dog's health/ potty-training issues before considering adopting out the dogs.

It also sounds like your germ-aversion is interfering with your quality of life; it's important to be able to do something like use a plunger when necessary (I also think it's totally gross, but again, for quality of life purposes, it's really important to be able to work through it). Therapy sounds like a good idea to me.
posted by insectosaurus at 6:17 PM on July 6, 2012

I agree with the other posters that it's odd the dogs are pooping in their crates so frequently. Have they been tested for giardia? My mother's dog was infected with it and the only symptom was inappropriate pooping in the house.
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 6:26 PM on July 6, 2012

Did you learn about how to raise a dog before you got them? Did you ever take them to a community training class or talk to or hire a trainer? Did you know that it is not normal for dogs to go in their crates, and especially not for a year? And how long are these young dogs kept in their crates?

It's a big responsibility and you'll have to decide if you are going to put in the time, or find them new homes and don't become a pet owner until you're ready. I've seen it happen to a lot of people. Not bad people. Just people who weren't aware of the time that a dog requires. I was one of these people, about 20 years ago, so I understand. It was hard, and I really hate to admit that was me, but it only seems fair since I know this is harsh.

Dogs are so damn cute and fluffy! But they depend on you and they will be with you for a long time. If you're not ready, you are still responsible for finding them good homes. And you should own up to the fact that you did not train them properly, so they don't have strikes against them for which they are not responsible.
posted by Glinn at 6:57 PM on July 6, 2012

I had no idea that it wasn't normal for the dogs to go in the house this often. I take them out regularly but it doesn't seem to make a difference. I'm going to make an appointment to take the one I suspect is doing most of the pooping to the vet to rule out any medical concerns. Then I'll hire a trainer. It seems obvious now that I've read it but I honestly had no idea that it wasn't normal to find a mess in the cage multiple times a day, every day. I'll also look into getting them some higher quality food and seeing if that'll help them with going so often.
posted by Pericardium at 7:02 PM on July 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

Glad to see you have a plan for vet and trainer. Rule out or deal with health issues, and the trainer will help you, too. Dogs generally don't like to make a mess in their den, whether that den is the span of a crate, the living room or the whole house. That's why there's the expansion aspect of housetraining.

Regular walks are good; dogs like routine, but you have to make certain the walk is long enough to move their bowels along so they actually take care of business. There's no going back inside until both poo and pee are sufficiently taken care of, no matter the time or weather.

The right food for any individual dog may not be the highest end; that may be too high protein, not the best tolerated protein, other factors. Vet may not be the best resource in this area; try a respected independent pet store.

An aside: crates aren't cages. If you have dogs, multiple dogs, please learn them.
posted by vers at 7:18 PM on July 6, 2012

please learn them

This wasn't clear. What I mean -- learn what works best for each of your dogs. Behavior, food, training, comfort, stress and so on.

If you love something, you learn everything you can about it.
posted by vers at 7:22 PM on July 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

Crates are not for every dog and they aren't for every owner, either. I have three dogs and I do not have any crates. I tried crate training with two former dogs of mine and it didn't work either time. The first dog was claustrophobic and completely miserable; the second dog shat in the crate and that was the end of that because you're right, cleaning that up is a horrible task.

There's a lot of information that's not in your question. What kind of dogs are these? How big are they? How old are they? Are they rescues? Pound dogs? Pure bred? Mutts? And, possibly most important, how much time are your dogs in the crates, anyway? Are the crates open or closed? Leaving an animal in a locked crate any longer than absolutely necessary is tantamount to animal abuse in my book. My friends who have crate trained dogs leave the crates open and the dogs choose to come and go. I can't imagine a dog who has a choice deciding to poop in his/her crate. Is there a reason your dogs can't just roam around your house? Have you been consistently housetraining them? Rewarding them when they do go in the appropriate place? Tried puppy pads? If you can baby gate them into the kitchen or a large bathroom while you're housetraining them, they won't walk through the poop and it's a lot easier to clean up off a tile floor than it would be from a crate.

Seriously, my dogs don't pee or poop in the house except in cases of extreme emergency - usually because they've eaten something that hasn't worked out well - and that happens maybe twice a year, if that. So yes, there's a big problem here and I'm inclined to think part of it may be the crates. A vet appointment and a trainer are really good first steps.
posted by mygothlaundry at 8:22 PM on July 6, 2012

Can your partner take on the messy pet-related tasks, while you trade off for some task that he or she doesn't care for?
posted by Pomo at 8:56 PM on July 6, 2012

We don't have dogs -- and I sympathize; I dread the day I have to start cleaning up fresh, warm, soft dog poop. I LOVE dogs, but ugh. This is why I didn't have kids!

We do have a beloved cat, and while I can't even look directly at hairball puke without gagging, it turns out I'm fairly fine with litter box duty, so husband does oist of the hairball cleanup. Maybe you guys can find some kind of cleanup swap that works for you.

Hope further training works! I sympathize; my visceral reactions are similar.
posted by Occula at 10:38 PM on July 6, 2012

I don't want my life to be filled with poop, pee, etc.

Since everyone else has covered your dogs' abnormal behavior, I'd like to add that it's normal to not want to deal with poop-covered dogs on a daily basis. To be honest, I'm not sure I'd be down with that even if it happened just 52 days out of the year. Multiple times a week, you say? I freaking love dogs, but there's no way I could live that. Have an Internet hug.
posted by plaintiff6r at 10:52 PM on July 6, 2012 [3 favorites]

I would also recommend therapy. Even if you get rid of the dogs or fix their behavioural problems, you will most likely have to deal with excrement at some point - caring for children or elderly or sick relatives, for example. It's OK to find it gross, but being crippled by your disgust is going to cause you a lot of problems in life.
posted by Perodicticus potto at 1:08 AM on July 7, 2012

I honestly had no idea that it wasn't normal to find a mess in the cage multiple times a day.

Can you elaborate on what you mean by "cage"? Some people use crate training as a method for training puppies where and when to poop, but it is a temporary, short term training device, not something you should be using over the long term. Are you just keeping your dogs caged up all the time? Or for long periods of time routinely? Because that would be.... not good.

It is not normal for a dog to poop in the house at all, ever, unless they are very sick, elderly and incontinent, or have been neglected and left inside so long that they have no choice. Have you done any kind of training at all for these animals?
posted by ook at 7:09 AM on July 7, 2012 [3 favorites]

« Older Pandora and Spotify don't get it.   |   Do I listen to 8 year old or let her read quietly... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.