Can we even have a dog?
January 18, 2016 3:31 PM   Subscribe

My wife and I are interested in getting a dog. We sort of thought of it as something we'd ease into, especially since we had heard that adoption can take a little bit of time. We stopped by a nearby animal rescue this weekend just to see what was involved, and met a very sweet, gentle 7-year-old pugle. We were very surprised to be told that the rescue does same-day adoption, and we could potentially take her home that day. I balked a little bit because our apartment isn't really set up for a dog, but we're both first time dog owners, so don't really know what that even means.

So, what do we need in place before adopting an adult dog? We both work full-time and live in an apartment in Brooklyn. Do we need to have a talk-walker in place right from the start? Do we need to take time off from work or plan to be able to stop by home in the middle of the day? What even is the process of bringing a dog into your home?
posted by Ragged Richard to Pets & Animals (16 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
You should find out what the dog is used to. Is he crate trained? Did the previous owner leave him home all day?

It's not a puppy so it won't have a physical need to go in the middle of the day but Beagles (and thus I assume puggles) are prone to separation anxiety, so being alone all day could freak him out. When I adopted a 4 year old beagle, I made a point of doing it when I would have a week before I went to work after the adoption. I think that's not a bad idea. Your new friend will have been through a lot of transitions lately and will need his emotional/social needs met as much as anything.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 3:37 PM on January 18, 2016 [3 favorites]

The fact that you're asking this and not rushing into dog adoption is a good sign! Get one of those "So You Want To Get A Dog" books that talks about dog basics and check that it all sounds manageable. Your adoption agency can probably answer questions and give good feedback about what they think of you having a dog. It would be good to know the agency's return policy in case it totally doesn't work out for some reason-- some will allow you to surrender the dog at any time.

If you can get a dog-walker in the middle of the day, I think it would be a good idea. Dogs can be alone for an entire day if they aren't puppies, but it gets them lonely and anxious, which often translates into being destructive and hyperactive. Later in life, if you have neighbors with dogs and everyone gets along, you could leave them together during the work day-- that can help a lot. If you can visit the dog during a long lunch break, that would also be great-- and you'd get to see your dog halfway through the day :)

Definitely get to know the dog before you commit. How high-energy is this dog? Are you OK to walk the dog twice a day, every day? If the dog is kind of barky, is this going to be a problem for your living situation? Are you able to remove everything fragile from the bottom one-third of the house? (Don't leave anything you care about on a coffee table, and hide your shoes in a closet the dog can't get into.) If you have delicate furniture or rugs, also reconsider. But if you want a dog and you're prepared to feed, walk, clean up after, and hug said dog, I don't see why you can't be good dog owners.
posted by blnkfrnk at 5:12 PM on January 18, 2016 [2 favorites]

In my rescue group we sometimes suggest potential adoptive families who aren't sure if they're ready to commit to try fostering first. It's basically having a dog, except you aren't committed to keeping it forever and you should help advertise it.

Fostering policies vary from group to group, but in mine you are not asked to commit to a minimum time and medical care is paid for. Often fosters will foster the animal they're thinking of adopting, and then if the animal is a good fit they go through the adoption process and keep the animal forever. :)
posted by schroedinger at 5:22 PM on January 18, 2016 [3 favorites]

I highly recommend reading "Love Has No Age Limit: Welcoming an Adopted Dog into Your Home" by Patricia McConnell and Karen London (both highly respected dog trainers/animal behaviorists). It covers all the questions you are asking (and is available as an eBook).
posted by apennington at 5:55 PM on January 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

I freaked out about this when I adopted a dog, as, yes, I went to a shelter "just to look" and then fell in love and went home with a dog.

However, it was mostly over nothing. My dog really didn't need a lot, and there wasn't much "dog-proofing" to be done.

You need dog food, bowls for that and also water, a collar, a leash, and most likely some kind of kennel. The kennel should be sized so that the dog is comfy inside but there isn't a ton of extra room (dogs feel safe in tight quarters). A stock of poop bags wouldn't suck. I bought my dog toys and it turned out he didn't like toys, so maybe hold off on that till you know your dog's personality.

