Domestic animal trapped in a domicile
December 3, 2012 8:48 AM   Subscribe

Tell me to buck up or stop whinging, or whatever, but I worry about my dog being alone all day. I have played around with different ideas to solve this, and I never come to a solid conclusion. Help?

Long, whiney preamble:

I recently moved to a new town, and it's just me and my pug Ellie in an apartment. She was originally my sister's dog and my sister trained her to use a pad to do her business instead of going outside, so Ellie's kind of a catdog. Eventually my sister decided that the Ellie liked me better and that she and her family travelled too much to have a dog. Though I had only had cats previously, I gladly adopted Ellie. She is a snuggler and we sleep together every night, she deeply burrowed under the covers. She does get short walks outside, once in the morning and once at night, but otherwise is an indoor dog.

The thing is, I work all day, and therefore she is left alone for 9 - 10 hours. When I get home, I am not really up for a big play session, even though I know she would probably appreciate the stimulation and attention. She has some toys that she like to chew on and squeak, but we don't have an easy routine of back and forth play, and I get distracted by whatever else I'm doing (reading a book, watching TV, making dinner,etc.) She sometimes expresses frustration as a result. When excited or stressed she maniacally licks everything - the couch, the floorboards, her own butt, you get the idea. I then get a major case of the guilts, because I know she needs, nay deserves attention, but I just don't always have the energy to engage with her. My guilt is compounded when I want to run an errand after work, or worse, go to a social engagement. When either happens, Ellie could be home alone for as much as 14-15 hours. When I had a cat, this didn't seem to be a big deal Any cat I had didn't seem to require a whole lot of interaction. As long as the litter box was clean and had food and water, life was good. I guess you could say having a cat has trained me to be a bad dog owner. :(

But while Ellie hasn't done anything to really act out her frustration other than the licking thing, I still don't like to think of her being unhappy and alone for that length of time. Yes, I know I may be projecting a bit here! :)

In the last place I lived, I tried taking her to doggy day care once a week or so, until the day I was taking her inside and she broke free of her leash and ran in the opposite direction. I finally figured out that she really hated it and didn't like the noise and confusion. She wanted stimulation but not THAT much stimulation. (Yes, I may be projecting again, shut up.) I ultimately hired a dog walker who came once a week with her little dog. So Ellie had a nice visit with another dog and got to go outside for a walk. But I could only really afford to do this one day a week, and I was never sure if that made up for the other days. I suspect it did not.


Now I'm in this new town, and I could do some research and find another dog walker, but still likely only be able to afford it once a week. Or, as I am allowed up to two pets in my apartment I could adopt a cat or perhaps get a rescue dog. Of course, another pet would mean more expense for me as far as food, vet bills, grooming and occasional boarding. It would also mean more hassle as far either a) cleaning a litter box again (not one of my favortie parts of cat ownership) or b) figuring out how to train a dog to use a pad like Ellie does (I am dubious that I would be able to do this). The idea of a cat is more appealing to me than a dog because I have had cats before and they figure out the litter box on their own, whereas I have no idea how to train a dog, and being new at my job, don't have the luxury to take several days off to devote to training a puppy to use a pad. Another idea I have floated is contacting a rescue organization and fostoring another pug. That would mean less commitment on my part, and be a trial run for observing how Ellie reacts to a room mate. Because really, I don't KNOW that adding another animal is going to make her happier, I'm just wildly casting about. I think deep down what would really make her happy is if another human was with her all day. She has always liked humans more than other animals. But being new in town, and being a pretty shy person means I haven't made the kind of connections with people yet that would help me find someone who I could trust to leave my dog with, or possibly come into my place and spend time with my dog.

I am asking you, MeFites, to filter my meta: thoughts, opinions, experiences, ideas, anecdotes?

1. Dog walker once a week
2. Adopt a cat
3. Adopt a dog
4. Foster a dog
5. Status quo
6. Some other option
posted by BeBoth to Pets & Animals (21 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
My sister had a neighborhood kid stop by after school to play with her dog every afternoon.

