Questions on adopting a dog, with consideration for desert and a baby
May 3, 2013 10:09 AM   Subscribe

My wife and I have talked of adopting a dog for a while. Following the untimely passing of one of our cats, this is more feasible, and could help console us. But we have questions for adopting a dog in our desert climate, and on dogs coming into a family with a baby, and a cat. And we're concerned about being good owners, as our time at home is limited during the week. Also, we're discussing what a good age range for an adoptable dog would be. Details inside.

My wife and I had two cats, one a big, scared fellow, and the other is a feisty lady. They're both cuddly cats, though the little lady is also mostly made of claws. We dog-sat for a while, and the little lady was OK with the dog, but the big guy wasn't so sure, even though the dog was fairly oblivious to the cats. The dog didn't stay with us for very long, and we didn't want to subject the big fellow to another intruder in his house. The fellow had to be put down this week, due to health issues, and we're still recovering from that.

We've talked about getting a dog for a while, as our 20-month-old son is really excited to see dogs, let alone get near enough to one to pet it. He's fairly gentle, though he'd spook our now-gone cat (though most things could spook that guy). Our son is gentle enough that our lady cat will stick around while he pets her and plays with her tail.

Like many yards around us, our open space is "landscaped" with rocks, and not a lot more. There are a few things that sprouted up recently, and we'd like to plant more. Some of our neighbors have dogs on their rocky yards, while others have barren yards of sandy soil. We don't want to get rid of our rocks, but we want to have a good yard for our dog. We have nice, deep over-hangs to provide shade during the day, and there's a near-by part with a nice big grassy area, so our dog could have places to get away from our yard of rocks. But my wife and I work away from home, and by the time we get home, we're preparing dinner for ourselves and our son. We could take a 10-20 minute walk after dinner, but we also have to get our son to bed before too late.

As for the age of the dog, my wife is hesitant to get an older dog, after losing our cat so recently. I like the idea of adopting an older dog because they'd be house-trained, more relaxed, and I'd like to give an older dog a nice home for the rest of its life. Also, I wouldn't feel as bad as leaving a younger, lively dog in our yard all day. But a younger dog could be more playful with our son, and they could grow up together.

I'd love to hear ideas and insight into my quandaries. Thanks!
posted by filthy light thief to Pets & Animals (33 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Sorry - just to be clear, are you hoping to leave the dog in your yard all day? Or will there be a doggy door where he can go between your house and the yard? And are you expecting to give your dog a walk in the morning, before work, or is the 10-20 minute walk after work about it? What kind of desert region are you talking about?

A few more details on that front will help give some better feedback for your questions.
posted by barnone at 10:19 AM on May 3, 2013

There are some (I think high) costs to leaving a dog in a yard all day long in a hot climate. For one, the dog may be uncomfortable when it is hot. Two, the dog will be lonely, and it's a shame to not let him interact with the cat during the day indoors. Three, the dog may well bark. My neighbors' dogs are largely left in the back yard all day, and will back, continuously, for an hour or more. Four, I wonder if the dog will get enough exercise if he uses the yard for a bathroom rather than walks with you guys.

Please at least consider leaving the dog in the house during the day and walking him in the morning and evenings. Half an hour combined is not a bad amount for daily exercise, and you can do more when able. Your son can come with, it's fun to walk dogs. If you are concerned you will be gone too long every day (i.e. more than 8-10 hours), please consider getting a dog walker for the middle of the day. If neither of these is possible, I myself would not feel comfortable getting a dog as a pet.
posted by deadweightloss at 10:22 AM on May 3, 2013

I recommend you go to a big adoption event in Albuquerque (at the Cottonwood Mall) this weekend -- The Watermelon Ranch Mega Adoption Event. Shelters and rescues from throughout the region will be there. You can take your wife and son and see what kind of dogs are available and talk to the adoption coordinators at the event. You wouldn't need to adopt a dog right then and there, but it might be nice to see what's out there and talk to dog people.

Your yard sounds okay for a dog. The most important thing in the desert is access to water and shade. Would it be possible to put a dog door in to let your dog go in and out of the house on its own? (they have ones with magnets so that it's just your dog coming in and out and not other critters). You could also look into doggy daycare or a dog walker if you're worried about the dog being alone all day and not getting enough exercise.
posted by backwords at 10:23 AM on May 3, 2013 [3 favorites]

A couple of points:

1. It's hard to predict how an established cat and a new dog will interact. Probably fine, but you would do well to understand that any adoption you might undertake should be seen as probationary until you see how the two animals gel over a few weeks.

