Dog me please!
August 15, 2014 9:36 AM   Subscribe

I have never owned a dog and would eventually like to. What do I need to know?

I love dogs. I love my friends' dogs. I would love to get a dog in the next few years. I think it would improve my quality of life to have one. But I do not want to get a dog and then fuck him or her up because I haven't thought of something important that a seasoned dog owner would know about.

I work a 9 to 5 and I live in NYC, which obviously complicates things significantly.

I'd love to hear from seasoned dog owners and especially from people who got their first dogs as adults. How did you adjust your lifestyle? What mistakes did you make? What do I need to know? What resources should I consult? I'm starting from a baseline of basically zero here, although I have dogsat on many occasions before.
posted by showbiz_liz to Pets & Animals (43 answers total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
Time to walk. You live in NYC. You are also going to have top invest in time and possibly money dog training. Finding apartments for dogs is hard. Little dogs (and puppies) have very little bladders. Have a very you trust and an emergency vet you trust. Some breeds have serious disadvantages toward their health. Picking up poop is by definition not fun and required by law.

I love dogs but I'd never have one in a city space personally.

All that being said if the relationship is rewarding and you love your dog you will do just fine.
posted by AlexiaSky at 9:46 AM on August 15, 2014 [2 favorites]

I got my first dog as an adult. I had a friend who was really into dogs go with me to the shelter a few times. My friend explained the dogs' body language to me. The first few times, my friend was like, "I don't see any dogs here that are a good fit for you." I wanted to save All The Dogs, and felt particularly drawn to one. My friend said, wait. So I waited and didn't get that dog.

When we went back to the shelter, my friend saw a new dog there, and after we took it on a walk, my friend said, "this would be a good dog." It didn't seem different from the other dogs. But that's the one I got. She has required no training at all. She poops outside, waits for me to put the leash on her before we walk, stays off the furniture, sits still in the bath, all without me telling her to.

People stop me on the street and say, I used to have a dog that looked just like that, and it was the best dog. Flat-coated retriever is all I can say.
posted by Bentobox Humperdinck at 9:55 AM on August 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yay dogs!

Most important thing: Dogs love consistency. They like schedules. They like having walks and feedings at the same time every day. My own sweet pup reminds me when it's bedtime!

Consistency is also crucial when training. If the dog does something bad and you scold one time and laugh the next, the dog will be confused. So you have to be very, very careful and alert to behavior to praise or correct accordingly. Training classes can be a great resource.

My family usually had a dog when I was growing up, but I had my first dog of my own when I was about 35 and living in Brooklyn in a studio. I adopted a senior dog, a Maltese, and she was the most wonderful thing. (If you are interested in Maltese, let me know and I can memail about a fantastic rescue.) It's sometimes difficult to find an apartment that allows dogs but worth the effort.

I wouldn't recommend a puppy as your first dog. Older dogs are more mellow and love to be loved. My old girl taught me a lot and prepared me for my next dog, and both have improved my quality of life in so many ways.

Did I mention the part about yay dogs? Yay dogs!
posted by mochapickle at 9:58 AM on August 15, 2014 [10 favorites]

We're in Brooklyn and we've had a dog for three years this summer, so I can't say I'm seasoned but whatever.

Keep in mind everything I'm saying is a generalization; dogs have all sorts of different personalities and you never know what you're going to end up with. Especially if you plan to adopt an adult dog, which you should, because holy shit you do not want a puppy unless you're really bored with having a social life.

I never wanted a dog while I was single (never had a pet at all before or considered having one) and looking back, boy I am glad I never got one. Not that you can't have a dog and be single at the same time, but not being able to split the time means you need to do all the Dog Things or ask for favors or pay people. Having a second person around to do Dog Things (and not as a favor) is a lifesaver.

They're not generally independent creatures like cats. They're pack animals, they often want attention and love, and they need to be played with and exercised lest they get bored, and if they get bored they're trouble. So all of that means one thing: time. Time spent on discipline, time spent hanging out with the dog instead of going out, time spent walking the dog in the morning instead of rolling out of bed and heading to work half-asleep. Regardless of the weather or how you feel or how shitty it is outside, the dog needs to get walked.

Most dogs -- I've never met anyone with a dog that was an exception to this -- can't me watched like a cat where if you want to go on vacation for a week you get a friend to come by twice a day to feed the dog and walk it. That might work for a day or two, but, agan, dogs get lonely and bored and when they get lonely and bored you may come home to prized possessions chewed up or spite-poop on your bed. You need a dedicated (live-in or you take the dog to them) sitter for vacations, or you'll need to shelter or board the dog. Good boarding is expensive. Shitty boarding means you'll get a sick and possibly injured dog back, which is bad for the dog and expensive to fix.

It's going to make finding an apartment a pain in the ass (and god forbid you want to buy an apartment at some point.) Unless you absolutely 100% want a bigger dog, get one that stays under 20 lbs., which is the cutoff weight for most apartments I've seen. Also, many large dogs (huskies, mastiffs, great danes, St. Bernards) are banned in many apartment buildings, as are pitbulls and obvious pit mixes, regardless of the size or demeanor. The apartment we just got had literally a paragraph-long list of banned breeds.

Anyway, there was a lot of lifestyle adjustment, a lot of expenses (but we have somewhat of a special-needs dog), a lot of assorted pains in the ass, but honestly it has all been very much worth it and I wouldn't give up our stupid little dog for anything in the world. Feel free to memail/email me if you'd like.
posted by griphus at 10:02 AM on August 15, 2014 [7 favorites]

Also, we got our dog at Sean Casey Animal Rescue and I highly recommend them. They'll let you return a dog if it's not a good fit, which we know because the dog we adopted had been returned twice.
posted by griphus at 10:03 AM on August 15, 2014

Every dog is different, and every dog will throw curveballs at you. I had dogs growing up, and dogsat lots of dogs, and was a volunteer at the animal shelter for years and dealt with the difficult dogs, and my current dog made me rethink and relearn so many things. So, don't worry too much if it's overwhelming and confusing. There isn't one set of rules that will work for every dog. You just keep trying.

But, yes, plan lots of time for walks - we do an hour a day, you might need less or more. Think about doggy daycare or having a dog walker, or using pee pads. Don't get a puppy. Look up positive training methods.

Lots of people have apartment dogs in big cities and work full time. You can do this.

Here are things you will lose, and what I miss from being a dog-free adult: sleeping in, being able to go out with friends after work without stopping in, having a loosey-goosey schedule, having fur-free clothes, money, easy apartment finding, and your heart when your friend eventually passes.

