Should I get a dog?
May 25, 2007 11:05 AM   Subscribe

Should I get a dog?

My parent's chocolate lab had puppies, she is a really good dog and we'd like to keep one of the puppies in the family.

Right now I am finishing my last semester of undergrad, live in an apartment that doesn't allow pets, and work about 30 hours a week. However, my girlfriend is completely willing to help, and has a home that we can keep the dog at (at least until I find a more suitable residence).

Assume that I am fully aware of all the time, energy, and incovenience a dog provides. The inevitable damage, time it takes to properly train it, and get it proper exercise.

Am I assuming too many responsibilities now? Would a puppy be too much? Do the benefits of having a dog outweight the drawbacks? Would it be better to wait, even though I wouldn't be able to have one of the puppies of my parent's dog?
posted by blueplasticfish to Pets & Animals (32 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
I'd wait. It's not fair on the puppy, or you, if you got it now. It's going to be confused, and you're not going to get the best from the relationship if you're only sporadically around.
posted by humblepigeon at 11:09 AM on May 25, 2007


So really you should be asking, "should my girlfriend get a dog?"
posted by Pollomacho at 11:10 AM on May 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


Can your parents just keep one of the puppies until you get a place to keep one?
posted by 517 at 11:19 AM on May 25, 2007


polomacho, not really, it would be temporarily kept at my girlfriends until i found a pet-friendly place (could be a couple months) and I will be assuming most, if not all, of the training duties.
posted by blueplasticfish at 11:20 AM on May 25, 2007


@ 517: they thought about it, but they will be travelling with their dogs this summer and won't have room for another. besides, the next few months are pretty critical in the training/bonding period and i wouldn't want to sacrafice that.
posted by blueplasticfish at 11:22 AM on May 25, 2007


What are your plans for after college? Are you going to get a regular 40 hour a week job? Will you have enough money to hire a dog walker or get a house with a yard? Are you willing to have your housing options dictated by the dog? Do you have any plans to travel? Are you willing to give those up?

I'd say get the dog only if you're willing to make the dog the absolute priority. Otherwise, wait for a time in your life when you're more settled.
posted by MsMolly at 11:25 AM on May 25, 2007


I will also suggest that you wait until you're more settled. You will ideally have this dog for 10+ years. As an undergrad, a tremendous amount of your personal life will change over the next 10 years. Get a few years under your belt and then get a dog.
posted by frogan at 11:30 AM on May 25, 2007


I find it a little extreme to alter a lifestyle around the possibility of having a pet, particularly when you seem to be at a turning point in your life. Now, don't get me wrong, I love pets and love having them, but having a job, school, rent and a girlfriend seem to be plenty of things to take care of. That is another issue though so let me clarify what I said before.

Really, is isn't you that is getting the dog right now, it is your girlfriend. You are not, at this point right now, in a position to own a dog. She will have to shoulder the 24/7 burden of the pet no matter how much effort you plan to put in between now and the time you get a new place. Until you are in a position to shoulder that burden then you should not be making the decision.
posted by Pollomacho at 11:31 AM on May 25, 2007


Other "should I get a dog" threads have often included a recommendation to foster a dog first. You would be providing a useful service for your local rescue centre and would get an idea of what it would be like to own one. But either way you and your girlfriend need to resolve whether you are willing to adjust your lives around the need of the dog for the next 15 years or so.
posted by rongorongo at 11:32 AM on May 25, 2007


it would be temporarily kept at my girlfriends until i found a pet-friendly place (could be a couple months)

Going about this responsibly means, in part, working out acceptable contingencies for when (despite your best intentions now and going forward) "could be a couple months" becomes "could be a year" or "never" or "my girlfriend can't keep the dog after all".
posted by cortex at 11:35 AM on May 25, 2007


You might end up wanting to travel a little after you graduate; this would not be a good time to have a puppy.
posted by amtho at 11:37 AM on May 25, 2007


No, you should not get a dog.
posted by chuckdarwin at 11:40 AM on May 25, 2007


I really love the idea of the family line of the dogs continuing within the family line of the people.
posted by jamjam at 11:46 AM on May 25, 2007


Seconding what everyone else is saying, this sounds like a bad deal for you, your girlfriend, and the dog. Puppies are notoriously high-maintenence, and are very likely to destroy property left and right. A Lab puppy? Multiply that by ten. Besides, there's no guarantee that the offspring of a beloved dog will automatically be a great dog. Get a shelter dog when you're in a position to take care of its needs. There are always plenty of those.
posted by Gilbert at 11:48 AM on May 25, 2007


If you're wondering whether you should get a dog, you probably shouldn't.
posted by box at 11:49 AM on May 25, 2007


It depends a lot on the goals that you've got. I disagree with the people above that dogs aren't appropriate for college students or that having a dog AND a 40 hour a week job requires a dog walker and specialized stuff; my girlfriend and her roommate both have dogs and are students, and I have a dog and work lots of long/weird hours as a programmer, and my 1 year old hyperactive rhodesian ridgeback does just FINE and has since she came to live with me at 4 months old last year. She's also my first dog, and it took me a lot of effort to train her. Medium to large dogs like a lab can stay inside for more than 12 hours without peeing all over the place.