2. A puppy (under 1 year old) is a LOT of work. I would generally not recommend it for two working parents with a toddler. Even a younger dog (under age 3 or so) will have more energy and require more attention than an older dog. Though this will vary significantly depending on the specific dog. Our dog (at least 13 years old now) had puppy levels of energy until 3 or 4 years ago. Energy levels can be predicted somewhat by breed, but not completely.

3. I worry a little about leaving a dog outside all day in the desert heat, even with shade. Would you be comfortable leaving the dog inside on very hot days (say +100F)? Depending on the breed, heatstroke can be a real problem.

My primary advice would be to see if you can dog-sit a range of dogs for a few days at a time, to get a better handle on what you really are getting yourself into.
posted by Rock Steady at 10:25 AM on May 3, 2013

We could take a 10-20 minute walk after dinner

Don't get a dog.

Sorry, but a dog alone in a yard isn't getting enough exercise. Desert heat worries aside, hanging out in a yard is no substitute for walks. If you don't have the time to walk a dog and the poor thing is just going to hang out alone all day, don't get a dog.

Unless you're leaving out a thirty minute minimum walk in the morning and longer walk after the 10-20 min walk in the evening, that's not enough exercise even for the sloths of the doggie world.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 10:33 AM on May 3, 2013 [8 favorites]

We could take a 10-20 minute walk after dinner

Don't get a dog.
posted by wrok at 10:35 AM on May 3, 2013 [5 favorites]

I am not a big fan of the dog lives outside thing. Dogs prefer their pack, their family, is there a reason the dog would not be in the house? Additionally -desert with heat and low humidity, it really might not be very fair to some dog breeds to keep them outside like that. Please rethink how your hypothetical dog would live.
posted by kellyblah at 10:42 AM on May 3, 2013

I am not opposed to leaving dogs in backyards all day while you are at work and then they come in when you are home, and have lived in a climate and a culture where that is pretty much the norm and the dogs are fine. I however did not live in a desert at the time but in a nice temperate climate with shady trees and grass. If you are not walking the dog and the yard is large enough then you could theoretically get by with a small/toy quiet dog breed, but a small dog would not be able to handle the heat as well as a large dog and could die very quickly if they overheated.

The only way I could see it working is if you had a dog door where the dog could go in and out as it needed, I have had dogs in a set up like this and it is a great set up for everyone if the yard is nice and securely fenced.

I do think you should avoid a puppy if you have young kids as they are a lot of work in themselves and look into an older dogs nature will be more well known and they will be calmer around children.

Remember if you are not walking the dog much you still have to interact with it, unlike a cat dogs don't amuse themselves as much and especially if it's not walked it will require play times to burn off energy and use it's brain (which will help keep it mentally stimulated and avoid a lot of behavioral problems) and to be part of the family not shut away when you are home.

If you are really wanting a large breed dog and can only spare 20 minutes a day to walk it, then please reconsider.
posted by wwax at 10:52 AM on May 3, 2013

You need a smaller, short haired dog, and should not get a puppy unless you can commit to the time needed for puppy training. (They are sweet, but have very short attention spans and little bladders.)

You should really not plan on leaving your dog outside. Crate training may be the way to go. Another good option for a dog that is OK in the house on its own is a dog door, assuming your yard is fully and securely fenced.

Dogs require a commitment of exercise, attention, and (entirely positive reinforcement based) training. They are so worth it -- a dog will fill your lives with joy and love -- but you have to be set to deliver all three.

If you do this, read up on introducing a dog to your cat and household.
posted by bearwife at 10:58 AM on May 3, 2013

I totally get why a dog would seem like a wonderful being to add to the family dynamic at this time, but I also think that's why a dog would not be an ideal family addition for y'all.

Give it some time - wait until there's more room in the schedule, after some yard stuff has worked out, after the little one is more able to participate in occupying the critter.

Even taking into account that different dogs have different movement needs, that is way too little time for even the most sedentary, family-desperate canine to have a fulfilling life. And an unfulfilled dog is a challenging dog, which will lead to an unhappy family and, likely, the need to rehome.

