I want a dog. In New York. And not a Chihuahua. Am I selfish?
September 28, 2014 4:18 AM   Subscribe

My dream for some time now has been to get a dog. I have a full time job. I'm scared the dog would hate his/her life.

I'm moving to New York soon; plan to live near prospect park. For the last few years I'm dreamed about having a dog. My dream dog would be a border collie, which I know is NOT ideal for city living as they require lots of physical and mental exertion (although lots of people have them where I live in Sydney).

I want to know:

1. Can it be done AND have a happy dog?
2. Have you done it?

Other dogs I'd seriously consider (and if not, would rather not be selfish and let the dog have a better family than I could give them): ; a labrador; cocker spaniel; a mutt (with similar breed characteristics).

I would adopt from a shelter.

My lifestyle: 9-5 job. I run quite a lot and would like to make running with a future dog a one of our activities among others (run; walks; hikes; tricks for mental stimulation).

What do you think, beehive? Would I have to put my dog in daycare 5 times a week? Would walks with me + daily walks with a dog walker be enough? Should I get an older dog? Or just I just NOT, under any circumstances, do this to a poor dog who would be happier elsewhere?

Thank you.
posted by Sijeka to Pets & Animals (31 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Yes, plenty of people work full time and have dogs. If a dog doesn't have separation anxiety, they should be perfectly content to snooze away the day while you're at work. You sound like you know what you need to provide as an owner and could make it work out well. Daily daycare probably won't be necessary.

To be honest I think your choice of breeds is a little ambitious; all of those are working dogs who will need a LOT of stimulation and might be prone to destructiveness or behavioural problems. But when you adopt from a shelter they should be able to match you up with a dog that will meet your requirements. Just be prepared to be open to suggestions and to not be able to have the exact breed you want (and anyway if you wanted a purebred you'd probably want to purchase from a breeder, not go through a shelter).

I say go for it! Good luck and have fun.
posted by mymbleth at 4:41 AM on September 28, 2014 [4 favorites]

Best answer: People who are not resident in New York and similar places have a very skewed understanding of urban dog ownership. There are tens of thousands of happy dogs in the city. It's just a different style of dog ownership; if you currently open your back door to let the dog out to pee, it's going to seem weird to you that a city dog is leashed and taken down in an elevator to do the same thing. I have had a Boxer, a Standard Poodle and three German Shepherds in Manhattan. They all enjoyed a high quality of life. All had dog walkers in addition to exercise with us.

However, do not get a Border Collie; they need too much daily exercise, and that is a year round commitment you are unlikely to be able to meet in New York due to weather conditions. Look at the top breeds by city. A Lab or a GSD would seem like a good match for a runner.

One thing I would consider is that you've never owned a dog before. Were I you, I would adopt a young but mature dog and not a puppy. It sounds like you won't have the time for toilet training that a puppy requires, and you can't run with a dog who is not full-grown anyway as it's harmful to their joints.

If none of the shelters or the ASPCA have a good match for you, note that the US is overflowing with breed-specific rescues. If you want a lab or a GSD or a Cocker, you can definitely find one. There are also loads of Lab/Border Collie crosses, or GSD/Border Collie crosses, and a good rescue will be able to help you match to your needs.

P.S.: There are also some well-intentioned but truly nutty rescues in the US, which is less common in Europe; I'm not sure about Australia. If you run into this issue, post again and you'll get a lot of advice about this.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:49 AM on September 28, 2014 [8 favorites]

Consider adopting from a foster organization or a private individual who needs to give up their pet rather than from a shelter. The former will cost more, but you will get a much clearer sense of a dog's personality and needs from someone who has been living with the dog in a home. (In my experience, shelter staff don't have the time or ability to figure that put since the dogs are in a kennel environment.) Another option is to foster dogs yourself to get a sneak preview of what you're getting into... and if you fall in love with a foster you can usually keep it. :)

A puppy would need to be taken out at least once during the day. Most dogs over one would be fine with being home alone all day if they get good exercise at other times, but you may want to make sure you could afford a dog walker or day care just in case. There are toys/ games dogs can use to entertain themselves if they get bored. My dog is old enough to no longer be destructive so doesn't need to be crated during the day, and I hide treats around the house that he can search for while I'm gone. Some people freeze toys with wet food that will thaw throughout the day so their dog will get a treat partway through.
posted by metasarah at 5:21 AM on September 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

