Can we raise a dog as full time workers?
May 6, 2013 2:21 AM   Subscribe

My husband and I work full time. What does it take to be responsible dog owners?

I really want a dog. Husband wants a dog. Husband is super responsible and I really want to be responsible. Did I mention I really want a dog? We've talked about this dog in a "maybe in the future" kind of way but I want us to start taking steps towards making this a reality. The main problem as far as I can tell is that we both work full time. We are both pretty into our work and so we are out of the house from 8am to about 7:30 pm. It's just the two of us.

Surely there are people like us who own dogs responsibly? So my question has two parts:

1) If we wanted a puppy, what do we need to be able to manage in the beginning? Like, do I have to be able to take a 2 week vacation to take care of the puppy? What happens after that? How could it be different if it was a more grown up dog? I really want a puppy but I really really want a dog so if it's going to be multitudes more likely if we got an older dog then so be it.

2) What is then the normal routine we would have to adjust to? Would a daily dog-walker be a mandatory expense we should budget for?

Basically, how do we line up our ducks so that we can have a dog?
posted by like_neon to Pets & Animals (24 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Puppies have to pee, like, every hour. For weeks. Even in the night. So be prepare for that.

Yes, you would need a dog walker at minimum to walk them several times a day (potty breaks). But dogs are pack animals, and they like to be around other dogs or "their people".

Also something to keep in mind is that puppies have a crapload of energy. They need stimulated, walked, loved, etc very often. Because an unhappy/under stimulated puppy is a misbehaving puppy. That's where the problems really start.
posted by fireandthud at 2:26 AM on May 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

Energy levels vary a lot between breeds, and there are dogs that do quite well being alone for long periods. My in-laws are retired now, but both worked full time and had a series of rescued Golden Retrievers that all did fine without attention during the day. AFAIK, they never hired a walker to visit mid-day. One of the dogs did have a difficult acclimation period due to separation anxiety, during which it destroyed a wall by ripping off all the wooden paneling it could reach.

Breeds and particular dogs that can handle those long stretches alone are the exception rather than the rule, so you'll have to choose on that basis. Don't get attached to a border collie; it ain't gonna happen for you.

In your circumstance a young puppy is a really bad idea, because civilizing them requires a huge amount of attention and time at first. A puppy might look very different when it means that you come home from work exhausted and instead of enjoying blissful playtime cuteness you're wracking your brain trying to figure out how to convey to the pup that WE ONLY PEE OUTSIDE IN THIS FAMILY!!! Also, a dog that doesn't get a lot of human contact when it's small can have serious behavioral problems around strangers later. You'd be much better off with even a young rescued dog. Our current dog was about 6 months old when we got her. She was mostly housetrained and well-socialized, and her basic personality was already evident so it was easy to see that we were a good fit. We were luckier than average, though. You can pretty much count on having some behavioral challenges to navigate, with any dog. You won't be missing out.
posted by jon1270 at 3:11 AM on May 6, 2013

Where do you live? I mean, not as in which state, but do you live in an apartment or a house or what? How much indoor or outdoor space do you have for a dog to roam around in? This is going to massively affect your considerations re: breed and age of dog, whether you need a dog walker, etc.
posted by Salamander at 3:58 AM on May 6, 2013

I adopted a 6 year old Golden/Lab mix - not normally a combination of breeds recommended for a single, full-time worker, but her personality was perfect. She was already used to being home by herself, uncrated, during the day, and could hold it as long as needed. Sometimes when I got home at night she didn't even want to go out right away, just her dinner and a cuddle. But I had to find her personality, her age, that worked for my situation.

In your case I'd say a puppy is right out. Visit shelters, be honest with rescue volunteers about your situation, and be prepared to budget for a walker if needed -- even if it's maybe 3 times a week for a dog who needs just a little more playtime. Don't get attached to a breed before you start looking for individual dogs.
posted by olinerd at 4:00 AM on May 6, 2013

5 years ago, after much talking about acquiring 4 footed addition to the pack, my wife convinced me to to "look at" a puppy that was available. We took home an 8 week old Siberian Husky. On Sunday evening I asked the wife, "what are we doing with the puppy on Monday?". Her answer was "You're taking it to work with you."

Five years later, she's still going to work with me every day.

I say this to suggest a solution to your problem, as noted above, a puppy needs attention and care that your current schedules won't allow unless one of you can take her with you each day or you hire someone to attend to her several times during the day.