But what you will gain - oh, it will be all worth it.
posted by umwhat at 10:10 AM on August 15, 2014 [4 favorites]

It's completely changed my life. My wife and I work staggered schedules so the dog spends minimal time home alone. If my wife has to work late, I drive home at lunch time to take him for a walk -- had to do this for 3 months straight early on. I started running around 20 miles a week to get him enough exercise. I used to go biking every day, but I've pretty much given it up because I'm pretty wiped after running the dog. In the winter I've started cross-country skiing with the dog which is incredibly challenging and also pretty dangerous. On the positive side I discovered a ton of new interesting places in the city I live in, I'm way healthier, I've gotten a lot closer to all the neighbors, I've completely stopped watching TV because the dog is way more entertaining, and I've taken up photography again because I have a portrait subject who can't say no. YMMV.
posted by miyabo at 10:18 AM on August 15, 2014 [3 favorites]

The biggest change in my life from adopting (two!) dogs is that I have much less spontaneity. As griphus notes, I can't just take off for a weekend trip without figuring out who will care for the dogs, which means in the summer booking a boarder or kennel weeks in advance (as everyone else takes weekend trips too). Having a tiny dog could mitigate some of this, because you may be able to bring a tiny dog with you.

Even beyond that, I like to keep my dogs on a strict schedule (because it really does help with behavioral issues) which means after-work drinks or other plans can get complicated. Definitely sharing dog care with another person helps here.

I love my big (60 lb) dogs but I am dreading an upcoming move to possibly a rental rather than an owned house. Who would rent to us?

Your dog will need regular vet appointments - we have to take ours twice a year because of kennel cough concerns; you may get away with only once a year depending on where you live. But on top of that finding the closest 24-hour/emergency vet is a good idea, plus think about how to transport a potentially sick pup to the vet if you don't have a car.

One good general resource I consult all the time is the ASPCA website on Dog Care.
posted by muddgirl at 10:18 AM on August 15, 2014

I got my first dog as an adult (I was 30 years old). I was living with my wife, but we weren't married yet; she had grown up with a dog. My parents were very "no pets in this house, you can have a dog when you have your own place" type of people.

I definitely agree that having a dog has improved my quality of life. We now have three dogs (though I wanted to stop at two - only because, practically, we travel on occasion, and the rare hotels that do allow dogs usually have a two dog limit.)

I work a full-time job. In the past, this has stopped me from having a dog because it was my opinion that it wouldn't be fair to the dog to have him or her alone whilst I was at work all day; dogs are social creatures and need interaction with people and/or other dogs or else they go nuts. My wife works from home -- due to medical issues she cannot work a traditional job -- so someone is home all day. This was instrumental in making my decision -- I would not have gotten a dog if there was any extended period of time where no one would be home.

The most difficult thing was housebreaking and training the dogs (we got the first two as puppies, from the same breeder). Dogs who are being "toilet trained" need to go outside far more often than adult dogs -- they need to learn that they do their business outside. Our vet recommended we take the puppy out every two hours, even overnight -- my wife took the overnight responsibility as I wanted to be rested for work; she's a saint for doing this. Cleaning up the inevitable accidents was a chore. This period only lasted a few months.

Mistakes I made ALL involved being impatient, scolding the dog long after the fact. Dogs don't understand "I'm upset with you because you pooped in the house yesterday morning," they only understand "I'm upset with you" and will associate it with what they JUST did. So my dog would be all happy and tail-waggy when I came home from work, and then I'd be all "grr I had to clean up your poop this morning" and he would be all upset and clearly not understand why, and would learn (incorrectly) that greeting me when I came home was not to be done because it made me upset. You have to correct/discipline your dog at the time of the offense, if possible.

I've gained great patience and I think this will be very helpful when I have kids. (Also, I'm less squicked out by cleaning up poop and puke, which will also be helpful.)

The other lifestyle adjustments aren't really terrible. Feeding the dog twice a day, ensuring s/he has access to fresh water, and walking them regularly did little more than add some time to my morning get-ready-for-work routine. I've got three loving dogs who greet me every day when I come home from work as if I'm a soldier who's just come home from a year at war.

Disciplining and training the dogs were the biggest challenges, and will just require a lot of your attention. A lot of people advocate for crate training; my wife and I, on the other hand, believe this is cruel and we don't do it. Since you're going to be at work all day, though, you may have little choice.

You've got to take them to a vet, so find one you trust -- get recommendations from friends and neighbors. Be sure they have 24 hour emergency appointments or can recommend an emergency vet center that does... having your dog eat something s/he shouldn't and get sick at 2 AM, then finding out your vet is closed, is anxiety-provoking. Like children, puppies need to see the vet more often than adult dogs for shots and what have you.

You'll need to have your dog licensed -- likely annually -- this requires a valid rabies shot. The first shot is valid for one year and subsequent shots are valid for three years. Your vet WILL recommend other shots. Most grooming salons will require proof of rabies vaccine. Boarding places will require proof of that and vaccination for kennel cough (bordatella, which I always want to say as "bordello" as I can never remember it, but I know that's wrong).

You'll need to treat for fleas and ticks. Our vet pushes Frontline, but it is ineffective and useless. I've had (so far) better luck with Advantix, however, as I live in a rural area, and let my dogs out unleashed (on my own property), I'm often pulling ticks off my dogs after they've come in from wandering off somewhere. We once pulled 25 ticks off my girl after a single outing. I don't know where she ran off to but she never went there again because it was unpleasant for her afterward.

When we first had the dogs, we lived in apartment complexes, and that meant leashing them and having them bark at little kids "OOOH A DOGGIE LET ME PET IT" and other dogs. We have Mini Schnauzers; that's a breed that barks A LOT -- it intimidates people but really they just bark out of excitement. Find a breed that's right for you and do your research.

Dogs have baby teeth just like people. They lose their baby teeth, and if you get a puppy, you may go through a period of time where you find dog teeth on the floor. Teething is horrible. My girl, in particular, chewed on EVERYTHING. We tried the bitter apple spray and not only did it not deter the dogs from chewing, but usually got on our hands somehow and then WE tasted it, and boy is it unpleasant. I remember one time when my wife and I went out in a snowstorm to pick some stuff up for our wedding; we left the dogs in our bedroom. When we got back, the light we'd left was out. I thought the bulb had just burned out, but then I saw the severed electrical cord on the floor, still plugged in, and copper fibers all over the floor. My girl had chewed straight through the lamp cord. You'd think she would have stopped once she got electrical shocks on her tongue. Just be VERY careful when they are teething.

Make sure you have lots of toys and play with your dog frequently. Dogs don't like to be bored, and when they are they will find ways to entertain themselves, which generally involves mischief. Since you'll be at work all day, you might want to see if your cable provider offers Dog TV; we subscribe to this, and our dogs seem to enjoy it, and it helps with the separation anxiety and boredom when we both need to leave the house.

