How to get a dog, without getting a dog
August 24, 2013 11:02 AM   Subscribe

I think my father would love to have a dog. My mom, however, is allergic, and so getting one that would live with them is not possible. How else can my dad get access to regular doggy goodness without actually having his own dog?

My dad loves dogs. He tells me about the dogs on his street every time I call. My cousins used to have dogs, and every time we'd go over for holidays, my dad would take the dogs for a walk. I'm sure he'd love to get the companionship, exercise, and love that having a dog could bring. He'd definitely enjoy training a dog. Unfortunately it isn't possible for him to get one; mom's allergic, they're thinking about moving to a smaller place, and they're getting a little older so while the responsibility would be ok now, it might not last for a whole doggy lifetime.

They know about poodles supposedly being less allergenic, but that's not enough. Besides I think my mother doesn't actually like dogs, so suggestions about ways to minimize the allergy effect while still having them own a dog wouldn't be very useful; they cannot own a dog at this time and that's pretty unlikely to change.

But my dad is *happy* around dogs. So, I'd like to suggest a way for him to get more doggy time without actually, ya know, owning a dog. Bonus points for ideas that would allow him to hang out with the same dog(s) over several years.
posted by nat to Pets & Animals (17 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Volunteering regularly at the humane society in your area is the best way to play with dogs and care for them, without owning one. I've done it before I owned a dog (couldn't because I was in school an working) and it was great.
posted by furnace.heart at 11:06 AM on August 24, 2013 [9 favorites]

Is he retired?

Hanging out with the same dog(s) over years would be harder, though he could certainly hang out a shingle in the neighborhood as a dog walker (especially lunchtime walks if he is retired), though he should probably get bonded if he's going to be going into people's houses.

I think most therapy dogs are handled by their owners, but it's not like that's a requirement. He might have to do some internet footwork, but perhaps he could become qualified to take therapy dogs to hospitals, retirement homes, etc.

If he's willing to see dogs come and go, the local shelters need volunteers, and then there are private rescue groups that often need help, transportation, walkers/socializers.

If he's got the stamina for it, there may also be Search and Rescue groups in the area who need helpers for exercises.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:12 AM on August 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

He could offer to walk his neighbors' dogs while they're at work or on vacation. This has the added bonus of helping make friends with the neighborhood families.
posted by martinX's bellbottoms at 11:13 AM on August 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

Check out to see if there are any places near your dad that train guide dogs/service dogs/therapy dogs. I volunteer for a guide dog training centre, and volunteers are always welcome, and you get to hang out with dogs.
posted by BozoBurgerBonanza at 11:29 AM on August 24, 2013

The local shelter in Austin has a program where you can sign up to take a shelter dog for a walk. It's a smaller and more casual commitment than full-on volunteering but it's fun for everyone involved.
posted by restless_nomad at 11:45 AM on August 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

Nthing the shelter-dogwalker-volunteer suggestion. I have a couple of friends who do it and have a great time, and they're always in need of more people. From time to time, they also need people to just hang out and socialize with puppies to get them used to being around humans.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:50 AM on August 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

Piling on for the shelter-walking programs. The shelters I'm familiar with tend to be shorter on volunteers during the week (the times when most people are at work), so it's especially helpful if your dad is retired or otherwise has those hours available. Not only does he get to hang out with the dogs, but the dogs will be so grateful as well!
posted by cgg at 12:03 PM on August 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

All of above answers are spot on ... but I wanted to add one more suggestion. Perhaps he could check in with a senior center, or if he knows of anyone who is sick, disabled, or elderly infirm with a dog, who needs someone to walk their dog but cant afford a dog walker.

We have a neighbor who loves dogs, but can't have one, who walks ours for us when neither of us is well enough to do it. She has also done this for a few other neighbors. Our dog adores her, and considers her an extended member of the pack.
posted by batikrose at 12:44 PM on August 24, 2013 [4 favorites]

Volunteer at the shelter, hang out at dog parks, join a rescue organization and offer respite care or vacation care for foster dog-parents.

Maybe he can be a dog nanny, checking on dogs in the neighborhood in the afternoon.

Or get a job at doggie day-care, or PetSmart kennels.

Dogs are all over the place! Yay dogs!

(Cats are pretty awesome too!)
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:25 PM on August 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

For hanging out with the same dog over several years I think your dad needs a dog-walking gig. Our cat sitter's main business is walking dogs M-F while their owners are at work, she has had the same clients for years.
posted by nanook at 1:46 PM on August 24, 2013

I had a sweet girl put an ad with similar details on Craigslist. She came and hung out with my dog every week, making them both very happy.
posted by mrfuga0 at 2:31 PM on August 24, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks so far for all the great ideas! Dad isn't retired yet but might be in not too much longer, so all of the day-time ideas are appreciated too. I'm going to wait to mark best answers until I get to see what ideas he actually likes.
posted by nat at 3:50 PM on August 24, 2013

Or maybe mom just needs some good allergy medicine?
posted by freakazoid at 4:44 PM on August 24, 2013

I think that Mom knows that Mark Twain said, "Dogs need a nine-year-old boy with a mom who likes to cook and clean." They are pretty much not a one boy/man job, no matter how we beg, wheedle or plead. Eventually, everybody gets sucked into the pack.

Maybe your dad could combine becoming a dog walker and help out at the shelter one day a week.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 5:51 PM on August 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: In San Francisco there is actually an organization (called P.A.W.S.) that matches people who want to walk dogs with elderly or ill people who have dogs that need care. The idea is to enable people to keep their pets even though they can't fully care for them on their own anymore.
posted by needs more cowbell at 6:41 PM on August 24, 2013 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: And there's a PAWS where my folks live! Thanks, needs more cowbell!
posted by nat at 11:53 PM on August 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Wow, I had no idea PAWS existed beyond the Bay Area. How excellent!
posted by needs more cowbell at 3:11 PM on August 27, 2013

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