Look around for opportunities to be around a particular dog regularly - maybe go to a park that allows leashed dogs and make friends there? I wouldn't go to an off-leash area or dog-specific park, as that's potentially dangerous for baby and way unfair for the pups and their owners.

Maybe instead of a dog, start poking about for a new kitty with a cuddly, settled, calm demeanour. Many rescues are happy to help you find the perfect match. Or just see how current kitty feels just being the adored only kitty.

Once you do get to a point where it's more reasonable to consider bringing a dog into the family, I'm with those who advocate getting one older than a year, but with the caveat that it might not save you the housetraining trouble, since rehoming can often evacuate this entire skillset (pun accepted). It will save you from a whole lot of puppy drama, though.

Definitely reconsider the apparent idea to have the dog in the yard all day - a lot of studies have shown this is an outdated approach to dog care, and instead the focus should be on having appropriate access to the family home. When considering dog doors, take note that even a three year old can shimmy through most dog doors and many have done, so you'll want the kind that has controlled egress and absolutely no way to be powered through by the little person.
posted by batmonkey at 10:58 AM on May 3, 2013

20 minutes at a walking pace is probably 1/4 to 1/3 of the actual exercise needs of a standard-sized dog. My dog needs a 30-45 minute bike-ride plus a walk a day, or about an hour and a half of straight walking. Leaving the dog outside won't help, either. Dogs in yards don't get exercise. They lay around, bark at things, and wait for their people to get home.

So... you're looking at a toy breed, except that leaving a toy breed outside during the day in a desert is dangerous due to their inability to cool themselves properly.

So, as your plan currently stands, don't get a dog.
posted by zug at 10:59 AM on May 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: backwords, thanks for the info on the adoption event.

We were thinking of a medium-sized dog, as most small dogs seem more inclined to be yippy, and I don't think we have enough space for a large dog.

I'm a transplant into New Mexico, but from my time here, I've seen a lot of dogs, and there are packs of semi-feral dogs in some rural communities. We live in the high desert, where the summers are hot, but the summer highs are, on average, in the 90s.

Our cat is a house cat, which is in part for her safety, as we live near open land with things that could eat her. The doors to our yard are mostly glass, which doesn't seem to allow for doggie doors. We would probably keep a dog indoors in the summer, should we get one. When we're home, I imagine we'd keep the dog indoors, to be part of our family.

I completely understand the need for dogs to exercise. I'll talk with the adoption coordinators this weekend about the size of our yard and how much time we have at home.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:59 AM on May 3, 2013

Ah. A note on New Mexico, from my time in ABQ: the weather happens very suddenly there. Rain, snow, whatever - you can have maybe 10min notice before a torrential, flooding downpour is in progress, and if you're not in precisely the place you need to be in that moment, you may be stuck until it's done. If the pup were in the yard during a weather event like that, there would need to be a way for it to get into a safe space without your involvement.
posted by batmonkey at 11:05 AM on May 3, 2013

Exercise level can be variable depending on the breed and individual. We walk our dogs 30 minutes in the morning and 30 minutes in the evening which is enough exercise for 2/3 of them. The remaining one digs holes in the yard to burn her excess energy. The other two don't exercise in the yard at all - they just sit sadly at the back door and wait to be let in.

I live in Tucson - getting a full hour of walking for the dogs in summer can be difficult with the heat. We try to work on training and games inside in the summer if it's too hot to take them out. Asphalt can burn dog paws in the summer.

I would not leave my dogs in the yard ever, let alone in the summer. We have frequent dog thefts in Tucson, plus people who enter yards to steal stuff and leave gates open. Plus, with crates and baby gates, there's no reason to leave dogs outside.

We have three good sized dogs (45 lbs, 50 lbs, 65 lbs) in a fairly small house (2 bedroom built in the 30s.) I wouldn't want four this size, but they don't seem to take up too much space.

Our one-year old foster puppy was such a handful. Sweet but a crazy amount of work. Older dogs have been so much easier to integrate into the household routine. Our two were adopted at 8 and 2, and our current foster is 6.
posted by Squeak Attack at 11:09 AM on May 3, 2013

we live near open land with things that could eat her.