Otherwise, as ollnerd mentions, you might want to consider an older dog.
posted by HuronBob at 4:04 AM on May 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: My wife is a petsitter, and she has had multiple clients who work full-time and acquired puppies. You will want to buy a crate or enclosure for the puppy, and have a dog walker come 3 times a day (assuming you are gone about 10 hrs). After 12 - 16 weeks of age you can cut back to twice a day. The other tricky thing with puppies is that you really don't know what you're going to get in terms of personality. It can change massively from when they're babies, and breed is really not a reliable indicator of personality in my experience. So if you get a puppy, make sure you are okay with spinning the wheel of fortune and you will love the little bugger no matter what.

I have raised two puppies from 8 weeks of age, and my next dog I want to adopt something in the 8 - 12 month range. This is little enough that they still have the puppy personality, and will be incredibly enthusiastic about spending time with you, but they will grow out of the chewing/peeing/jumping/making noise stage faster. 1.5 - 2 years is the stage where they really turn into nice, calmer dogs and feel more like a little friend than a furry child, in my experience.
posted by ohsnapdragon at 4:41 AM on May 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you have a fenced yard that the dog can play/pee/poop in during the day while you're gone, go for it. In fact, get two dogs so they can keep each other company.

If you don't have a yard, then I think it would be cruel to get a dog that would have to be crated 8+ hours/day while you're at work. Don't do it unless you can take the dog to work or can afford mid-day dog walker visits and/or doggy daycare.
posted by Jacqueline at 4:42 AM on May 6, 2013

We're doing it. With switched around work schedules and a lunchtime visit, the puppy only has to spend a couple hours alone. My wife did take the first wrrk off of work. It is a huge change though, we didn't go out to eat for 6 months and we were both pretty sleep deprived for 3 months. We don't have a fenced yard but we do have a nearby dog park that he goes to several times a week.
posted by miyabo at 5:09 AM on May 6, 2013

When I was a teenager, a dog adopted our family. He was a beautiful Afghan Hound that was abandoned on our property in Phoenix.

He thought he was a lap dog. He had severe separation anxiety. He had to eat special food. He would bolt and think it a laugh riot to lead you running through the streets chasing him. If you let him off the lead on our property, he'd go up into the hills and come back covered in creosote, tumble weeds, nettles, and basically he was a grooming nightmare. On a good day we spent an hour grooming him.

Our world revolved around that dog. We had a schedule for him. Dad would take him to work. If Dad had a late night, I'd drive from Arizona State to Phoenix, pick up the dog and take him home before I went to work. It was hilarious. And we all loved him so much that if that's what we had to do, then, that's what we did.

One morning my mom was frying an egg. My mom's idea of breakfast was a cup of coffee, and you could fend for yourself.

Me: Mom, what are you doing?

Mom: I'm cooking an egg for the dog.

Me: You never made ME an egg!

Mom: You're not undernourished.

It was stupid.

So to answer your question, you probably don't want a puppy and you DO want an adult dog that will easily blend into the lifestyle that you want to pursue.

You can adopt a younger dog, one who is housetrained and who has an established lower energy level. You can enroll your dog in doggie day care. You can hire a neighborhood kid to come in and entertain your dog for an hour after school. You have options.

I'm thinking a puppy would be a bad idea, but a young shelter dog would be perfect for you.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:03 AM on May 6, 2013 [3 favorites]

11.5 hours is a bit much for a dog to go without urinating. Especially for a new dog whose habits you're not acclimated to, I think a dog walker or a lunch break visit is mandatory. Since you're going to have to crate the dog until you're convinced he's trained to go outside, visits are all the more crucial for the first month or two.

I'm sure people who work full time have gotten puppies before. However, I really would stagger two weeks of vacation time for his first two weeks, and shoot for multiple visits during the work day until he's a little older.

This makes a puppy more expensive than, say, a 1-year old dog. Think if the additional cuteness is worth the expense to you.
posted by deadweightloss at 6:21 AM on May 6, 2013

11.5 hours is too long for any dog to be alone. Dogs are pack animals, and dog walkers are only there for a relatively short time. Indoor pee pads and other such things are just a bad idea all around. In your situation I would say that getting a dog would be inadvisable unless you are able to find some kind of doggie day care situation that doesn't close too early for your schedule.

In any case, a puppy is probably out of the question. Puppies need a ton of time. It's like having an infant for a really intense 6 weeks. Crate training, puppy socialization classes, beginning obedience, taking the dog out every time she seems even slightly more interested in the floor or a plant or has a sip of water... It's really exhausting. And most responsible breeders have an application process that requires potential buyers to have schedules appropriate for puppy ownership.