She gave the kid $10 a week.

Ask around in your building to see if there's a kid who would be a good candidate for this. Maybe a kid who is advertising for babysitting jobs. You want a kid who's about 10 years old and decently responsible.

Give the kid a key to let him/herself in, play with the dog for about a half-hour or hour, then go home.

Dogs sleep a lot, so your dog may not be all that bored during the day, and having a little company for a bit might be just the thing to cheer her up.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:54 AM on December 3, 2012 [7 favorites]

> I don't KNOW that adding another animal is going to make her happier

No offense, but if you can't afford one dog, two dogs isn't your solution. My dog has a daily walker. I suggest you find the funds to make that happen if your dog is restless and bored all day. You might be able to find a cut-rate person on craigslist if the local dog walking service is too expensive.
posted by damn dirty ape at 9:00 AM on December 3, 2012

How old is Ellie? I ask this because our pugs Sleep All Day. We have one that is 10, and one that is about 3. The 3yo *loves* doggie daycare, and would love to go all the time. She also loves walks, whereas the older one cannot breathe for them.

Is there any way you could come home during lunch, even a couple of times a week?

What about walk her on slightly longer walks in the morning/at night (thus weariing her out)?

Can you have shorter play time with her - set a timer, and don't turn on the tv, etc, once you get home - or even in the mornings?

Two dogs (esp. pugs) are a LOT harder than one. They are leash tanglers, and they may hate each other. Both times that my husband has added a pug to the household, the other pug has been extremely sad about it. It seemed to me like it wouldn't be that much extra effort, but it's a LOT. The food and vet bills have skyrocketed at our house (mainly due to the second dog needing specialized food and having a lot of medical needs - although the person we got her from expressed that she didn't need any of these things - they happen).

I would suggest maybe fostering before you adopt another dog - there may be a pug rescue group in your area, and they may need someone to foster, or they may be willing to set up a lower key playdate, so you can assess whether or not Ellie would like the company. Note: our older pug, Blink, seemed to love our newer pug, Pooka, when we got them together for a playdate. However, when she got in the car with us, came home, and then ate all his food, he was very displeased. The other nice thing about that, is I think the rescue group might be willing to take care of food and vet bills - I know some of them will. Which would help with the cost.
posted by needlegrrl at 9:01 AM on December 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Well I don't know much about dogs, but I disagree that cats don't need stimulation. If I don't spend 15 minutes of dedicated play/snuggletime with my cat when I get home at the end of the day, she gets mad at me. If I do this, she's an angel the rest of the time. I think you just need to spend some time every day that is Ellie time, in addition to what actual dog owners say :)
posted by DoubleLune at 9:05 AM on December 3, 2012

We went through this and ended up getting another dog (we have an enclosed yard, though, so this was not as hard as keeping two dogs in an apartment). Our first dog seems a lot happier now, but we acknowledge that this was not a foregone conclusion. First dog is a bit of a prima donna and we were lucky enough to find a second dog who would happily kowtow to his every whim. Not all pairs of dogs get along so well.
posted by town of cats at 9:14 AM on December 3, 2012

Get out to the local dog park or wherever dogs and their people congregate and get to know some other dog owners. That will be your best source of leads on dog walkers, plus it will be good for your dog, and for you. 8-10 hours alone for a dog isn't that big of a deal, they sleep most of he day anyway. Beyond that is a problem though. A 15-30 minute walk once a day should not be that expensive, probably in the neighborhood of $50-$75 per week if you use a professional service, less if you can find a teenager or college student.
posted by COD at 9:22 AM on December 3, 2012

When I was super worried about my dog being home alone while we were at work (more that she would get into things and chew stuff up out of separation anxiety), we set up a webcam and watched her sleep all day. It was a really boring feed.