You can't be spontaneous, as you need to think of the dogs. We get take out and eat at home more frequently now since we can't just go out to eat, watch a movie, et cetera. We've had bad experiences with doggie day care and boarding, so we don't bother anymore. YMMV.

We travel a lot, since our family is all in other states, and since we've had bad experiences with boarding, we tend to take them with. Very few hotels will allow dogs, and many of those who do charge additional deposits and usurious nightly fees. But here is a Pro Tip: The La Quinta chain of hotels allows you to have two dogs free of charge in every hotel throughout the entire chain, with the exception of their Manhattan location (but since you live in NYC already, you probably won't ever need to stay in a hotel there).

Please please please please PLEASE PRETTY PLEASE consider adopting a dog from a shelter or rescue organization rather than a pet store or puppy store -- the dogs in pet stores and puppy stores often come from so-called puppy mills where the animals are treated very, VERY poorly. If people stop buying from these stores then those conditions will not continue. A lot of rescues are breed-specific. We currently work with a local Schnauzer-specific rescue and currently have a foster puppy (so I've got four dogs total at the moment); a previous foster we had was just adopted.

To get a feel for having a dog, you may want to consider volunteering for a transport with a local rescue organization. You'll have the dog for a day or two, and drive it from point A to point B, usually one segment of a longer drive, and another volunteer will pick up the dog at point B and do the same thing for another segment of the drive.

Some dogs love car rides. Others get car sick. Our dogs got used to car trips at a young age; they love it to the point where, if I'm in the garage because I forgot something in my car, my dogs will come with, jump in the car excitedly ("OOH A ROAD TRIP DON'T FORGET ME!") and won't come out even when I make it clear that I'm not driving anywhere.

(One time we were packing for a trip and my girl brought her favorite toy and dropped it in the suitcase. It was adorable.)

Wow, sorry for the novel. Best of luck!
posted by tckma at 10:21 AM on August 15, 2014 [7 favorites]

One thing to consider is that the schedule of your life is going to be very much tied to the fact that you have an animal at home. This goes for every day life but also for vacations. I'm a cat person and have always had freedom to essentially go wherever I want, whenever I want, only paying someone to stop by my house once a day. Now one of my cats requires medication 3x a day and I feel like suddenly my life is much more like a dog owner's, having to make sure to be home frequently and figure out more serious, heavy-duty pet sitting situations. Pets can end up being much more of a commitment than you even imagine they will be.
posted by something something at 10:25 AM on August 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

FWIW, both my husband and I work 8-5 jobs that require occasional travel, and I was worried that my lifestyle would be incompatible for the dogs, but the ones we adopted do fine at home alone, and they do fine while boarded or at a kennel. Dogs are pretty adaptable and they grow used to whatever schedule they're living on if their needs are met. We also go out to eat, go to the movies, hang out with friends, etc. We just have to plan around our pups needs, making sure they have activity time and hangout time with us.
posted by muddgirl at 10:29 AM on August 15, 2014

Oh also, think very seriously about pet insurance. Even if the cold rational side of your brain says "I'd never pay $10,000 to save a pet", when the situation comes up... that's an extremely emotionally difficult decision. Pet insurance is really insurance against spending stupidly enormous amounts of money on vet care. High deductible plans are pretty reasonably priced.
posted by miyabo at 10:30 AM on August 15, 2014 [2 favorites]

I should add that we adopted adult dogs, not puppies. Puppies require a lot more continuous care and personally I would not try to work a 9-5 job while raising a puppy.
posted by muddgirl at 10:31 AM on August 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

Also, someone told me this and it turned out to be 100% true: the first year is going to be really, really hard. Like occasionally on the level of "ugh, why did I do this to myself" hard. But it does get easier and hopefully and eventually the rough edges get smoother, you adjust to the dog, the dog adjusts to you and you'll be family.
posted by griphus at 10:36 AM on August 15, 2014 [4 favorites]

Get a small dog, get it when it's a baby, and litter box train it. I had blissfully simple puppy years while working full time.
posted by phunniemee at 10:41 AM on August 15, 2014 [2 favorites]

There are kind of two routes you can take here:

1. Get a rescue or a dog from a shelter

2. Get a puppy

With a dog from a shelter, odds are good that it will be some kind of mixed breed and already an adult. The advantage is that you'll have some idea of the their personality from the start. The downside is that you didn't really have a hand in their early socialization so, if they were never introduced to, say, a black person as a puppy, they might bark at the every black person they meet as an adult and people will think that your dog is racist. Similarly, you CAN teach an old dog new tricks but it takes a little bit longer and it's harder to get it hardwired into their brains as an automatic response. You also get to skip the teething puppy phase when they will chew on every damn thing.

With a puppy, you're mostly going to be looking at pure-bread dogs. This will mean doing a lot of research on breeds and (as or more importantly) the breeders themselves. With pure-breeds, it's a bit of a toss of the dice as to what their personality will be but they are heavily loaded dice AND you get to have a huge part in molding them an early age. You can start training and socialization early so that by the time they are adults, they are a well trained, well socialized dog. On the downside, you get go through the puppy teething phase when they chew up something expensive/important, housebreaking where no matter how careful you are you WILL end up cleaning up dog pee (though we got by with only one indoor poop incident), and they boundless energy. Like, somehow, taking a puppy for a nice long walk ends with them having more energy than when you started. You'll discover that puppies are so adorable so that we don't strangle them.

A little over two-years ago, Bailey became part of our family (here she is on her first day with us). She is a pure-bred American Akita so I can speak to going the puppy route. We had a few dogs when I was growing up but I didn't really have a lot of the responsibility for them and my SO had never had dogs and didn't even think she was a "dog person".

Here are the things I would have done differently. My SO works four miles away, she had been coming home to feed the dog and let her out of crate to pee at noon but was having a hell of a time with it despite me getting up before work to take her for a long walk in the mornings. After a few weeks, I was able to start working from home. I would have taken at least the first week off of work and started working from home from the start. Any time that you can't give 100% of your attention to the puppy, the puppy should be in the crate. I was off running errands and the pup was taking a nap so my SO decided to rest her eyes for a minute. One minute later a couch cushion was completely destroyed. She also chewed up a couple of rugs, the corner of a coffee table, the leg of a dresser, two laptop power supplies, and a few other things that I'm sure I'm forgetting. If you cannot see the puppy, the puppy is getting into trouble. I mean that literally.

I wish we would have started training earlier, especially on-leash and off-leash walking and recalls. I thought that, having had dogs when I was younger, I would be able to train the dog myself, I was wrong and I should have started earlier, like, from day 1 we should have been in training classes. There is a trick that our trainer told me about where you can go to a large, fenced in area and let the pup wander around off-leash, then you hide and, because they are puppies, they get nervous and come find you then you give them a treat. Then, as adults, they develop the habit of never letting you out of their site if you're outside the house. Combine that with good recall training (so they'll always come when called) and you can take your dog off-leash just about anywhere within reason. Our pup was too old for that trick to work by the time I heard about it.