Full-time workers certainly have dogs and can be wonderful pet owners, but most full-timers have more reasonable schedules or they are staggered in such a way that the dog would be alone for 4 hours max at a stretch.
posted by xyzzy at 6:42 AM on May 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I have a single friend who works long hours full-time - her dog goes to daycare every work day. My husband and I both work full-time, but with a short commute - we have three dogs right now who are fine in the house uncrated. We usually leave around 8:30 AM, my husband comes home at 1:30 to let them out, and then we're both home around 6:00 PM.

These arrangements work well with adult dogs. But I'm involved in dog rescue and I never take puppies as foster dogs because I know our arrangement would not work for puppies.

I'll give the same advice I always give here - work with a good rescue to find an adult dog who is living in a foster home, and already is house-trained, socialized, obedience trained and crate trained, if that's important to you. Commit to having a dog walker come by in the middle of the day, and commit to walking the dog yourself and spending quality time with him/her in the mornings and evenings. Stay away from puppies.
posted by Squeak Attack at 6:47 AM on May 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I would suggest a slightly older dog if you are both working and not in a situation to spend time with the puppy during the day when it is young. While you can hire dog walkers to come and take the dog out to pee, a lot of that early time is important bonding and rule learning time and if you are not experienced dog owners (you don't say if you are or not) any behavioral problems might slip through the cracks until they are much harder to fix.

Having said that the other advantages of an older dog is, they can hold in their pee for much longer so you can, depending on the dog, get away with only one dog walk in the middle of the day which makes things easier. You will also have more idea of the dogs nature with an older dog too I'd suggest an older 2-3 year old rescue dog as they are well past their puppy stage then and if you go through a rescue that fosters dogs out the foster will have a good idea of how much of a couch potato your dog is and how long they can go between pees, though remember this can be thrown off a little the first few weeks in a new place while the dog settles in.

Crate training can be good, but my preference would be for a dog that can be left alone uncrated while you are at work as you'll be gone so long, I have never crated a dog and never had any problems I just leave lots of toys, chews around to keep them busy. Of course if you have a nice safe, fenced back yard a lot of the problems with dog walkers etc can be solved with a doggy door and the dog can just go in and out as it pleases depending on the weather.

Just remember before and after your long days at work your dog is going to need a nice long walk, every day, even if you are running late and have a very important meeting. Your dog needs that time with you every single day rain, hail, deadline whatever. I find that is the advantage of having a dog, it makes you change gears when you come home from work, but if you are very busy people with hectic social lives too that don't have the time morning and nights and weekends to spend on the dog, then you might just be cat people.
posted by wwax at 7:14 AM on May 6, 2013

Best answer: One other thing I thought about -- you say you're both "pretty into your work." I, too, am a workaholic who is super into my job. But on days where I could see myself going a few more hours to really get into something and make good progress, I actually left work a little earlier than usual -- say around 5 instead of 6 -- and took my laptop (with VPN) home to do the work there. That way, I made sure the dog got out for a walk at a reasonable hour, and we could cuddle on the couch while I did the work I planned on doing. Might either of your jobs support this?
posted by olinerd at 7:56 AM on May 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: After a lifetime of owning dogs here's my two cents.

First thank you both for planning on being responsible dog owners, we need more folks like you! Next, I agree with others here, you probably shouldnt get a puppy, but dont despair, an older dog will bond with you just as well as a puppy would and you get to skip all the destructive puppy behavior and long nights without sleep. The key is to walk your dog every day! The more walks and the longer the walks the better. So maybe you take the dog for a morning walk and hubby does the evening walk. With plenty of regular exercise almost any breed can live almost anywhere. The thing is, just putting a dog out to play in a yard DOES NOT count as exercise. It HAS TO BE walks or (depending on the energy level of ypur dog) runs or bike rides. You must commit to regular walks if you want a happy, well behaved dog.
Walks are the magic ingrediant to good dogs. Your dog will bond with you on your walks and think of you as its pack. Dogs bring so much fun and joy to the families who adopt them, they are SO worth it. Im excited for you, you have a great attitude already and I think you guys will be very happy with whatever dog you pick. Just please plan to keep your dog forever through thick and thin. They are family members not disposable possessions.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 8:33 AM on May 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

PS no dog should have to go more than 8 hours without a pee break. You should definitely get a pet sitter to make a mid day visit if your schedules dont allow you to come home for lunch each day.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 8:41 AM on May 6, 2013

When you say you get home at 7:30pm, is that after going out for dinner? If so, then one change that could make this work is to go from work to home before dinner.