Then don't leave a dog alone in a yard.

I completely understand the need for dogs to exercise.

Minimum of an hour a day, dude, and way more for a puppy.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 11:12 AM on May 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

I don't recommend keeping a dog outside unsupervised for long periods of time.

If you're willing to keep the dogs indoors, I recommend an older dog. Perhaps 5-7 years old. They typically need less exercise. I adopted a coonhound in 2010 when she was 6. She has been an incredibly sweet dog. She requires very little exercise, but is playful and will go on walks. She has a very good on/off switch, like other older coonhounds.

Coonhounds are also generally very tolerant of children. My dog has been poked, prodded, and stepped on by my friends' kids and she acts like she doesn't even notice.

I recommend talking to the people at the adoption event. Tell them about your lifestyle and see if they have a dog that matches it. That's ultimately how I found my dog. I talked to a rescue group and was honest about my lifestyle (being gone all day) and they recommended the dog I ended up adopting.

It would also be best if you made some time to go to a training class with your newly adopted dog, even if it's older. I took my dog to a special class for rescue dogs and it was a great bonding experience for both of us.
posted by parakeetdog at 11:14 AM on May 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

FWIW, I live in Phoenix (temps >100 for half the year, literally) and have had outside dogs - not my choice, really, but I grew up in a rural-suberbian farm community where that was the norm. What we (my mom, mainly) did to mitigate this was to have a giant wood crate type thing under the patio for additional shade, with straw inside, and a huge bowl of water at all times (duh). We had a Great Dane and during the summer months she would hang out either in her "house," where it was a little cooler, or sometimes in the garage (my dad was anti-pets and wouldn't let her in the actual house, whole other story there). I don't think anyone ever walked her except me when I was going to visit my friends down the block - but she ran around our acre yard with my brothers all the time and seemed happy. In her old age my dad relented and let her chill in the kitchen during the day, thank goodness.

I'm of the personal opinion that if you are actually walking the dog for that 20 minutes every evening (rather than just saying you will and forgetting half the time) your dog will be WAY better off than the vast majority of dogs, and probably better off than with most people who adopt dogs. Metafilter does skew very very cautious that way, which is a good thing, but I don't think it reflects the norm, so if you adopt a dog and walk her 20 min a day, sure, you could be depriving her of the chance to live with a nice family who walks her an hour a day, but far more likely you're saving her from a family who won't walk her at all. It's kinda relative.
posted by celtalitha at 11:15 AM on May 3, 2013

On the other hand, potty training a dog with a toddler is HARD. I tried it, last summer, when we fostered a puppy for a couple months between families... NEVER AGAIN. Keep in mind you'll probably be potty training the toddler too shortly, and if you're both working full-time... how is that going to work? I would probably wait for the child to be a little older if it were me, but keep it in mind.
posted by celtalitha at 11:18 AM on May 3, 2013

If your time at home is limited and you have a 20 month old toddler I would not get a dog; it sounds like a recipe for a dog who is kind of a pain because dog does not get enough exercise/attention, and you will not be able to leave your kid unattended with the dog for some time yet. I would wait until the kid's a bit older; I think it's more likely that you'd look back and say 'The extra work of Dog detracted from our early years with Son' rather than 'How great that they grew up together' (especially if it's an old dog who would be around for just long enough to cement himself and then: dead). But in not all that many years Son would thrill to the idea of getting a dog and that would be a terrific happy event, and he could be left unattended with dog...

Millions of happy families have happy dogs and toddlers simultaneously and I may be lazy or full of it or something. But it's just not something I would do without a pre-existing surplus of spare time and it sounds like your weekday family time is already pretty squeezed.

The cat could be an issue, too -- we have had a houseguest dog here at times and it causes one of my cats to avoid his litterbox, no matter where the dog is. Could you cheerfully come home, with a 2yo, to a dog that needs walking and attention and cat crap on the rug, with no unwind time for yourself?
posted by kmennie at 11:29 AM on May 3, 2013

I would definitely get an older dog (like 5-7). I know it's a bummer that pets die, but if you get a five-year-old you have seven+ good years of dog in front of you, you take in someone who would probably be euthanized otherwise, AND (big bonus) you get a dog who is going to be much, much mellower. Plus the dog's character might already be known and described, so you can know if s/he's good with yards, barking, cats and babies.