Those are the two big things that come to mind. I thought I was prepared for the time commitment that a puppy takes but I was wrong. It gradually gets easier, the first night is murder (you will not sleep), the first week is rough since you'll have to get up in the middle of the night to go potty, then things start getting easier. Now that she is two years old, we let Bailey have the run of the house as long as we're not going to be gone for too long. She gets walked twice a day and we do a little bit of training and that seems to be enough stimulation for her.

If we were to get a 2nd dog, it would probably be an adult from a shelter. When Bailey isn't with us anymore (as is inevitable) our next dog might come from a shelter or it might be another puppy (especially since we'd be more prepared now).

Oh, and you won't want to read any threads about dogs unless your dog is around. I seriously can't read a dog thread without giving my pooch some attention.
posted by VTX at 10:42 AM on August 15, 2014

I live in Manhattan (East Village), and back in January I got a puppy Stray From The Heart. Before moving to New York, I lived in Virginia and owned two dogs for seven years who now live with my ex in Florida.

The biggest mistake I see with dog owners in NYC is they get a dog to save themselves. What I mean by that is that their lifestyle involves going out to the bars every night, waking up late, etc. In their head, they'll get the dog and be forced to make the lifestyle changes necessary to support the dog. In reality, they become shitty dog owners. Get on the dog schedule first and then decide if you want the dog.

More than anything, especially in the beginning, especially with a puppy, the dog needs your time. The dog has to learn to know you and trust you completely, and building that relationship takes a lot of 1:1 time. Dogs are social creatures. If they spend a lot of time alone, they will become anxiety-ridden, barking, creatures of destruction that will make your life and your neighbors' lives miserable.

The rest of the advice people have given is great, so I won't rehash any of it. Here's a typical day with my dog, Moose.

8:00am: Wake up. He's crate-trained (which I highly, highly, highly recommend) and sleeps in his crate. Something outside right at 8am usually gets him up and hearing him shuffle around wakes me up. I throw on some clothes and take him out to one. We come back inside, he gets breakfast, and I get ready.

9:00am: I walk down to the coffee shop with him. It's dog-friendly, and I get a coffee, and he gets a treat. He usually does two on this walk.

9:15am: If I don't have to head to a client, I take him to Washington Square Park Dog Run and let him play for a half hour. I live closer to Tompkins Square Park, but it's a rougher crowd and Moose got bloodied there once.

10:00am: I come back home, and either work from home, or if I'm heading to a client, Moose gets crated.

2:00pm: If I am at a client, Moose gets walked by Punk Walkers. They are awesome and charge $15 for a half hour walk, but prices may vary. If he didn't two in the morning, he does on this walk.

6:00pm: I get home and take Moose for a quick spin around the block to one.

Evening: On nights I go out, I try to choose activities I can take Moose to, which means places with outdoor seating or one of the dog-friendly bars in the neighborhood. If I leave him at home (in his crate), when I get back he gets a long walk (11 blocks up, one avenue over, and back).

Two things that make owning a dog much easier for me: 1) I'm a consultant and have flexible hours and 2) I live near where my clients are concentrated, so coming home during the day isn't a big deal.

Happy to answer any other questions you may have.
posted by AaRdVarK at 10:48 AM on August 15, 2014 [2 favorites]

I've had a big-ish dog (first one was 65 lbs, and our current one is 50) my entire adult life, and have lived mostly in apartments - in Chicago, South Carolina, Florida, and Pittsburgh. Yes it's more difficult to find an apartment when you have a dog, but while I cannot speak for NYC, it is possible even in cities. It's also possible to have a 9-5 job and a dog, although as everyone else has pointed out, you will need to find ways to come home periodically every day. Doggy daycare, if you can afford it and your dog likes other dogs (my first dog didn't), is HUGELY helpful - even though I work from home right now we still take our little beast down to Camp Bow Wow once every week or so to give her some crazy playtime.

From the few times when I've been away from my dog for an extended period, I find that I do somewhat regret not being able to pick up and go somewhere overnight whenever I want, but finding a good boarding place that you trust and your dog likes is huge (I had a truly nightmarish experience with one near Chicago once, and was unable to board my first dog at a kennel AT ALL after that - so do be SURE you research your boarding facility before trusting your dog to it). There's also the endless mounds of hair, the walks even when the weather SUCKS, the awkwardness when people come up wanting to pet your dog but your dog doesn't like to be pet by strangers, and the perpetual clutter that comes from having your entire home strewn with dog toys. Nonetheless, I wouldn't be dogless for the world. Having a happy, silly soul full of joy and love right there in your home with you is amazing. My job has been hella-stressful lately, and taking even 5-minute puppy breaks with Mozilla (who just came into my office as I typed this) helps me put things in perspective and feel a little lighter again. It was so hard for me to be dogless after my first dog passed that we adopted our current dog just 3 months later. I freaking love having a dog.

As far as mistakes made, the one I regret the most was buying into the whole 'alpha dog/Caesar Millan' mentality with my first dog - she was a chow/shepherd/lab mix and the shelter I adopted her from told me I'd need to "establish my dominance" (ugh) so I thought I was doing the right thing, but it never felt right and I think it affected her in ways I deeply wish I could take back. We do only positive-reinforcement, clicker-based training with our current dog, and while we could/should be a little more on top of that (she probably doesn't HAVE to be quite the little bulldozer-tornado she is), you can tell she's a much happier dog for it. Even before you get a dog you can start reading up - I found Don't Shoot the Dog to be a good book in terms of discussing the general philosophy of these methods, and Karen Pryor's website has a lot of guidance of a more specific nature.

Finally, I think when I got my first dog I was surprised that she was sort of a one-person dog - I'd always kind of assumed that most dogs love everyone, are happy to go out to big crowded public events and be pet by strangers, etc., and neither of my dogs have been like that. Now that I know more about dogs I realize that LOTS of them are a little nervous, neurotic, etc. If you're wanting a chill, 'loves everyone' type of dog you'd need to be very specific about that in your search, and perhaps consider an adult dog (which you should do anyway) whose personality has been vetted by the shelter - just one more thing to think about.

Oh! And if you're not sure you want to make the commitment you'd need to make upon adopting a dog, perhaps you could consider fostering for a while? I know the shelters I've gone to in the past were ALWAYS looking for foster parents, and the nice thing is that it wasn't quite the same long-term commitment - of course you could become a 'failed foster' and eventually adopt your charge, but if it wasn't working out for you at least you'd be helping that dog be loved and socialized until they did find their forever home.