Otherwise, I agree with folks that this is not a great situation for a young pup. Get an adult dog, arrange for a mid-day walk with a dog walker each workday, and this can work.
posted by bluedaisy at 9:07 AM on May 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

Just wanted to add another voice to the mix:

-Don't get a puppy!
-Older dogs are awesome and won't love you any less for not having known you their whole lives. Plus, an adult dog adopted from a shelter will probably be housebroken! Huzzah!
-Arrange for a mid-day walk for your future adult dog. Shop around - prices may vary.
-A dog hanging out in a yard still needs walks.
-Tons of working people have dogs, and you just need to be committed in terms of time and some money to make it work.
-How active are you already? I am sometimes annoyed that my dog can't keep up with me, but I'd put myself pretty far on the active side of the spectrum. If you're kind of a chill, hang around the house person, get a dog that will chill with you. If you like to hike in the mountains, get a dog that will be a good hiking companion. Don't get a super active dog and expect it to be a couch potato, though.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 9:31 AM on May 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you everyone with such helpful and optimistic answers. Some additional information in case it can produce some more insight:

- I love puppies but it sounds like a young-ish dog around 2 years old would be the better choice for us. That's still quite young but it sounds like it can make all the difference.

- We own a 2 bed/2 bath flat with a good sized back garden and we are in the middle of renovating it so maybe considering a dog would affect our design choices - although I am wary of leaving any dog alone in the backyard. But I am sooo looking forward to spending supervised time with one back there!

- We are usually home by around 7:30, straight into making dinner. So it sounds like as long as we planned for doggy daycare or a mid-day walker, whoever got home first could take the dog out and the other person could get the dinner going. That sounds feasible as long as we do the proper budgeting.

- I know we shouldn't get stuck on a breed, but we have been taken with the idea of a Tibetan Terrier for its size, temperament, not being to "sheddy", and being so gosh darn cute! If people have thoughts on this breed (and perhaps rescues in UK?) or other similar ones that would also be great.

Thanks again guys!
posted by like_neon at 12:35 PM on May 6, 2013

My 2c worth on your plan is that it sounds good. Dogs are very adaptable and the main thing would be to stick to a routine as dogs love routine above all else.

I love terriers, though I don't know much about Tibetan Terriers but as a general rule terriers are high energy dogs (though I say that as the owner of a Rat Terrier that likes to sleep 23.5 hours a day) so you'll need 2 walks a day, a long walk in the morning, though it can be a pain is helpful as a tired dog is a sleepy dog and a sleepy dog keeps out of mischief. I had 2 rescue Terriers in a tiny 800 sq ft apartment, and they did fine with 2 "big" walks a day of about 1/2 an hour each. I'd also consider getting lots of toys, chews, kongs etc and change them around each morning.

If you feel up for it, as you are looking at a smaller sized dog, you may want to look into adopting 2 dogs, that will help a lot as they can keep themselves company during the day while you are at work. It does increase medical, dog walking and food expenses though, but it's just an idea.
posted by wwax at 1:36 PM on May 6, 2013

So it looks like those dogs aren't actually terriers, so ignore all the "terriers are such-and-such" comments. I'm not familiar with that breed, though when I was a kid, we had a no-shedding dog, a wheaten terrier. My mom loved not dealing with shedding, but we should have done more to keep up the dog's coat. If we didn't brush her thoroughly one to two times a week (and we rarely did), she got really matted and we had to cut out chunks of hair or have her coat clipped short. Maybe you know you are good at this kind of thing, in which case, great.

Also, be careful of falling in love with a particular breed if you are thinking of an older dog. Certain breeds may generally have certain temperaments, but you might be limiting yourself. There could be a lovely dog with a great personality who is a mutt or another breed.
posted by bluedaisy at 4:57 PM on May 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

There are plenty of low-shedding, cute little dogs in shelters that will make great pets but are not Tibetan Terriers. Those are pretty fancy dogs.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 7:00 AM on May 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

Try a rescue greyhound. Seriously. When you fall in love with a greyhound, you will never go back.

(and I say this as a die-hard cowdog person)
posted by BlueHorse at 1:21 PM on June 11, 2013

The answer is that it's definitely do-able. If you're worried, why not house sit for a dog at a local shelter? Shelters are always looking for someone to hold on to a dog until an owner can be found. Get a younger one and you may just fall in love! If not, you'll still have done a great thing and experienced first hand what having a younger dog will be like.
posted by xammerboy at 2:11 PM on June 25, 2013

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