Can I be a responsible dog owner?
September 24, 2018 7:06 PM   Subscribe

I've come to know a 10 month old chocolate lab that needs a home, but I'm not sure I could give her the life she deserves. I'm a single person who is away from the house at least 11 hours/day four days a week (with a somewhat shorter day on Friday). I have somebody who's good with pets who could walk her once during the day, but she'd otherwise be on her own in my (ridiculously large) apartment. Is this irresponsible?

N.B. I live in a country that doesn't have much in the way of pet shelter infrastructure.

Lulu is a well-socialized, friendly puppy who was left behind when her first family was unexpectedly forced to emergency relocate and could only take one pet with them. Since then, she's lived with a series of other members of our community who have doted on her but haven't really been able to give her consistent discipline, so I think she's doing things like chewing stuff she shouldn't chew and isn't very respectful of people's (especially kids') personal space, things like that.

I've always wished I could have a dog, and did have dogs as a child and have dog-sat for friends. I always figured it didn't make sense to adopt, though, given that I work during the day and travel fairly often and move every few years. At the moment I'm in a pretty good situation where I have somebody who could walk her during the day and neighbors that could serve as back-ups and sitters if I have to travel. I'll only be here a couple years and I'm not sure if it'll be as easy wherever I end up next, but I'm telling myself that, given the situation, I'd still be making her better off by letter her go through her younger years with me, and that if necessary she'll be easier to re-home at age three than she is now.

So that's my first question - am I deceiving myself by thinking this might be a good idea even if I'm not 100% sure I can keep her longer than two years? And second - is it irresponsible to adopt a young dog who's going to be by herself most of the day? I know I can make sure she gets out often enough to use the bathroom and I should be able to keep her pretty active in the evenings and weekends, but I'm not sure I'll be able to train her properly or whether all that solitude would leave her anxious and under-stimulated.
posted by exutima to Pets & Animals (15 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
A loving home and a walk after five hours is more than many pups get. Are you prepared to spend time with her on evenings and wekends? If so, you sound like you care a lot and would make a great pet owner. I say, give that doggie a home!
posted by rpfields at 7:09 PM on September 24, 2018 [5 favorites]

If I thought there was a good chance I'd have to get rid of the dog after two years, I wouldn't do it. It doesn't seem like it would ultimately help the dog find a permanent home, which is what would be best for the dog.
posted by cakelite at 7:12 PM on September 24, 2018 [5 favorites]

The older a dog is, the harder it is to adopt it out. Puppies are easy to find homes for. If you can't take care of this dog for her entire life, I think it's unfortunately not a good decision to adopt her now. A pet is not temporary.
posted by sockermom at 7:15 PM on September 24, 2018 [10 favorites]

I would find a reputable ngo and offer to foster her while they rehome her with someone who won’t leave her behind. It’s far easier when she’s young and you could save her life by fostering. Your location says South Africa and while there may be less shelters, they do exist.
posted by frumiousb at 7:20 PM on September 24, 2018 [6 favorites]

She's aging out of the cute-puppy zone, and the longer she bounces around between homes without consistent people in her life, the harder it will be for her to learn her manners. She may or may not be easier to rehome as a well-behaved three year old, but if I'm reading you correctly, she doesn't really have a home now as a not-very-well-behaved ten month old. So I say go for it. You can give her love and the basics and that seems like a pretty good deal.
posted by halation at 7:22 PM on September 24, 2018 [1 favorite]

I guess my thinking was that people might be more willing to adopt a dog who's mellowed out a little with age and who's been trained away from the chewing-everything-phase, is that unrealistic? She's currently with a family who doesn't want to keep her because she's too rough and tumble with their small kids, which is something else that might improve with time and training. If I did have to give her up it would be to another person in our community of constantly-rotating co-workers, so the future owner wouldn't be a stranger and would know her history. Not sure if that changes anything.

Also on preview, I'm no longer in South Africa, but Nicaragua. From what people have told me, while there are some pet homes here, they were under-resourced even before the political crisis began in April and aren't the kind of place you would want to leave a pet if you have other options.

Thanks for all your perspectives and I'll keep quiet from here out!
posted by exutima at 7:23 PM on September 24, 2018

Dogs have different levels of anxiety about being left alone during the day. My own dog is fine alone when I'm at work all day -- she just goes to sleep when no one is there. The worst thing she does when left alone all day is sneak to sleep on the forbidden new sofa and jump off when she hears the key in the lock. (There is that quick thud, and a telltale, warm impression on the cushion.) When I travel, I leave my dog with friends and the dog is fine, and enjoys them, wags her tail to see them, and then is happy when I return. So my dog would be totally fine with your schedule. A friend's dog on the other hand is very anxious when left for hours and will bark incessantly and chew things such as window screens or rugs, from separation anxiety.
Is there a way to test whether the puppy is OK alone for a full day before you take him?
Also, ten month old puppies, especially friendly lab types, are normally bad at personal space. This doesn't seem like it's because of neglectful training necessarily.
posted by nantucket at 7:57 PM on September 24, 2018

I'm not an expert on dogs, but I couldn't help but notice the bit of contradiction in your question. First you say that you think she might be more adoptable after having been trained by you in her youth, but then later on go on to say that you're not sure you'll have the time to "train her properly."