Good luck to you in your decision making!
posted by DingoMutt at 10:54 AM on August 15, 2014 [3 favorites]

I first got a puppy as an adult in NYC. Our second dog was an adult dog. Never again will I adopt a puppy. It's just too much work. It worked for me at the time because I was in law school and had an extremely flexible schedule. The second pup did have a short adjustment period (relearning how to be a house dog and adapting to new surroundings), but mostly came "no assembly required." The puppy was also way more expensive (had to pay for initial shots, neutering, etc).

We have a dog walker who comes midday, and they get a walk in the morning and at night. They're mostly on a schedule but don't freak out if we push back their dinner time a few hours because we went out that evening. They are small dogs that are not typically "high energy" so do not require hours-long walks. We went through a lot of dog walkers before finding a reliable one. We set up a webcam to monitor new dog walkers, and many would only take the dog out for a relief walk even though we were paying for a 45 minute walk. There are a bunch of good dog service providers, but there are a ton of irresponsible ones too. Recommendations are key.

A basic obedience class is helpful -- the puppy and I took one, and I found I didn't need it for the second one as she had some "skills" already (as did I). Training is as much for you as it is for the pup. Everything is a teachable moment for your pup. Start as you mean to go on.

You will go to the vet a lot during the first year, as you learn what is an emergency vs what isn't. We have a budget of about $2000/year for routine vet visits, food, toys, treats, poop bags, etc. (again, 2 small dogs). Emergency vet care will easily set you back $1000+ for one night (a big dog attacked the puppy and that 3-day stint with surgery was $3800, luckily it was reimbursed by the attacker's owner's renters insurance).

Grooming is expensive. Puppy doesn't need any; adult dog needs periodic cuts. I learned to do it myself because the local places charge $100 for a wash/cut/dry (which is more than I pay for my own haircuts, though to be fair, my hairstylist doesn't have to express my anal glands).

A dog over 25lbs or a (mislabeled) "aggressive" breed will make apartment hunting harder; that said, it isn't impossible and those pups need loving homes too.

If you do get a dog, I can recommend a dog walker, vet, doggy day care, and trainer. We used Bideawee for the adoption.
posted by melissasaurus at 11:01 AM on August 15, 2014 [2 favorites]

You can certainly have a dog while working 9-5 and living in an apartment, especially if you can be sure you have a dog walker take the dog out during the middle of the day.

Before you get a dog, find a good veterinary behaviorist and/or experienced animal trainer (KPA-CDT Trainers, Peaceable Paws referral list. A good one can help you evaluate any dog you might potentially want to adopt. I'm going to do this for the next dog we adopt.

Recommended reading:
Culture Clash by Jean Donaldson
Decoding Your Dog: The Ultimate Experts Explain Common Dog Behaviors and Reveal How to Prevent or Change Unwanted Ones by the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists
(There are many more, but these 2 really capture the big topics)

Our veterinary behaviorist and our dog trainer both have sad stories of people having to give up their apartment-based dogs because frankly they barked when the owners were away so much the neighbors complained. (It's difficult to train a stressed dog to not bark when you're not there.)
posted by apennington at 11:03 AM on August 15, 2014

One other thing: don't get a dog that isn't the exact right fit for you. It is HARD picking a dog. You want to save all the puppies, but you need to make sure the dog is right for you. We saw I think six or seven dogs in person (and so many more on petfinder) before picking our second pup. Some had special needs that we didn't have time for (extreme anxiety, not leash trained, etc). We didn't have the time needed to address those issues to the extent needed for those pups.

I recently helped friends adopt their first dog, and they went through the same thing. An adorable sweet pup, who just didn't respond to them in the way they wanted. They felt bad for walking away, but it allowed them to find the right pup who is a perfect fit for their family.

Don't feel bad for not being sure about a particular dog. It's ok to say no to adopting it. Wait for the dog that is right for you.
posted by melissasaurus at 11:08 AM on August 15, 2014 [3 favorites]

Because I can't stop answering this question apparently:

-Going on vacation: it is much easier to find a friend to watch the pup(s) if you pay for someone to do all the walks. Our dog walker charges $60 for overnights and $10/feeding, so an additional $80/day (over the $20/walk * 3 walks needed). Friends that don't already have dogs are reluctant to watch the pups for more than a few days, especially during the workweek, as it's a big commitment. Offering to have the dog walker come (so the friend literally just feeds the dogs and hangs out with them) makes it much easier to get friends to sign up for vacation care (and still saves us $80/day).

-In the first week after getting each dog, I had a breakdown, crying, thinking "oh my god, what have I done!? how could I commit to caring for this creature!? this is too much for me to handle." It's natural. I got over it. You will too.

-Two dogs is more than twice the work of one dog.
posted by melissasaurus at 11:18 AM on August 15, 2014

I may be an outlier on Metafilter, but I figured out how to have a large, needy dog at age twenty-four with no money and no time. No partner. If my life had been more stable and middle-class, things with my dear old booger would have been pretty easy. As it was, sometimes things were a pretty hard. Mostly because I was broke. I loved him and I felt personally responsible for his well-being, so I more or less figured things out.

He was a good dog, but he had his problems. Read my question history.

Just: Don't be lazy. Don't be stupid. Do the right thing.

A few more specific thoughts:

-Don't get a puppy.
-Just get a dog from a normal shelter unless you personally know someone at a rescue group and know they're not crazy. A lot of rescue groups are insane, and you can get a lemon of a pup from a rescue and you can get the best doggie ever from a high kill shelter. There are no guarantees in this world.
-For fuck's sake, don't buy a dog. Are you a fancy showdog person? No. Then get thee to a shelter, dahling. It may be uncool to shame people for buying puppies or whatever, but I feel like I have the opportunity to tell you not to do it. Don't do it!

Bougie bougie over-thinking of dogs will drive you crazy. It's a dog. Love it. Play with it. Walk it. Feed it. Remember that your animal has needs that it can't always express.

But honestly assess your personality, and your current level of physical activity. Walking the dog didn't feel like an OMG burden to me because it barely felt like exercise, but if you're pretty sedentary right now, it's going to feel like a big change.

Remember that you can't go out right after work, and that you can't easily spend the night away from your apartment.

Remember that dogs are gross and like gross things.

Remember that some dogs like to mess with your things, so do some dog proofing. With a tall dog, this can be difficult. Anything at tail-height will be destroyed. Find a trashcan that your dog can't easily knock over, or better yet, stick the trashcan in the linen closet. Remember to close the bathroom door if your dog really loves to drink out of the toilet and/or ransack the bathroom trashcan. Keep your shoes and your dirty laundry in a closet, or at least off the floor. Etc. Etc.

I love big dogs, but if you're open to a smaller dog, consider the possibility. Apartment complexes are dumb and don't realize that smaller dogs have smaller bladders and aren't necessarily good apartment dogs, but renting with a big dog is really difficult. (But big dogs are fucking awesome).