Also, your son can still grow up alongside an older dog! My mom has a twelve-year-old dog who would still love to play fetch, take walks, etc. with your son.

Puppies are so cute, but they are bonkers, and it takes a LOT of energy to train them in the first year, and then they are still rockets of kinetic energy for a few years (depending on breed and temperament). I would not want to be responsible for a toddler and a puppy simultaneously. Go older dog!
posted by feets at 11:52 AM on May 3, 2013

Response by poster: We are definitely not thinking of a puppy, for many of the reasons mentioned already. I was thinking at least 3 years old, though I recognize that a dog this age would still have a lot of energy and would be better suited with more attention.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:09 PM on May 3, 2013

I was thinking at least 3 years old, though I recognize that a dog this age would still have a lot of energy and would be better suited with more attention.

I don't want to be too hard on you, but it really doesn't sound like you have enough time or mental energy to deal with a dog right now. Senior dogs have their own issues, too. I love my old puppy, but he's a handful and he still needs at least two thirty minute walks each day (usually gets more than that, but he can make do with less if I'm sick or something like that).

You keep coming back to trying to find a magic dog that will be low-maintenance enough for your life at the moment, and I think you're probably setting yourself up for disappointment and frustration. Wait a few years - a twenty-month-old is still a baby in my book, and babies are a lot of work.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 12:14 PM on May 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

20 minutes a day for a walk is better than being stuck in the shelter.

A local shelter (who will be at the adoption event this weekend) takes in an average of 5000 dogs a year (from a population hovering around 40,000 people in the county the shelter serves and 11,000 in the main city -- one in every 4 households in the main city surrenders dogs to the shelter). The shelters in Albuquerque were so overwhelmed with dogs over the last year that they basically gave them away to willing adopters.

There is no "magic dog," but your situation is way better than a lot of New Mexicans. And you care enough to ask this question in the first place.

No dog is perfect and no family is perfect, but I think if you want a dog, you should get one. Or at least foster a dog and see how it works out.
posted by backwords at 1:04 PM on May 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

As a dog companion and a homeowner who is fortunate enough to live between two homeowners that have been leaving their dogs outside all day, every day, regardless of weather (NB our weather is on the very cold side of the spectrum rather than very hot), since long before I moved in: Please do not get a dog under your current circumstances.

My neighbors' dogs -- there are six, total -- bark basically non-stop all day, every day and night. They don't do it because they're terrible or misbehaved; they do it because they're really fucking bored. Sometimes they're let in at night or if we get a blizzard, but other than that, they just sit around all day because there is nothing else for them to do. As they sit around all day, every day, there is no one to play with them, no one to hang out with, groom, or snuggle alongside.
There's minimal refuge from the elements; weather notwithstanding, your backyard shady rock overhangs and grassy patches will not protect the dog in case of high winds, pelting rain, or sandstorms. You know how sometimes cold/heat feels like it's gotten inside your very bones, and you can't shake it off until you get into some indoor heating or A/C? Dogs feel that, too. I bang on my neighbors' doors to beg them to let their dogs in whenever I see the poor pups shaking, crying, and scratching to be let inside, but alas, alack: no one ever seems to be home.

I definitely understand that it can be wearying constantly having a dog underfoot, particularly with a toddler, but the solution is definitely not to adopt a dog and then chuck him outside until whatever time you feel it has become convenient for you to interact with him. In the OP, you aren't just asking "would it be OK for me to leave a dog alone outside for a few hours sometimes?" You're going into this actively planning to leave the dog "in [y]our yard all day." Are you planning on being upfront with the adoption counselors that you'll be leaving the dog alone in the yard all day? In my experience, that is just not the type of situation in which very many dog rescues would be willing to place their beloved charges.

Dogs need consistent mental stimulation, exercise, and affection. They also need at least one human to look to as Their Person, which is a difficult role to fill when Their Person is only directly tending to them for 15-30 minutes a day. Unfortunately, dogs are not uncommonly stolen out of yards. They also have the ability to observe and learn what they need to do to escape and then follow through, and can be killed by predators on or off of your property, leaving you with both a traumatizing mess to clean up and a lot of explaining to do to your family. Moreover, there is never a guarantee that your adult dog will actually be housetrained once they enter your home, or remain housetrained for any period of time following the adoption... especially if they're outside most of the time, which makes them get used to just going wherever, whenever.