But it solved my worries!
posted by rhapsodie at 9:43 AM on December 3, 2012 [3 favorites]

Chiming in to say that the licking thing is not necessarily a sign of distress/frustration/sadness/etc. Our pug gets at least an hour of walking out in the world a day, sleeps happily for at least 15 hours a day, and spends at least 3 days a week home all day with a loving person. He still licks. You wouldn't believe the licking. Seriously.
posted by bluejayway at 9:45 AM on December 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Agreed on the licking not necessarily being a neurotic tic. Is it getting colder where you are, and are you running the heat more? She may just have dry skin?

Fostering can go two ways. If you foster because the shelter/rescue group simply needs space, than it could work well, because you won't be expected to do much more than provide a temporary place for a dog to stay.

However, some rescues/shelters expect more out of their foster homes. You might be expected to do a lot of the legwork to get your foster dog adopted by being active on social media and taking the dog to adoption events. You may also be expected to provide training and socialization, so the dog becomes more adoptable. If you already don't have a lot of time for one dog, you may find that fostering is an additional burden that you don't really want.

So if fostering is an avenue you'd like to pursue, I would definitely find out as much info upfront about what is expected of you.

Is there a vet tech college nearby? A college student might be willing to come by for a reasonable fee and check in on Ellie - take her for a walk, play with her, make sure she's not lonely. Even a mature high school student could handle that. Are you in an area with 4H Clubs?

Also, there are automatic litter boxes that supposedly work very well for taking care of that annoying job. Although you could probably roll poop-scooping into a dog-walker's duties, if you went that route too.

Good luck! My solution, which is to just keep whichever pathetic creature crosses my path until we reach critical mass on the pet front, probably wouldn't work for you. :-)
posted by SuperSquirrel at 9:58 AM on December 3, 2012

I see this totally different:

- you are out of the house for long stretches, hardly at home
- When you do get home, you don't have the attention /desire to play with your dog

Why do you have a dog?

The dog needs a friend, not a relationship of convenience.
posted by Kruger5 at 10:07 AM on December 3, 2012 [6 favorites]

My heart breaks for saying this to a fellow dog-owner, but I think you need to consider finding Ellie a home where she can be given attention, walks, and play every day. Dogs are social creatures, and pack animals; they want and need to be exercised, taken out on walks, and interacted with more than you have the energy and/or time for, and it's unfair to the animal you've adopted to force her to stay indoors alone for 8-15 hours/day, every day.
posted by ellF at 10:25 AM on December 3, 2012 [3 favorites]

I adopted two dogs early this year and I have learned that part of having a dog is making time for them and making time for them isn't too hard once you decide it is something that needs to be done that is not negotiable.

I just adjusted my mindset. If I want to go out with friends after work, I take care of my dogs first and then I go out. Even a short walk is better than no walk. You could always invite people over to walk your dog with you and then head out for the night or invite people to your house to do something so your dog isn't' alone. If you dog has been alone all day, then it won't kill you to run that errand on another day. Walks aren't just about going potty, it is exercise and mental stimulation which is important.

It sounds like another pet would just double your problem. If you can't find time to play and walk with one dog, then two will be even worse.

Just wondering, how does your dog get fed if you are gone for so long?
posted by dottiechang at 10:42 AM on December 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Could you share the dog?
Maybe there is someone (responsible&trustworthy) in your neighborhood who works from home or a young family that would enjoy the company of a time-share dog but can not/does not want to take on the full responsibility of having a pet (food, vet, vacation time boarding etc)?
posted by travelwithcats at 10:55 AM on December 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

My dog goes to doggie day care two times per week which definitely helps me feel better about his play time. He LOVES it, he gets interaction time and tons of exercise.

The other three days a week I have a dog walker come in but this is more for me, he could last all day until I get home but knowing he has had a walk more recently means I know I can go to a quick happy hour after work, or stop at the store, or just work a little late and not worry about needing to be home right at 5 to walk him.
posted by magnetsphere at 11:44 AM on December 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Thanks to everyone for their comments! I think at this time I am going to explore dog walking for now. I will likely have someone come a couple times a week.