In terms of "dog-proofing", I was especially worried about the dog chewing up my shoes and also getting into the trash. I've also had cats before, and I know the way that cats will push anything off a surface, ruin upholstery, and generally make a mess of anything, so I was worried about all of that. My dog never made a move towards any of that stuff, and frankly never really made messes at all. On the other hand, he was super food motivated and always trying to pull food off of counters, so once I actually had him and tailored my dog-proofing to him, I learned to NEVER leave out room temp foods like bread, fruit, or even onions. So I'd say that for the most part you should tailor your dog-proofing to the dog's behavior. One thing you might want right off the bat is some of that enzymatic cleaner for accidents, just in case the dog isn't well house-trained.
posted by Sara C. at 6:20 PM on January 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

Chiming in that it's certainly a good idea to research the breed(s) you're considering adopting!
Beagles are hunting dogs, which means they were bred for specific traits that might be incompatible with your lifestyle. Pugs were basically bred to sit on laps, so it becomes a matter of getting to know this specific dog and figuring out if they're a good fit for you... As they might be more pug or more beagle.
posted by dotparker at 6:44 PM on January 18, 2016

You sound like you're ready for a dog :) Here are my thoughts:

- Yes, get a dog walker right from the start! For a new dog, it would be awesome if you could come home at lunchtime to bond with your new buddy, but barring that, socialization and exercise will ensure a smooth transition. Every dog is different, so you may be able to drop the dog walker after a month or so if yours ends up not needing that much exercise and are fine being left alone for longer stretches.

- As a first time dog owner—even with experience with ex's dogs and being a cat owner—I was unprepared for the monotony of dog ownership. Sometimes it really sucks taking a dog outside 3-4 times a day when you live in an apartment, because that means putting a full set of clothes on and going out in the world. Suddenly finding the best spot for your dog to "go" is the #1 priority. Coming home from a night out to take her outside and coax her to do her business, and oh my god, dogs are just poop machines, it's ridiculous. Also, taking time off for vet appointments/sickness and factoring in giving attention and exercise daily. I love my dog, but I call her my furry burden. And she's pretty low maintenance, with no health or behavioral issues! So that dog walker might be worth it just to have one less poop to pick up!

- When considering if you can afford a dog, don't forget travel. Dog sitters or boarding facilities are around $25-50 night (or more, if you want your dog to have more than a kennel.) Traveling with a dog is another set of expenses. If you have friends who will watch the dog, then you're golden, otherwise, a week long vacation can suddenly cost $400 extra.

- Another "hidden" cost of dog ownership: apartments that take dogs can be hard to find and charge $100-200 more than non-pet friendly apartments, and most require pet rent and a pet deposit. Obviously this might not be a factor for you if you don't plan on moving or don't live somewhere like Seattle where landlords can be very choosy (I'm guessing where you are, though, is kind of the same?)

- I highly recommend the older side of "adult". I got a senior dog, which people think makes me Mother Theresa, but it was a purely selfish decision:, she's fairly mellow and trained (not well, but enough), and, uh...she isn't going to be around for the next 16 years, so if she was terrible I wouldn't be stuck for 10+ years. Luckily, she's THE BEST so now I treasure the time I have left with her. Senior dogs are so awesome, AND people will treat you like a saint.

- Beagle mixes are prone to howling, like, a lot. So, is this going to bother you or your neighbors? Not all beagles howl, of course, but some breeds are known to bark less than others. Barking dogs can cause major issues in apartments, and training them not to bark is super challenging.

- The shitty thing's hard to get the full scoop on dogs from the shelter, such as whether they bark a lot, because they're in an atypical environment or they could be picking up traits from other dogs that they didn't have coming in. I'd advise picking a few breeds that appeal to you and finding a rescue dedicated to that breed. (Not that you need to get a purebred at all, rescues will work with mixes too.) These dogs live in foster homes so they're more known. This is the route I took after a year of waffling about shelter dogs and the rescue provided a lot of support for me before and after the adoption, and they support shelters by taking dogs out of them and working hard to find forever homes.

- So on that note, you should be able to get a great run down about what you need from whoever you adopt from, because dogs really vary. My dog needs a crate because she's a delicate flower who needs reassurance. She doesn't like playing with toys, so I didn't need to buy any, but she needs to be near me at all times so I got her four dog beds for every room in the house. She wasn't leash trained, so I got her a Gentle Leader for the first couple months. All good info that came from the rescue!