Saying goodbye to an old friend is hard. I found my dog when he was already an elderly beast, we had two wonderful years together, and I miss him dearly. I aiming a little younger for the next one, because a broken heart every couple of years is too much for me. Still, if an old dog captures your heart, go for it. They are so sweet.

I think, depending on the dog, that you shouldn't have to come home mid-day. I'm assuming that your schedule is a consistent 9-5 - if it's not, get a regular dog walker. Make sure the dog gets a good walk right before you leave for work and right when you come home. If your job is the type of job that makes you stay late, have a contingency plan. And if you have the chance to go home mid-day for a dog walk, do it because it's fun. A lot of people have dogs, work full-time, and don't pay for a dog walker. Do it if you have the budget or your dog really needs it, but don't feel like a monster if you can't. Ah, Metafilter.

ost dogs -- I've never met anyone with a dog that was an exception to this -- can't me watched like a cat where if you want to go on vacation for a week you get a friend to come by twice a day to feed the dog and walk it.

I sort of did this, but my roommate was around. Boarding a dog can be expensive, and if your dog doesn't like other dogs, it's stressful for the doggie, too. A nice middle ground - possibly more expensive if you can't get a friend to do it - is to have someone stay with the dog at your place. I think boarding a dog at a fun place with other dogs is probably the best option, but just in case . . .

And wait for the right dog. Be picky. You can't save them all.

Sorry for writing too many words.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 11:22 AM on August 15, 2014 [2 favorites]

We had 2 terriers in a small 2 bedroom apartment, it wasn't in a busy city but it was still an apartment. If you get them used to a routine you can pretty fit the rest of your life around their pee, feed & walk schedule if needed, though having a dog and not spending time with it is a bit of a waste and you sound like you'd want to so that's good.

If you've never had a dog before when you get one go to training classes as soon as you can. Even if you adopt an older already trained dog, you are not going to train the dog, you are going to train you in how to train your new best friend. Going to training classes will give you a lot of confidence, and is a great way to bond with your new dog. Agility classes are also fun and something you might consider.

I'd really recommend an older (2 years and over) rescue dog as a first dog, they are past the crazy high energy stage which is hard to handle in an apartment, and are more likely to be content to be left alone for the day with a nice kong full of treats to work on and to nap until you get home.

Most rescue groups will work with you to find a good match, and please be willing to take back the dog if it isn't a good match for you as both you and the dog will be happier if you do. Some rescue groups won't adopt to apartment dwellers so check that first. Both my dogs came from high kill shelters & had behavioral problems that most likely meant no one else would adopt them. I like training dogs so took the risk, most shelter dogs are fine though. Be aware breed does not = temperament except in the most general terms, not every boxer is like y or every Yorky like x etc any more than people are.

I know many people have a perfectly happy big dog in an apartment, but I would really suggest you look at smaller dogs. Little legs = less exercise, yes even with terriers. Some people are looking for an exercise companion so if that's you go for it.

Be prepared to get up every morning at the same time, come rain, hail, snow storm or hangover, your dog needs to poop & pee. The early morning snuggles in bed before you head out do help make getting up easier though.
posted by wwax at 11:30 AM on August 15, 2014

Mr. Meat and I adopted a 3 year old cattle dog mix about 2.5 months ago, just after we bought our house with a yard so I could have a big dog. He's 50 pounds.

Neither of us had dogs growing up, which caused some concerns at the shelter. "Neither of you has EVER had a dog?? Why do you want a dog? What are you doing? Do you have any idea what you're doing?" But they seemed to get over that and let us take him home.

If you have a small place, it will ALWAYS smell like dog.

Do go to training.

Do be very, very picky about the dog you get.

Our dog came housetrained and sort of other trained. He doesn't chew things. He HATES HATES HATES the crate and cried for the first month whenever I left the house or put him in the crate. He does like our cats, which is huge. The biggest thing we're working on is that he freaks out about other dogs while on walks. And he can pull you over when that happens.

Mornings. I am a morning person, and it gets hard getting up early every day - a break once a week would be huge, but Mr. Meat's schedule doesn't always allow that, and the dog is my responsibility.

People earlier are completely right that about a week or two in, you'll be like "WTF AM I DOING? Why did I get this dog?!" And then a few weeks after that, it'll be ok. And you'll remember you got a dog because you wanted the company, you wanted to go on walks, you wanted to be greeted so happily when you come home, etc.

If you choose to doggie day care or kennel them, be very picky. I've heard horror stories. And the good ones around us are expensive. We haven't been away since we got the dog.

I love my cats. I also love my dog. He is currently snoozing after his midday walk.
posted by Ms Vegetable at 11:31 AM on August 15, 2014

Do you have a cat?

I ask, because we do, and our different dogs have different personalities and act differently for the cat.

1st dog and 2nd dog were already part of our family when we adopted the cat. They got along wonderfully and loving.

We got 3rd dog, and 3rd dog enjoyed chasing the cat and feasting out of the cat's litter box (ew). I've corrected the litter box feasting, thank ${deity}, but not the cat chasing.

Cat chasing was exacerbated by 1st foster dog, who came in to our home and loved nothing more than chasing after our poor cat and barking at her relentlessly. 3rd dog used this as encouragement to chase after and bark at our cat. 1st dog and 2nd dog both seem bewildered at this behavior: THAT IS CAT AND WE LOVE HER, WHY FOR YOU BARK AT HER?

Even though 1st foster dog has been adopted, 3rd dog still barks at and chases the cat, and has passed this egregious behavior on to 2nd foster dog, who gets a kick out of it as well. The poor cat now stays in one room of the house all day, every day, and we had to move her cat tree and food and water and litter box into that room because she refuses to leave the room. She also meows excessively now whenever we come into that room. Meanwhile we need to baby gate off the house into cat sections and dog sections, and GOOD ${deity} I WANT MY HOUSE BACK, ALL OF IT.

I'm not sure if this is because different dogs have different personalities (all five dogs herein described are the same breed of dog), or because of the timeline at which different pets were introduced to the household.

Obviously -- if you have a cat, this will be a concern, and if not, it won't.
posted by tckma at 11:57 AM on August 15, 2014

Primo suggestions here. Nthing everyone who is saying to get an adult dog from a shelter, preferably aided by someone who gets dogs and can read dog body language and help you read it.

I just dropped in to tell you that one mistake you don't want to make is buying into the whole school of thought that talks about "alpha dogs" and wants you to establish a command structure along those lines with your dog. (Cesar Milan is a primary exponent of this wrongheaded approach.) Rather, pick up a copy of Karen Pryor's Don't Shoot the Dog and learn about positive reinforcement. It is the gold standard for getting your dog to learn critical things like recall and toileting and general good canine manners, and also a fun way to teach tricks. (Also many great You Tube videos on dog training using positive reinforcement.)