So I'd say get clear with yourself on this first because it seems like this contradiction might be a revelation of wishful thinking where you really like this dog and want to keep it so you're trying to convince yourself you can do something that you actually cant due to time constraints.

Probably the best thing you can do for the pup is to do your absolute best to find her a loving home where the owner definitely does have the time and only take her in if there's absolutely no better option for her. But that's based on what I read in your comment and my experience with friends' dogs.
posted by fantasticness at 9:17 PM on September 24, 2018 [2 favorites]

It sounds like you might be in the Foreign Sevice. I have a family member who just completed her first tour with a dog and she says there are quite a few online forums for FS folks with pets that may be able to offer advice. My family member has a different situation since she moved to her post with a dog she already had and has left the post with the dog as well (she’s en route to her 2nd post). Her dog is also small so much easier to travel with and doesn’t need a ton of exercise. However, I think it was fairly manageable with a pet. She traveled and was able to find pet sitters in her community and though there was little to no local support for pets as few people have dogs as house pets in the country, it also sounds like it was nice to have the companionship of a pet.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 9:25 PM on September 24, 2018

I can tell you that I'd be 50,000x more likely to adopt a 3 year old lab from a stable situation than a yearling who's been bounced around and "chews things" (like-- couches??). There are a LOT of one year old untrained dogs and they are a nightmare and more work than puppies. I say take the dog and work with her and keep an eye out for a more permanent situation. The most important thing is a) exercise then b) once the edge is off, training and then c) socialization. She's still young enough to socialize really well as she's a lab and they take to it. Like humans, a well educated and well mannered dog with a good reputation in the community will always be more valued and likely to find a position.
posted by fshgrl at 9:35 PM on September 24, 2018 [2 favorites]

You do mention you'll be able to keep her pretty active during evenings and weekends, but don't underestimate how much exercise young dogs and especially labs need to be happy! You could be giving up a pretty large chunk of your time (I say this not to lecture but as someone who once learned this lesson the hard way).
posted by whistle pig at 10:18 PM on September 24, 2018 [1 favorite]

Dogs her age are actually often the most common found in shelters and the hardest to rehome, so you’re not wrong there. They’re not cute puppies anymore, but they still have a lot of energy.

I think if you wanted to take this dog, caring for her and training her would be a huge part of your life, especially for the next year or so. Young labs have a ton of energy, and they also need to RUN. So if you don’t have a yard, you’d need a place she can run and play fetch.

That said, labs are such sweet dogs and I bet she would be a great companion, especially if you’re living far from home in a pretty stressful political environment! Also, if you are indeed a FSO, is there a chance you could bring her to your next post?

If you feel drawn to her, I’d suggest trying it for a few months. (Definitely give it at least a month, because that first month will probably be the hardest time) She will probably be a bit clingy at first because of all the moving, but from what I’ve seen, it’s not actually having different homes that causes serious behavior issues or damage in dogs - it’s neglect or abuse. And it sounds like she hasnt experienced either, which is good.
posted by lunasol at 10:47 PM on September 24, 2018

Oh also, my dog hates being left alone but loves going to stay with other people. Loves it! He acts like a kid going to a sleepover. I know other dogs who don’t mind being left alone, but hate staying outside their home, so dogsitters come to them. I also know dogs who are fine with all of it. It’s hard to predict, but most dogs are ok with being left all day if they get a walk, good exercise, and snuggles when their human is home.
posted by lunasol at 10:51 PM on September 24, 2018

In the end, we all have to do our best. I think for the next two years, your best will definitely be great for the pup. You aren't away from the house too much, but I highly encourage Kennel / Cage / crate training them. You mentioned you had a big apartment, but you really shouldn't leave a dog alone in a big apartment with free access to the whole place. Have your walker grab them from the crate, and put them back when they are done. Dogs really like the feeling of security and they are much less likely to accidentally misbehave/soil in the confined space. It seems counter-intuitive but they are much happier in the small space than with free access to the whole house.

Your dog is happy with you now. You are happy with him, but worried about his future. Just enjoy every moment you do have with him. Rehoming him will be hard no matter what age, and I don't think it will get much easier / harder. So just be the friend they need RIGHT NOW, and maybe in the next two years you'll happen across a perfect home for him. But, even if you do have to surrender him / rehome him then, you can know at least his first chunk of his life he was happy and loved.
posted by bbqturtle at 6:45 AM on September 25, 2018 [2 favorites]

I guess my thinking was that people might be more willing to adopt a dog who's mellowed out a little with age and who's been trained away from the chewing-everything-phase, is that unrealistic?

Fwiw, that is precisely what I am looking for—and I would especially love a Lab. I don't think I'm alone in this regard.
posted by she's not there at 7:34 PM on September 25, 2018 [1 favorite]

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