My initial post was so long that I edited myself, and didn't explain part of my hesitance to go that route. I sometimes came home on the day the walker was supposed to be there, and other than the leash being in a slightly different place, Ellie didn't seem that different than any other day. That could mean a couple things: she really didn't care about being visited during day (because as several of you pointed out, pugs like their sleep!) or it could mean that for all I know, the dog walker was letting herself in, moving the leash to a new location, and walking back out again. I really didn't see any evidence of the visit, and really, what signs would be adequate proof? Coated in mud up to her neck? Passed out cold from exhaustion? Asthma attack from running too hard? :) I exaggerate, but you get my point.

I also like the idea of having someone just stop in during the day and "share" the dog. Perhaps as I get to know more folks, that will be an option.

And, good point about talking to people at the dog park. We go there on the weekends, but I hadn't thought of it as a resource.
posted by BeBoth at 12:55 PM on December 3, 2012

The recommendation for hiring a kid to play with your dog after school is a good one.

RE: dog-sharing: You could check if any of your friends or colleagues have an elderly relative living alone who might like to "borrow" your dog a couple of times a week (maybe you could drop Ellie off with some pee pads on your way to work).

Elderly animal lovers often don't have pets because they're not sure how long they'll be able to care for them. However, just because they can't/don't want to be a full-time pet owner, it doesn't mean they can't shower Ellie with lots of affection on a part-time basis! And it's win-win; I bet Ellie would be great company for a lonely older person. (And she's low-maintenance, which is a plus: a pug is easier for an older person or kid to handle than, say, a Jack Russell Terrier or a Border Collie.)
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 1:17 PM on December 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you don't have much time for your own dog, please don't get a foster dog. Most foster groups will require you to attend adoption events with the dog. And foster dogs should be adopted out of your house in better condition than they came in, and that often means being responsible for house-training, visits to the vet for health issues, and basic obedience training.
posted by Squeak Attack at 1:51 PM on December 3, 2012

My daughter makes a few bucks a week playing with an energetic dog in our neighborhood who is in pretty much the same situation. I think she makes $10 a week for three play "dates" on the way home from school. That amount is fine for her because she's 10, loves dogs, and would probably do it for free anyway.

I'm sure there's gotta be a kid in your neighborhood that could do something similar
posted by cross_impact at 2:24 PM on December 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

I really didn't see any evidence of the visit, and really, what signs would be adequate proof?

I have a pet sitter that stops by a few times a week and my dogs don't act any different either. But there are 3 things she does that make me feel she spends the appropriate amount of time with them:
1. I have her play with them instead of walk and the tug toys and balls I've brought get used and need replacing.
2. She leaves me a little note about the visit (e.g., "[girl pup] was rolling down the hill again" or "[boy pup] played tug while [girl pup] got a tummy rub").
3. She gives them a kong filled with frozen yogurt before she leaves.

So finding someone who gives feedback about each visit would be my recommendation.
posted by bluesapphires at 4:50 PM on December 3, 2012

Is taking Ellie to work with you an option? You would be SHOCKED at how many of my clients are able to take their dog in with them, who had assumed their workplace was not 'that sort of office culture'.

Have you called around to places like assisted living centers and group homes for the disabled that might want a sweet pug for a day or two a week?
posted by Nickel Pickle at 5:50 PM on December 3, 2012

This may not be as a big a deal as you think it is. But then, I don't know you or your dog, so take this with a grain of salt.

Our half pug/half Westie is usually home for 8-9 hours a day by herself. We walk her in the morning and at night, and play with her a little bit (nothing crazy). When I'm home from work during the day, I witness that she sleeps the entire day - from couch, to bed, back to couch, etc.

Unless your pug starts tearing up furniture, barking non-stop, or peeing where they shouldn't - I think everything is fine. It doesn't sound like there is any separation anxiety going on.
posted by little_c at 11:16 AM on December 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

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