You're obligated to update us all with a new dog pic at some point!
posted by the thorn bushes have roses at 9:05 PM on January 18, 2016 [2 favorites]

I adopted Charlie on what amounted to an extended whim. She was brought over by her SPCA foster mother just so I could ensure that she and my cat wouldn't have issues. (Cat had previously lived with - and dominated - a dog before I became her caretaker so I was pretty sure this wouldn't be a problem.) I agreed she seemed like a nice fit so I said I'd take her. A day or two later we met up at an adoption event and that was that.

I took Charlie home and I said, "Here's your couch where you sleep and here's where I put your food" and that was pretty much it. I knew from her foster mom that she didn't like crates but also had never caused any problems around the house, and this has held true. No messes, no destructive tendencies. After a few days I stopped separating her and the cat and that was two years ago. There have been no issues.

I made it a point to walk her every morning instead of just throwing her out in the back yard. Now I feel like it would be an injustice to her to stop, so ... a walk every morning it is. Obviously there's a walk every night as well. Though she's 11 now she's still full of more energy than I could ever want, so we have to do at least a mile every day to keep her calm. I thought I was getting an old tired dog, and I couldn't have been more wrong.

Don't let anyone tell you that an old dog can't learn new tricks. I have taught her a few, as well as having taught her some bad habits before I even knew what I was doing. Those have been pretty hard to break.

But do I love that stupid stink dingo? Totally. Wouldn't go back on it at all.

Read up on the danger foods for dogs and keep those out of reach. Past that, your dog will surprise you with the things that are and aren't problems, and you'll just have to deal with them as they come. The fact that you're even worried about whether or not you're ready means you're going to be conscientious pet owners. You'll do fine.
posted by komara at 9:26 PM on January 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

You don't need to do a whole lot of dog proofing for an older puggle. Put your shoes away, keep food off the counter, secure your trash cans. Buy some nature's miracle cleaner.

Do you work a consistent day? Like, 9-5? If so, I think you can probably get by without a dog walker. Dogs like routine. If you often stay at work late, you'll need someone to stop by.

My advice to potential dog owners: Chill the fuck out. Seriously. The worst thing you can do when you adopt a dog is be a crazy, over anxious mess.

You're not getting a puppy. You're getting a chill older dog. Be chill. It's going to be great.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 2:51 AM on January 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

Thanks, these answers are super helpful. Quick follow-up: number of you have mentioned barking as a potential problem - how much can we use her shelter behavior as a guide there? She didn't bark once the whole time we were walking her or at the rescue that we saw, but I don't know whether or not that means anything.
posted by Ragged Richard at 8:43 AM on January 19, 2016

Charlie lived with me for maybe a day or two before someone knocked on my front door (which is the boundary of 'her' front room). She totally lost her shit, started barking her head off. I obviously didn't ask her to do that and didn't even know it could happen. Prior to that she had hardly barked at all.

There's a sidewalk on the side of my house so occasionally she'll bark when she hears other dogs walk by, but that's it. Quiet as a mouse otherwise.

I don't think there's any way you can tell in advance what kind of noise level your dog will produce once she's home.
posted by komara at 11:22 AM on January 19, 2016

If you adopt from a rescue that uses foster homes instead of from a kennel shelter, the foster parents will know.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 11:46 AM on January 19, 2016

My dog didn't bark while in the shelter until they took us to a fenced-in play yard area, where he relaxed a bit. He barked at a dog walking past when we were in there. He barks a fair amount in real life, but generally only at actual THINGS (and not separation anxiety or anything).

I adopted a dog from a friend one time and she really played up that he was a barker and it might be a problem, but he wasn't, and it wasn't.

So, these things are situational, and I agree with komara that you can't really know.
posted by freezer cake at 11:12 AM on January 21, 2016

Thanks for all the advice! Meet Sally!
posted by Ragged Richard at 4:50 PM on January 30, 2016 [5 favorites]

Aww Sally! Does she always look very concerned? Looks like funny sweet girl.

posted by futz at 7:23 PM on February 3, 2016

Thanks! She does, in fact, always look concerned, even when her tail is wagging like crazy. We love her to pieces.
posted by Ragged Richard at 3:57 PM on February 12, 2016

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