The problem with keeping the dog at your girlfriend's is that the dog might come to like your girlfriend better, and if you two end up splitting, who takes the dog? A dog can be a lot like a child in many ways, and children are among the most stressful thing you can add to a relationship.

Also, puppies need fairly intensive care in their first few months to become 'good' dogs... and labs are notoriously high-energy for their first few years of life. Expect to have to walk the pup at least once or twice daily until 6 months -- and it'll need to go out at least every 4 hours to pee for the first few months.

Think long and hard if you really want to take on the puppy, or if you can leave the puppy at your parents' for a few months until you can change your living situation. Or if, instead of a puppy that could be quite a handfull, you don't want to get another dog from the pound that's a bit older.
posted by SpecialK at 12:02 PM on May 25, 2007


Box: I wondered long and hard before taking on my pup. Like I said -- first dog, she's very headstrong and stubborn, and I wasn't sure I could handle her. Best decision I ever made.
posted by SpecialK at 12:03 PM on May 25, 2007


Apartment living is tough with pets, especially big ones. I would advise against it -- but if you're willing to make all of the necessary sacrifices, it can work. Just make sure you're not going into it blindly. Sit down with yourself and try to list all of the implications of making the dog's well-being a top priority in your life. E.g., it will limit where you're able to live, it will limit the hours you can be away from the apartment, it will need to somehow get adequate exercise, etc. It really can amount to a significant lifestyle change. If you still want the dog given all those considerations and you know you can handle them, then go for it.
posted by treepour at 12:06 PM on May 25, 2007


Yeah, I was trying to be pithy and aphoristic, and it came off succint-but-overstated, like 'ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny,' in a trivia question that I once read in a Straight Dope book. Let me try again:

If you're wondering whether you can handle the expense, time, commitment, etc. related to owning a dog, I don't think that you should get one, because it seems quite possible to me that you won't be a very good dog owner, and I don't think that's fair to the dog.
posted by box at 12:19 PM on May 25, 2007


Humans and dogs have been making a go of it together in sub-optimal situations for tens of thousands of years, now. We and they have proven to be pretty adaptable. Life is different with a dog, because you have to consider its presence and needs, but assuming you take a reasonable amount of care of the animal, and have the willing help of the other people you mention, why not? None of us can know every thing the future will hold, and in my life, doing the best I could for the people and animals that have depended on me has generally proven to be good enough. I suspect it might work out OK for you (and a dog) too, blueplasticfish.

But probably not how you thought it would.
posted by paulsc at 12:25 PM on May 25, 2007


If it's only for a couple months, and you spend a lot of time at your girlfriend's, and you're aware of how much of a handful a Lab puppy can be (they need tons of attention - they don't handle being alone most of the day very well; lots of exercise; and can be very destructive - our dog chewed up all our shoes and got into the garbage a lot when she was a puppy... she also dug holes in the yard)... well, I'd get the dog. If you've thought it over and you know how much you're taking on getting a companion animal, and it sounds like you have, why not? I personally think carefully considering the idea to make sure you're making the right decision is a sign of a good, thoughtful pet owner. One thing you may not have covered, and I fully agree with, is cortex's point about having acceptable contingency plans in place should you decide to go ahead.
posted by Melinika at 12:50 PM on May 25, 2007


No, you should not get a dog.
posted by voltairemodern at 12:51 PM on May 25, 2007


Wait.

We got our first dog when we were in a pets-friendly apartment; we got our second dog after moving cross-country, as a companion for the first dog. We still had an apartment, and we both worked, so that second dog was keeping the first one company.

Now that we have a house, and kids, and my wife stays home, the dogs are much happier, and it's a lot easier on us as well. Looking back, as much as I love these dogs, having to come home during lunch and walk them (and walk them in the snow, and first thing in the morning, and come home from parties to walk them...you get the idea) was a drag. Since we've taken on the responsibility of kids AND the dogs can run out the dog door if we're not around when they need walking, it's a lot easier, and I wish we'd waited.