We used to raise purebred collies and I've been an adult dog owner for a long, long time, and I'll add that dogs take time and money and a tolerance for less than perfectly manicured home environment, and they reward you with love and fun and a sense of joy in the world that is an absolute gift. They are so worth it. It is life without dogs that I can no longer imagine.
posted by bearwife at 12:52 PM on August 15, 2014 [4 favorites]

My last 32 years include dog companionship. We started with puppies twice and we survived but Oh! never again. (The 8-week old ate a chair, two aluminum blinds, and significant portions of a wall.) Excellent advice here: yay Karen Prior! boo Milan!

Check out "Nothing in life is free," a very gentle training approach that teaches your doubting dog to always look to you for answers.

Ask local shelters/rescues if they need volunteers. Nothing is better than face to nose experience, and hanging around scores of different doggy personalities will inform your eventual decision.
posted by Jesse the K at 1:17 PM on August 15, 2014 [2 favorites]

I have a big shepherd mix in a tiny NYC apartment, my husband and I both work full-time, my dog is a weirdo who refuses to go for walks with dog walkers, and, yet, he's a happy, healthy, good dog.

The time commitment is the main thing to think about. We're out with our dog for a minimum of 2 hours a day, plus there's feeding, grooming, training and playing time too. I'd guess that it adds up to at least two and a half hours a day (if not more), and my guy is pretty self-sufficient (he'll play with his toys by himself or nap if we're not paying attention to him). I don't think I could manage it as a single person - we had a six month run where it made sense for me to do 90% of the dog walking, and it pretty much destroyed my social life during the week and make work rough too since I could never stay late.

Even though my dog is a good dog now, he was definitely a lemon dog from a rescue (that flat out lied to us about him - it was a tiny one that ran out of money, so no worries that you'll go there to find your dog). He was a big-time resource guarder (pretty much the worst trait for a dog short of outright aggression) and was not at all socialized as a puppy, so he's afraid of a lot of things. We didn't have the ability to assess him for those problems, and they didn't really show up the first few weeks we had him (he seemed scared, but that didn't seem weird given that he was moving from a shelter into a new home).

These are issues we've (mostly) overcome at this point (all with positive reinforcement training and nothing in life is free!), but he's still scared of dog walkers, so we can't hire someone to take him out if we have to work late or we're sick. I'd still absolutely recommend a shelter dog over a puppy, but ask to see the dog's behavioral evaluation and sign up for your own evaluation and training once your dog is settled in (maybe a month or so after you bring the dog home). We didn't do this early enough because we didn't realize there was a problem with his behavior at first, so our dog developed some bad habits that we had to spend a lot of time and money undoing.

Dogs in NYC are expensive - we board at a place my dog ADORES (runs back into the kennels and away from us as soon as we get there) and it costs $80/night. Dog walkers run $15/30 minutes usually. Our vet is about $200/visit once you factor in tests/shots/meds and you need to go twice a year for shots if you plan to board your dog or use doggy daycare (which runs another $35-60/day).

Also, be careful of dog parks. There are fights - even among dogs that are usually good with other dogs. I'd focus on play dates and long walks/jogs rather than relying on the parks until you know for sure that your dog has excellent recall and is great with other dogs under all circumstances (and even then you have no guarantee that someone else's dog won't be a jerk and try to fight your dog). I don't take my dog into the dog parks - I've tried it and got bitten pretty badly when a dog wanted to fight him, so I just don't think it's worth it when we can jog or meet up with his dog friends to play on-leash instead.

Last thing - no Cesar Milan under any circumstances. The dog that bit me at the dog park had just been alpha rolled by its owner, so take from that what you will. Patricia McConnell is a great resource!
posted by snaw at 1:28 PM on August 15, 2014 [3 favorites]

Also - we did crate train our dog. It's invaluable when repair guys need to come into the apartment (he loves to supervise people working and can put them and himself in danger) or if people who are nervous around dogs come over.
posted by snaw at 1:38 PM on August 15, 2014 [2 favorites]

I'm going to throw a few resources at you, if that's alright:

Kikopup and Zack George on Youtube is a fantastic community of very helpful people - and there is a lot of information to just read through even if you aren't interested in joining the community.

Books I love:

How to Behave So Your Dog Behaves - Dr. Sophia Yin
The Other End of the Leash - Patricia McConnell
Getting Started: Clicker Training for Dogs - Karen Pryor
The Dog Whisperer - Paul Owens
On Talking Terms with Dogs: Calming Signals - Turid Rugaas
posted by Urban Winter at 1:53 PM on August 15, 2014 [2 favorites]

Different breeds (and individual dogs) have different exercise needs - be upfront about living in an urban apartment and how much walking you can do. My brother has a little terrier type mutt who is a good and well trained dog but the only time he got 'enough' exercise was when my bro was professionally walking dogs. This dog would go with him and do all the walks all day (8+ hours) much of which consisted of running laps through the Marin hills (hiking!) with a weighted vest. It was unbelievable.

Larger dogs are often lower energy and I hear some of the really huge breeds actually make great apt pets. Either way, be clear and honest about your lifestyle - it will help them match you with the right dog.
posted by jrobin276 at 1:59 PM on August 15, 2014

Man. There's no way I would've talked my husband into getting a dog if he'd read this thread before we adopted our first one three years ago... to each his own, but we do not structure our days around our dogs as much as some people here, and many dogs can do without a potty break for the duration of a standard workday as long as they're getting enough exercise. I also disagree with the person saying two dogs are much more work: two dogs tire each other out! It's amazing! So much less human-directed exercise required! I feel like I've learned some kind of secret dog cheat code this summer. But I digress.

The best advice in this thread for a new urban dog owner is to adopt an adult dog, be picky and to take someone who's done a lot of dog adoptions along with you to pick the dog out.

The advice I haven't seen in this thread is: dog-sit for your friends' dogs! It'll give you some one on one doggie time, it'll allow you to do a test run of what it would look like if you had a dog, and it'll open up the possibility of you guys trading off on dog care when you're out of town, so you don't have to pay those exorbitant NYC boarding fees.
posted by deludingmyself at 2:13 PM on August 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

People also underestimate the amount of housework dogs create; in our house jobs like vacuuming and mopping floors went from once a fortnight to an every day activity.
posted by Middlemarch at 2:15 PM on August 15, 2014

Please get a dog from a rescue and give them a second chance in life. That also means you do not help the breeding of dogs which then flood the market and are bought on a whim and then abandoned.