When I lived in Park Slope, I had a happy Malamute. I would run her around prospect park every morning.
posted by Obscure Reference at 5:29 AM on September 28, 2014

I had a lab in Chicago. She got a run or walk with me before and after work and a dog walker came mid-day and she was fine. (As a puppy, the dog walker came 2x a day.) One consideration: apartments. Many have size limits on dogs (I found 35 or 40 most frequently), won't let you get a puppy, and may want pet references and thus a new-to-you dog might not be accepted. Ask lots of questions as you look for a place to live and read the lease carefully.
posted by adorap0621 at 6:12 AM on September 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

I agree you should try for a mature dog rather than a puppy.

You don't need a car. Most neighborhoods have a vet in walking distance- and the car services usually have vehicles that allow pets. There are also specialized pet taxis. I have a vet up the street and used a car service after my big dog was in surgery for his teeth and one to go to a vet in a different area of NYC.
posted by catrae at 6:14 AM on September 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I've always had big dogs in the city. When I lived on the upper east side Central Park was a daily event, here on the LES, East RIver Park fulfilled the daily dog off the leash run (very early morning hours only for off leash). It was about an hour to an hour and a half of my morning every single day, and tbh, there were definitely mornings where I wish I could've passed it up, but the pup needed his big walk.

Alternating days of running, trips to the dog run, and having a dog walker would keep most larger dogs pretty content. As long as the dog isn't alone for a lot of time, many of the larger breeds are pretty happy being lazy.
If in addition to work you have a full social life and have frequent after work outings or are out most nights I would seriously reconsider getting a dog, they are social animals and they do need frequent companionship.

An adult or slightly older dog would be best I think, maybe at least 2-3 years old? I highly recommend a mutt from the shelter.

The NYCACC (the equivilant of the pound) has some great dogs.They are the mandated kill shelter for the city, so the dogs there don't get the opportunities to find homes that dogs in other shelters get. I fostered dogs that were pulled from the euthanasia list for years and each one was an amazing pooch. If you look online, you will see mostly pit mixes but they have much more of a selection in person (although after fostering more than a few pitties, I can't believe what amazing dogs they are and they make fantastic apartment and running dogs. super sweet, loyal, loving, and mellow).
I've adopted a greyhound/gsd/lab mix and a GSD from this shelter, and my brother a pit/mastiff mix, all beautiful, intelligent, loving creatures.

I say if you've got the free time before or after work, go for it, you're going to be living right next to Prospect Park, a doggie paradise, and it would be a shame to not take advantage of it if you have both the ability and the desire to have a dog.
posted by newpotato at 6:15 AM on September 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

My sister adopted what she thought was a bearded collie, but was in actuality a Portuguese Water Dog. The dog bounces and flounces and jumps and is basically a ball of energy.

She walks the dog for 30 minutes in the morning and about 45 minutes in the evening. Every day, rain, shine, heat wave, snow and mud slide. The dog is very content to mostly sleep all day and to play with her toys until Sissy gets home. She does get walked with another neighbor and her dogs, so they have a little mini-pack, which is also good for dog morale.

The only difference is that Sissy owns a house with a doggy door and a backyard so that when Mischa has to pee, she just gets up and does it. Sissy also used to have a dog nanny who would come by after school to play with previous dog, Audrey. But she's in college now.

With all of this love and care, Mischa is still destructo-dog when she gets bored.

I agree, do NOT get a puppy, you want a dog that's at least two-years old. Puppies are adorable because if they weren't no one would put up with their bullshit. Audrey was adopted as a puppy and Sissy had to buy all new shoes. Although Chow mixes (which is what Audrey was) do house train themselves.