From your post and follow-ups, I just don't get the sense that you truly want a dog; rather, that you want a dog specifically, for its inherent dogness. The only part I can see where you express any desire for a dog at all is so that your son will have an animal to play and grow up with. Unfortunately, you can't pick and choose desired traits in a living thing -- once you adopt a dog, s/he's generally gonna do what s/he's gonna do until you have the time to work with them and shape desirable behaviors, a rather arduous process in and of itself.

While it's completely understandable that you'd like to assuage the grief of losing your beloved cat by bringing another animal into your home, adopting a dog is such a huge investment of time, money, effort, grief, adoration, frustration, and regular dealings with gross bodily functions that it just doesn't seem wise to take it all on in addition to everything else going on in your life. If you want to be a good friend to a presumptive pup, you'll really have to be ready to grab all of that high-maintenance stuff by the horns pretty much as soon as you sign the adoption agreement.

I really hope this overly long rant doesn't sound harsh -- I've just seen way too many wonderful dogs live out their days with their needs utterly unmet because their owners didn't want to engage with the rather huge amount of responsibility and work that is required to care for them.
Adopting a dog is absolutely the best decision I've ever made, but it was also the most difficult; even after years of research and desperately soul-yearning for a canine companion, I had no idea what I was getting into until I was already there, and I had to spend another solid year working, saving, studying, observing, adjusting, and completely readjusting my life in order to find the way that works out great for both me and my pup.

Good luck making the decision that is best for you and your family!
posted by divined by radio at 1:05 PM on May 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

I concur with many of the comments above. Dogs are family members that require a lot of interaction a day to be content and happy. They are pack animals and do not like to be alone. So a bit more food for thought:

The estimate of how much time your dog needs each day also needs to include the fact that you will have to commit to always supervising the dog and your toddler when they are in the home together... always ... 100% of the time. Check out Dr. Sophia Yin's article about dogs and babies. It is a rare dog who can stay calm over a period of time in the face of a toddler's antics (e.g. pull up the ear to look at the wrinkles, stare into their eyes, pull the tail, touch the paws & nails, feel the nose, look at the "private parts", screech right into their ears, run around and incite the dog to chase, etc). You must be extremely vigilant and careful for many, many months to be sure the dog and child are safe with each other. And for the dog to become a happy family member, expect that you will need to give your dog lots of individual attention, away from any children.

I'm sure you already know this ... but just in case ... assume any dog you adopt does not like children until you have months of proof otherwise. Behavior tests by shelter & rescue staff positively identify if the dog clearly does not like children. However, that doesn't mean that the remaining dogs *like* children; it simply means that they don't dislike them enough to communicate it during an evaluation.

Last - but not least - dogs do not generalize as much as humans do. A dog can learn to trust and enjoy one child ... but can dislike any other child. Alternately, the dog can be calm in the presence of one kid ... but loses his/her equanimity when there are multiple children around. Hence, when children come over to play, the dog needs to have a safe haven to be away from the "group."
posted by apennington at 1:36 PM on May 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you haven't owned dogs before, getting one when you have a toddler is a recipe for disaster.

You are worried about training the dog, but how will you train your toddler not to yank on the dog's ears and tail, and do other things that the dog may perceive as an attack? Even the friendliest dog will be aggressive when attacked.

If you insist on getting a dog, have a dog door put into a wall. If you have any heart at all you will feel terrible about leaving your dog in the yard all day in July in Albuquerque. Rocks get hot -- try walking out there at noon in your bare feet before you force your dog to be out there all day. At a bare minimum, you need to provide shade and water for your dog AT ALL TIMES, dead dogs aren't as cute.

I'm assuming you mean you have gravel in your yard, rather than an irregular surface of large rocks. Smooth gravel is going to be much more comfortable for a dog than rough gravel, you can replace some of your gravel if you have the wrong kind.
posted by yohko at 2:51 PM on May 3, 2013

I was going to say no to getting a dog, until some people above mentioned the dog would at least have a better life than stuck, unloved, in a shelter.