Dogs are so much fun, it is amazing to have one. You might want to volunteer a day or so at a shelter to do the dog walk thing. Another angle is to foster a dog. That way you get a chance to check the dog out and whether one will even fit your life. Good luck.
posted by jellyjam at 2:39 PM on August 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

Be honest with yourself about what kind of person you are and what you like to do. I thought about getting a bouncy sporty dog, to get me out of the house to run more, but I am really a walks, yoga, and laying around drinking tea person. So I got some small dogs who like walks that are not endless and laying on me when I drink tea. Also I knew I would take them to work in tech world so they needed to be quiet and affable. Bam: king Charles Cavaliers. They are much happier with me than an Ausralian shepherd would be. Rescues are a great way to go, but I knew I wanted certain traits. Consider some of those dumb "what breed is right for you" quizzes before you go looking. (My results came back with KCCs or bichon frises every time.)
posted by Lardmitten at 4:06 PM on August 15, 2014

There is so much incredibly awesome information up-thread that I don't need to repeat. But I will say this:

Any dog will be a LOT more expensive than you predict. When we got our two as puppies, my husband and I joked that it was all okay since they weren't human kids who we'd need to put through college. Seriously, with all that we've spent on them, they each could have done a year at a good State school.

You cannot be house-proud. Dogs are messy. Even if you have furniture covers and an uber-vacuum and magic erasers, you will have hair and slobber (and sometimes worse) everywhere.

Every bit of time and money spent is SO worth it. Dogs are the BEST!
posted by Boogiechild at 6:43 PM on August 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

So much good advice here. I will say: it's good to be prepared, but you could also get a dog next week and figure it out as you go and things would work out OK. Dogs can be a lot of work, but generally they're not complicated. And they are the best. Seriously, adopting a puppy (who is now about a year and a half) was one of the best things I ever did, and I'm kind of not sure how I ever lived without a dog.

I am going to go against some of the comments here about puppies. Yes, puppies are a LOOOOOT of work, and ethically, it's probably better to adopt an adult dog than a puppy. But there's something to be said for getting a puppy and being able to train your dog from an early age.

For instance, I am not a morning person. In fact, I put off getting a dog for a long time even though I wanted one, because I was dreading having to wake up at 7 am on weekends to walk a dog. So when I finally got my puppy, as soon as he got big enough to sleep through the night, I started training him to not wake up early. I basically did this by not taking him out or feeding him right when we woke up, so he didn't have an association between me waking up and getting to eat. It worked! Maybe a little too well. It can be kinda hard to get up when there's a dog peacefully snoozing next to you in bed! But it's so nice on a morning like this when we both slept in.

It's also really satisfying to raise a puppy - you do a lot of work, but you also see amazing results from that work. And no matter how old they get, you always have those memories of them as tiny little goofballs.

That said, it's definitely not worth it to buy a puppy from a breeder. Rescues/shelters do get puppies (mine was found by a friend at 4 weeks on vacation in Mexico and spirited back to the US, but that's a story for another day). If you do adopt a puppy from a rescue/shelter, try to do so before they hit 16 weeks. That's roughly when a puppy's "socialization window" closes. Before that, puppies are pretty much open to anyone and anything - and any kind of person or dog they are exposed to in a positive way during this time, they're unlikely to be afraid of later in life.

It's true that puppies are a LOOOOOOT of work. I was lucky in that I was able to bring mine to the office for the first year of his life, and still, things were pretty chaotic until he was about 6 months old. There are a few months there were the puppy needs to go out every few hours, which is tough if you have a 9-5 - a friend hired a dogwalker for "puppy breaks," shorter and cheaper walks just to let her puppy pee.

Oh, and one more thing about "adult" dogs: you'll notice that a lot of the adult dogs in shelters are 12-24 months. This is basically when a dog is a teenager. It's their point of highest energy levels, and the time when they can be known to temporarily "forget" their training. This is also the time when dogs who were never really trained or socialized as puppies start to show problem behaviors. So the same (maybe irresponsible, maybe just in-over-their-heads) owners surrender them. So I would suggest that if you're looking at dogs that age in shelters, proceed with caution. Having your first dog-owning experience be a high-energy adolescent dog who never received basic training and has no socialization is probably more stressful than having a puppy.

So I'd say if you have a few months where you can just devote to your puppy (ie, frequent walks, puppy class, socialization, training), then definitely think about getting one. Otherwise, go with an adult dog.
posted by lunasol at 8:12 AM on August 16, 2014

Oh, and one other thing! (Since apparently the essay i just wrote wasn't enough) If you have an energetic, social dog, your life will be soooooo much easier if you live near a dog run/park. My guy is both high-energy and social. It can take me upwards of an hour to wear him out on a walk, and then he may be ready to go again a few hours later. But half an hour at the dog park, and he's out for the night, which is especially helpful for having a social life or getting things done.
posted by lunasol at 8:15 AM on August 16, 2014

Rescues are a great way to go, but I knew I wanted certain traits.

Just a plug, because I've heard this a lot as a reason to get a dog from a breeder: just because a particular breed tends to have certain traits doesn't mean that each individual dog will have those traits. I know at least one person who bought a puppy from a breeder because of that breed's traits, but ultimately ended up returning the dog because he did not behave as expected. On the other hand, an adult shelter dog who has been fostered is likely to be a relatively known quantity, so if you want certain traits you'd do well to find a shelter or breed rescue organization whose dogs are fostered in an actual home, with people who have had time to see that dog in action on a day-to-day basis and can assess their personality.
posted by DingoMutt at 10:12 AM on August 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

Something else to think about as far as dog ownership.
Message from non-dog owners:
We don't want to hear your dog barking. "Oh, that shouldn't bother anyone". It does. Also, your dog barks continuously whenever you are gone. We may not mention it to you (unless it's unbearable) because you may be crazy, or say you'll take care of it and never do.
Anyway, speaking for the rest of the world, have some empathy for us poor slobs that just don't want to listen to your little darling.
posted by H21 at 2:09 PM on August 16, 2014

Something that hasn't been mentioned yet: dog food. Do some research. Pet food is really grossly marketed and before I had a dog I would have just bought Alpo or whatever and figured it was all the same but then you realize kibble is really all they eat and... a lot of the name brands are really not great for them. I once would have rolled my eyes at the thought of making sure a dog only ate "grain free' kibble and now... that is all we buy her.
posted by nakedmolerats at 10:04 PM on August 16, 2014

The biggest mistake first-time dog owners do is to choose the dog by how cute it looks. Looks matter very little in the long rung, but temperament a lot. A well-balanced dog is so much easier to handle.

Get somebody who really knows dogs to help you select the dog. Somebody who is professional or dog-nerd. Such a person will be able to see a lot of important details in the dogs behavior that you will be oblivious to and will be able to explain such details to you.
posted by flif at 12:46 AM on August 18, 2014

« Older Replacement for Scansnap S1500   |   Cuddly denim shirt for my Pa? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.