So you probably want a mellow dog, not a working breed, and it is a HUGE commitment in time. It is totally worth it however.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:20 AM on September 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

If you adopt a dog that is at least 18 months old, it will be so much easier to train him/her. I think that most of the breeds you have listed would not be ideal for NYC, but you might be able to find a dog that is a cross breed that is ideal for your situation. For example, someone I used to know has a lab/boxer and that dog is one of the best behaved dogs I have ever met, even though he had barely been trained at all. Another acquaintance had a lab who was very destructive when left alone.
posted by kinddieserzeit at 7:07 AM on September 28, 2014

Dogs are still pack animals; had you considered getting two?
If you've no experience living with dogs this might be a challenge too far, and it obviously poses other financial and logistical problems, but it does go a way towards ensuring you don't have a lonely (or bored) dog at home.

I also echo the strong recommendation not to get a collie, as this breed (usually) really does need lots of activity.

(Caveat: my main dog experience comes from my mother-out-law who's a pro obedience trainer, and has never had fewer than 5, and up to 8(!) working/gun/farm dogs since I've known her. This may not be a normal set up, I understand!)
posted by AFII at 7:12 AM on September 28, 2014

I think dog ownership is absolutely feasible for you, but I don't think a border collie would be a good fit for (a) a first-time dog owner; (b) an urban setting; (c) someone in or someone who is going to be away from home all day. With all three strikes against you, I'd say a border collie is out. It's hard to figure out exactly what traits you're looking for in your list of preferred breeds (cocker spaniel throws me off). It might be helpful if you could explain what traits you're really looking for: athleticism and trainability, maybe? A retriever or shepherd mix might be a good choice. But in NYC there are so, so, so many pit bull mixes available in the shelters that if you're willing to consider a pit mix, it should be easy to find one with the right personality and energy level for your lifestyle.
posted by drlith at 7:36 AM on September 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

newpotato is right about this:

if you've got the free time before or after work, go for it

So, why don't you see how reasonable that sounds after living here a while? As in, jog (just you) morning AND evening, through the fall AND winter, and keep track of how many days you weren't able, whether because of work/social commitments or because you simply weren't up for it.

Also, realize that you're not just looking at the time for a walk/jog. I used to think dogs in "booties" looked silly. Then I learned that in winter it's all about protecting their paws from the heavily salted streets and sidewalks. That kind of salt is toxic, and it's EVERYWHERE in NYC all winter. Dogs will lick it off (not sure it tastes good, but they try to clean anyway), which can be dangerous for them. If it doesn't get cleaned off, it can be terribly hard on the pads of their feet, and more.

That is, I'd strongly urge you to get accustomed to the environment before deciding whether to add a dog to your adventure. Learn how long your commute is, how much energy you have, and whether you feel willing to protect a dog through winter.

Then, if you're up for it, adopt a dog and enjoy a great friendship!
posted by whoiam at 7:41 AM on September 28, 2014 [3 favorites]

My mistake. I said:

>newpotato is right about this:

>if you've got the free time before or after work, go for it

I was thinking before and after work. If you're talking about a larger dog, then you need to make time in the morning and evening.

Under-exercised dogs tend to bark a lot. This is not fair to the dog or to your neighbors. Please don't adopt a dog unless you can provide adequate space. If by "not a chihuahua" you mean "not a small dog" I understand--I like big dogs too--but for the sweet dog I had (in NYC over a decade ago), running the length of the apartment was for him about like turning from the sink to the stove would be for me... that is, nothing close to the amount of exercise needed (and we went on long walks, too). So no, I don't think one outing per day would be fair to a larger dog. YMMV.
posted by whoiam at 8:00 AM on September 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

I had two terriers on an apartment. If you don't get a border collie or a working dog breed and, if you don't get a puppy you will most likely be fine. You will need to do a longish walk twice a day morning and night as well as several toilet breaks. You will have to be willing to stick to a schedule of walks come rain, hail, shine, hangover, spontaneous drinks after work offers etc. Americans are big on crating, I have never found it necessary, many will think you weird and a bad dog owner of you don't do it so be prepared for rescues to make this an issue. Some rescue groups in the US can be a little intense, but they area very small minority find one you can work with, many will take the dog back of it can't adjust to apartment life. Look for a dog at least two years old. Worst of crazy puppy energy behind them.