Of course, we sure did do all those things, because we love 'em. So if you love dogs, you can still do it and enjoy it. Just remember: you're ending school, and your life is going to change a lot soon, whether you realize it or not; you'd better make sure your life is dog-compatible first.
posted by davejay at 12:57 PM on May 25, 2007


forgot to mention above, that while it was bad for us, it was especially bad when it was just one dog and we were both working. dogs need company, and not just other dogs.
posted by davejay at 12:58 PM on May 25, 2007


Box: I'm still going to disagree with you. I wondered long and hard about those very things and decided to give it a go anyway. I turned out to be a very good dog owner even though I wasn't sure if I could make the time, space, committment or handle the expense of a dog on my small state salary. I have a happy, healthy, intelligent, well-behaved dog that I love more than life itself. I also learned a lot about myself and developed a lot of patience and tolerance in the process -- and for the first time I'm in a healthy human relationship because of what my dog taught me about life and love.

For everyone esle: I think that it's exactly the opposite of your thinking: If he's thinking about whether or not he's responsible, and he doesn't just assume he can handle the dog and make provisions in his life and his girlfriend's for it -- then absolutely, the OP should get a dog. Not necessarily the Lab puppy in question for the aforementioned puppy reasons, but definitely he should get a dog.

The problem is the people who just ASSUME that they can handle the responsibility of the dog, and then find out they can't. Those are the people who shouldn't get dogs. That's not what the OP is doing.
posted by SpecialK at 1:02 PM on May 25, 2007


I really REALLY wanted a dog when I got out of college. But the suckers make you feel so awful about being gone 9 hours a day. I thought I would feel too guilty. So I got a cat instead. He is not the same as a dog, but he is soft and animal and something to care for -- even though I think he's happy when I go to work, honestly :(

Fostering is a good idea but you may find resistance from your local shelter. Depending on how snotty they are, they may insist that you be a 40-year old stay-at-home mom with a three-acre fenced-in backyard and two well-mannered boys before they let you take so much as a golden retriever out of their little shelter cages. (I used to work for a humane society so I know). They can be wary of college and barely postcollegiate kids. However, not all shelters are like this, some definitely want to work with the public more than others, so it's very much worth a shot and perhaps several.

And if you really do have to get a dog, get an older one, not one of the puppies. An older dog will be happy to sleep when you're gone, happy to play when you are back, and you won't feel as exhausted/guilty. Of course, you're vet bills will be bigger and all the other bad things about having a doggie leash around your next when you are 21 still apply.
posted by bluenausea at 1:06 PM on May 25, 2007


I also meant to say that I think you should wait.
posted by bluenausea at 1:16 PM on May 25, 2007


Just look for a second at the number of people trying to adopt out their animals on Craigslist.org, who ostensibly had the best of intentions when they got a dog but now have found that mounting work, family, allergy, landlord or other pressures are forcing them to try to find a new, loving "fur-ever" home for their "baby". And then take a moment to think about the number of people who don't even manage to bother that much, and just abandon the animal or dump it at the shelter to be put down (though of course I am certain you would never do THAT because I read compassion and care in the fact that you took the time to thoughtfully and carefully consider the question in advance rather than make an impulsive decision). I don't know whether, in the position you're in where dramatic life change in terms of employment etc. are SURE to follow shortly, you can make the kind of commitment needed just at this time.
posted by bunnycup at 2:38 PM on May 25, 2007


As others have mentioned, puppies are high maintenance, and if your girlfriend is going to be gone during the day (work or school or whatever), it wouldn't be fair to keep the little guy crated for eight or nine hours per day. Puppies also go through a natural "destructive" stage, where they chew and scratch and must be taught their boundaries. It takes time and patience. I'm not saying it can't be done, but I'm imploring you to think long and hard about it, and to not give the dog up when he becomes too much of an inconvenience.
posted by Oriole Adams at 2:50 PM on May 25, 2007


Unless you live someplace that allows pets and you know, within reason, that you will not have to move to a new place that might not allow pets oin the near future, it isn't a good idea to get one. That apartment hunting for a pet-friendly place may not go so well and, even if it happens, you might be moving to a new place soon for a job. I would wait until you are in a situation you plan on keeping for at least a year. Having a dog is great but you need to give that animal stability.
posted by Foam Pants at 3:25 PM on May 25, 2007


yeah man, only get a dog if you are ready NOW

i always wanted one so bad when i was in your position and for awhile thereafter and got really close to getting one

thank god i didn't!

i now have a home, lawn and a sweet pooch and i'm settled and happy

but this is 5 years after graduating
posted by Salvatorparadise at 8:28 PM on May 25, 2007


Dogs are great, but it sounds like you should just prevail upon your parents to keep one for you.


I wanna know how many of you were unequivocally saying yes to the "Should I get a cat?" question, which got about 10000 comments. grumble grumble freakin' cat people grumble grumble
posted by Mr. Gunn at 9:44 PM on May 25, 2007


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