So, could you maybe change up your plan a bit? Get a dog 5-6+, walk it in the a.m., let it stay inside with your cat in the day, play/train it for a bit after work (make this your time to regroup, have your evening cocktail, etc.), then give it a walk (with the baby) after dinner? Or that could be a time to have a romantic walk with the whole family. You can also interact with the dog while doing other things. I think of you are committed to it you could find a balance that would work out great. Many people have kids and babies and jobs and everyone is happy.

Just remember and honor the fact that a commitment is just that. It means no neglect, no abandonment, and no letting the dog fall by the wayside as other things become "more important".

Lastly, starting with a foster might be the best way to go.

And last lastly, choosing a dog is choosing a lifestyle change.
posted by Vaike at 4:30 PM on May 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

You are in the sweet spot of toddlerdom right now - things can get rough once you pass 26 months or so as the little one gets really, really, really asserting independence. If you already have limited time for a dog, you will likely have even less.

We thought about getting another rabbit a few months after Robocop died. We are now very glad we didn't as we just don't have the mental energy for another thing that needs us, and we're talking about a little furry thing that would be happy to sit in a big indoor cage all day, not a big furry thing that needs to go out for walks and exercise twice a day at least.

All that said, my wife and I have discussed getting a dog. If we end up doing it, it will be as an awesome 7th birthday gift (for the family).
posted by robocop is bleeding at 4:46 PM on May 3, 2013

Response by poster: I've had dogs in the past, so I understand what having a dog can entail. We're also surrounded by dogs who are completely ignored, so we have an idea of what it's like to leave a dog outside and alone all the time, and we don't want to be those people.

As I wrote upthread, our thought of a suitable dog is an older dog that is already housebroken. I've raised a dog from a tiny puppy, and vividly remember the early days of an adorable little pup who isn't potty trained, and then there's teething. More recently, we've raised our younger cat from a tiny kitten who was made of claws and teeth. No baby animals for us for quite some while.

Thanks for all your words of concern, as we're going being more hesitant about our progress, especially with the comments on babydom.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:04 PM on May 3, 2013

Response by poster: We went to the local shelter today, and there were 40-50 dogs in small cages. I'm not sure if this is a no-kill shelter, but either way, I'm not sure how it's better to have dogs live their lives in small cages than it is to live with a family who doesn't give them absolutely as much exercise as they deserve.

Thanks to this thread and visiting the shelter, we're left with more questions for ourselves.
posted by filthy light thief at 5:26 PM on May 4, 2013

A lot of the "Rescued dogs are grateful!" thing is bullshit, and I think you need to check the hero complex. I say this as someone who found a stray and sacrificed a lot to keep him alive. Is the dog right for your family? Will it be a priority?

The dog in a cage vs. a dog hanging out in a backyard is a false dichotomy. I've seen a lot of really miserable, under-exercised dogs.

Frankly, I don't understand why you can't just get up earlier and walk the dog. If you're this determined to get a dog, set your alarm 30 minutes earlier. And take your dog for a longer walk in the evening. That's not an insurmountable time commitment for most people.

The idea of keeping a dog alone in a yard in Albuquerque without a dog door - yikes! You sound really oblivious to the needs of a dog, and if you really feel compelled to help shelter dogs, maybe you should volunteer at a shelter. You can't save all the shelter dogs, so try to save one and do it properly and when you have time to do it. The stray dog problem in this country is a systemic one, not something that you can solve as an individual, and having a rescue dog doesn't excuse pet-owner failures, either.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 11:20 AM on May 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: So, we adopted the dog. In retrospect, we could probably have waited a year or more (we're thinking of having another kid). She's a sweet dog, and from a few short training sessions, we've learned how to train her with positive feedback, which is still a work in progress. She is very affectionate, so she licks people a lot, which isn't everyone's favorite thing, especially our son, who is the same height as she is, so she licks him in the face and he freaks out a bit. And she has assertive/aggression issues with cars and other dogs, and has what our trainer called a "high prey drive," in which she really wants to tear off after any small thing she sees moving on the ground, like the wild rabbits around our home.

At the same time, I'm looking forward to our family growing up with this dog. She is getting used to our cat, who still isn't sure how to deal with the dog, and our son is getting used to the dog.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:27 AM on September 10, 2013 [2 favorites]

Congratulations! Sounds like a darling dog. Photos, please??
posted by bearwife at 4:26 PM on September 10, 2013

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