You can often find purebred dogs through rescues. My mother has a cocker spaniel who had the loveliest nature so I am completely biased towards them.

posted by wwax at 8:09 AM on September 28, 2014

We live in a high rise on the Upper West Side and there are tons and tons of dogs of all sizes. If you live near a park or a dog run, I don't think it's very different than living in the suburbs.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:11 AM on September 28, 2014

Best answer: I have a dog in the city - not NYC (Washington DC) but I live in an apartment building, use public transit/walk everywhere, and work long hours, so it's probably pretty similar to having a dog in NYC - though NYC is probably easier because it's built around people who don't have cars. I moved to DC with my dog after having him for a year in Seattle (with a yard and a car) so I have a pretty good sense of what the differences are.

First, you can absolutely have a dog in the city! My guy would probably prefer to still have a yard, but he seems perfectly happy here.

A few tips:

1. Don't get a border collie for all the reasons listed above - but a border collie mixed with another breed that's more sedate may work well. A neighbor of mine has a lab/BC mix and the dog does need a lot of exercise but does fine in an apartment with a few romps a day.

2. Make sure you live near a park where dogs are allowed to run off-leash safely (ie, a fenced-in area, ideally an official dog park). Many dogs, including mine, need to run and play off-leash every day or two to avoid going stir-crazy.

3. Definitely get a dog-walker! If you work typical big-city hours and then have a 30-60 minute commute, then your dog will be alone for 10+ hours a day, which is too long for even a lazy dog to go without peeing and stretching his/her legs. I also send my dog to daycare 1-2 days a week which helps burn off some energy. That's more for me than him tbh though - it gives me 1-2 nights/week when I don't have to give him a big walk/trip to the park.

4. As for a car: I haven't had one for the last 8 months and frankly, it's been more of a pain than I expected. I never even owned my first car until I was 29, but having a dog is definitely easier with a car - buying food, taking him to the park/outings in the nice weather, taking him to the vet/daycare. It might be easier in NYC with the greater urban density, but if you're planning to be car-free, definitely make sure you're within easy walking distance of the amenities you'll need on a weekly basis. And have a backup plan for vet emergencies: mine is Car2Go plus a dog-loving friend in the neighborhood in case of emergency.

Just to give you a sense of what my (high-energy, adolescent) dog routine is in the city: weekday mornings I take him for a walk around the block before I leave for work around 8. I leave him in my apartment on most days and I'm pretty sure he sleeps the entire time, except when the dogwalker comes. I try to get home by 6:30 and take him for a long walk (60 minutes) and/or trip to the dog park. We both have dinner, and sometimes he still has energy to burn so I might play a game with him or work on some training for 15-20 minutes after dinner. Then he gets another short walk right before bed.

Weekends he usually just gets one big walk late morning (actually procastinating on that right now, heh) plus shorter walks around dinnertime and before bed, depending on when I'm around during the day and evening.

Days he goes to daycare are the easiest: I take him for a short walk in the morning, then they pick him up around 10, after I'm gone (if you can find a daycare that does pickups/dropoffs, it is THE BEST). Those are usually nights I go out after work - he gets dropped off around 5, and I take him for one more walk before bed - which is usually all he needs because he's so wiped out from daycare.

It's definitely a lot but it's not really much more work than having him in the suburbs - the only difference is that I can't just let him out to pee before bed.
posted by lunasol at 8:12 AM on September 28, 2014

Oh and one other thing: definitely wait until you're settled BUT having a dog is a great way to meet your neighbors and get intrgrated into a community when you first move to a new city! You'll meet lots of people at the dog park and have way more random conversations with your neighbors than you would otherwise. People love to talk to someone with a dog.
posted by lunasol at 8:16 AM on September 28, 2014

I live in downtown Chicago and have two dogs. I adopted both through rescue organizations and specifically looked for lazy dogs because I work full time. I ended up with a coonhound and a mutt. Both love to sleep and don't actually require much exercise. If you're going to run with your dog, it might be trickier because you'll want a dog with higher energy. I recommend looking at rescues specific to the types of dogs you are considering and see if they can match you up with one that fits your lifestyle.

One other consideration is that owning a dog can limit the activities you can do on work nights. I am almost always at home on work nights because I don't want to leave my dogs alone after I have left them alone all day. When I do go out, I drop them off with my parents so that they don't have to be alone.
posted by parakeetdog at 9:33 AM on September 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

If you live properly close to Prospect Park and can get up early enough for the off leash hours you will be in a position to give a dog a happier life than in basically any other urban or suburban area in the United States.
posted by oliverburkeman at 10:34 AM on September 28, 2014

Why not try being a foster first? Hook up with a local rescue organization and ask to foster one of their dogs. This would be a great way to both help the organization, get an idea of how dog ownership will work for you, and feel out what kind of dog works out best for your life. It lets you try out dog ownership without the lifetime commitment.
posted by Anonymous at 11:18 AM on September 28, 2014

Best answer: 1. Border collies make terrible pets. Others have mentioned the exercise thing, but it's really the neuroticism and single-mindedness of a border collie that make it poor choice of companion animal. I say this as someone who has years of experience with the breed. Intelligent dogs, interesting to work with, but not what you want for hanging out with friends and having new experiences. They're not even what most people want in a farm dog -- it's a very strong flavor of herding dog.

2. Chihuahuas are not unlike border collies in many ways. The Chihuahua imperative is to create and enforce a Chihuahua-centric world from which there is no respite. You are smart not to enter that universe.

3. I had a border collie and a Chihuahua at the same time. The BC liked to hide and pop out to scare the Chihuahua. The Chihuahua used this as a reason to seek my undivided attention. This went on for about fifteen years. I managed to outlive both of them.

4. If you get a shelter dog, take time to look around at various shelters and rescues. The staff/volunteers will often know enough about the dogs to tell you if they're a good candidate for your lifestyle.

5. Don't get a puppy. I have loads of experience training all kinds of animals and I seek out dogs that are at least 14 months old.

6. Labs and cockers are hunting dogs with soft mouths. That means 'chewers', and in the case of a lab, often 'indiscriminate eater'. If you go to any emergency animal hospital at night, there will be at least one lab who ate a towel or too many socks. This gets expensive and sometimes fatal. It all depends on how vigilant you want to be about keeping everything out of the dog's reach.

7. Most dogs are quite fine with the 9-5 life. The average dog likes to get out twice a day, run around a bit, and then nap for the remaining 20something hours. Some large breeds really fit this profile, so don't be deterred by the size of the dog. Terriers tend to be much more active and often barky.

8. A dog walker is a good idea, although not all dogs need this/ But is is comforting to know that someone is looking in on your dog during the day.

9. Dogs are really very easy to keep in cities, and I'm sure you'll find it's an infinitely rewarding experience. Honestly, I can't imagine living without a dog.
posted by grounded at 11:41 AM on September 28, 2014 [3 favorites]

If you foresee being home most of the time in your off time, then yeah a dog is pretty nice. I like pets and am particularly enjoying having my own dog for the first time. It's a lot easier since I'm living with someone though, so if I can't make it home, he's got it covered.

I don't feel guilty about leaving her home all day, sans dog walker / doggy daycare. I've found that my 1 year old mini schnauzer usually sleeps a lot of the day, and is most active in the evening anyway.

An older dog is a good option, especially one that is already used to being alone during the day from his previous home. Then they will sleep and not care. Older border collies would be the way to go, if you want one of those. My parents had one that lived to ten years old (died of uterine cancer), and it was only by 6 years old that she had mellowed out from an insane amount of energy. She was the best dog ever in her later years. But she was also super-needy, so my parents got a second dog to be her companion. YMMV.
posted by lizbunny at 12:56 PM on September 28, 2014

I have had a terrier and a Corgi in several apartments in San Francisco. I recommend going for smaller dogs in an apartment, simply because they take up less space. For example, my dog's kennel is in my bedroom. I wouldn't want to have a big-dog kennel in there. Also a small dog is much easier to bathe in your bathtub.
posted by radioamy at 2:47 PM on September 28, 2014

The logistics of owning a dog in NYC are totally doable but as to the other part of your question, as long you show your dog love and affection, yes the dog will be happy. Dogs generally love life and it doesn't take a ton of work to keep them that way. The exercise and dog walkers are more to keep them from getting into trouble. The dog will have plenty of fun destroying your furniture if he doesn't get enough exercise.
posted by VTX at 3:05 PM on September 28, 2014

I would not even get an older border collie. My family had a border collie rescue when I was growing up that came to us pretty much completely bald because it had chewed out all its fur over the anxiety of being kept in an apartment in Indianapolis. There are lots of dogs that could be happy in this situation, leave the border collies for folks with large yards and chickens to stalk. I think border collies are fantastic, but put them in any less than the situation described above and they can be super neurotic even if they aren't particularly active.
posted by geegollygosh at 3:31 PM on September 28, 2014

Let me put in a word for the noble coonhound as parakeetdog suggests. Coonhounds, especially older ones, make surprisingly good apartment dogs. While they love exercise and are basically indefatigable on walks, they are well-known for having an off/on switch. Outside, they will go forever with you; inside, they will laze endlessly. And when you can't get out much during bad weather, you won't have a crazed destructodog on your hands either. They are also, by and large, very tolerant and gentle--- incredibly important qualities in NYC where, no matter what you do, people (i.e., kids) will sometimes end up touching/yelling at/getting near your dog. Coonhounds are the best.

People have mentioned the difficulty of adopting a dog in NYC. This, in my experience, is incredibly, depressingly true. But there is the amazing Eleventh Hour Rescue in New Jersey. They are wonderful, and while they take the welfare of the animals in their care very seriously, they also actually let normal working people adopt dogs and do so in a relatively sane and painless way. Many of their dogs are in foster homes, and they will work with you to find an amazing dog who will thrive in the kind of life you can provide him or her. I wish you much happiness with your new friend.
posted by MeadowlarkMaude at 4:06 PM on September 28, 2014

Don't get a BC. Please.

Do get a mature dog. How about a greyhound? They love to go walkies, but they're content to sit and snooze while you're at work. They're smart and loving, and not usually barkers.
posted by BlueHorse at 5:27 PM on September 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

My five year old, newly rescued, 16 lb cocker spaniel is laaaaazy. She gets a walk in the morning, spends the day in her crate with a frozen kong and a variety of chew toys (because she is a chewer), gets a walk when my daughter comes home from school and then when I get home from work, and gets a final walk before bed. These are fairly short (ten minutes) by her insistence, and the rest of the time she hangs out on the couch, either sleeping or, as she is now, chewing on some rawhide. Although she's not very keen on walks, we do end our walks by running down my street. It's a short distance, but it works well for her. She was an abandoned breeder and she's super happy to just relax. For two and a half weeks after we got her, she was crated for a full work day while my daughter was at camp, and she did just fine. So, older dog who enjoys chewing on yummy things for stimulation works great for us. With a cocker, though, expect the pup to be all up in your business for every second you're home.(She finished her rawhide and is now using my arm as a pillow.)
posted by Ruki at 5:43 PM on September 28, 2014

I have 2 rescue mutts that are 40-50lbs each and I live in an urban environment and work alot. and we all love eachother! I make arrangements if I'm going to be gone more than 10 hours (for me usually this arrangement involves some sort of long lunch where i go walk them) but they are prefectly content to nap all day and save theri happy butt wiggles for when i get home. WE do a light walk in the morning (10-15 minutes), a long walk when I get home from work (30-45 minutes), and some nighttime farting out front before i go to bed (10mins). Dogs can adapt to people's living environments as long as people can adapt to going outside often and giving lots of love.
posted by WeekendJen at 7:47 AM on September 29, 2014

Sounds like you have some great plans for having a dog. Just a note: I understand that the cocker spaniels in Australia are more like on the English cocker spaniels, and are active outdoor dogs, hunting companions, etc. The American cocker spaniels are a bit different, bred as show dogs rather than working dogs. They tend to be smaller, and are more like "lap" dogs. If you are looking for a running companion, you'll want to look at other breeds.
posted by apennington at 8:32 AM on September 29, 2014

One thing is that in my experience living in NYC is that is you ever want to see friends who live in other boroughs, after work is prime meeting time. Depending where you we work and where your friends work, rushing straight home every day could have a real impact on your social /dating life.
posted by Salamandrous at 4:29 AM on October 1, 2014

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