Can you keep a small dog in an apartment while being away up to 10 hours a day?
February 9, 2008 1:41 PM   Subscribe

Can you keep a small dog in an apartment while being away up to 10 hours a day?

My family had to put our 11-year-old dog down. She was my best friend in the world and I miss her horribly and while I know I cannot replace her, I would love nothing more than to adopt a dog, or even two, of my own -- something very, very small. I live in a small, but spacious apartment and am away up to 10 hours a day. Does anyone have any experiences raising a dog this way, in terms of walks / "litterbox" training?
posted by bondgirl53001 to Pets & Animals (28 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
my wife did so for quite a few years with her maltese. worked pretty wel. did have to contain the dog in certain areas using a baby gate, so the dog didn't have the run of the whole house. you'd definately want a more docile breed like a maltese (as opposed to, say, a jack russel).
posted by lester's sock puppet at 1:47 PM on February 9, 2008

lots of people are going to vehemently answer no to this here

it's ultimately a dog by dog thing, can she hold it? Does she get wacked out?
posted by Salvatorparadise at 1:50 PM on February 9, 2008

Here's one answer. Would you do it to your son or daughter? Then don't do it to a dog.
posted by A189Nut at 1:52 PM on February 9, 2008 [2 favorites]

You can probably do it, but it's bad for the dog. Doing so would mean you care more about your own feelings than what's good for the dogs.
posted by Justinian at 1:54 PM on February 9, 2008 [1 favorite]

From your perspective: do you want to raise a relatively poorly socialized dog, who must be constrained within a relatively small space to keep urine and feces from being deposited in unpleasant places (esp. when a puppy) and the potential for your apartment-dwelling neighbors to be upset by the sound of your unhappy dog at night when you work all day, come home for a few hours, then go out on a date or to a party -- or are you willing to pay a dogwalker to alleviate some of these issues at a cost?

From your dog's perspective as a puppy: I want to play! I want to be with my pack! Play! Pack! Where is everybody? Where is everybody?

From your dog's perspective as an adult: Mope mope mope.

Can you do this? Yes; but for the sake of your own mental and financial health, along with that of your dog, I strongly advise against it. My wife and I did this for years and it was painful and draining for us and for our dog. We eventually got a second dog to keep the first company (which reduced his stress level somewhat) and hired a dogwalker from day one, but it is still something I wish we hadn't done.

Now that we have a house with a dog run and a yard, the dogs are happier and so are we -- but on the days we both work, the dogs aren't happy about it, and we still have to keep them in a smaller space when we're out.

Perhaps a more useful question for you is "can I have a dog if nobody's going to be home during the day to keep it company", and I would respectfully suggest that this is not the ideal time for you to take on this responsibility; wait until your lifestyle is such that you're home more, or you can take on two dogs, or you have a yard, or all three.

In the meantime, have you thought about a cat?
posted by davejay at 1:57 PM on February 9, 2008 [6 favorites]

I will be one of those to assert a vehement "no".

Dogs are not like cats. They are not loners and do not entertain themselves well, nor can they take care of their own bodily functions. Being left alone for long periods of time can make them anxious, high-strung, and lead to misbehavior--this is even worse in small breeds, which already tend towards being anxious and high-strung. Getting a puppy, who need even more attention, walks, and training than an adult dog, would only complete the "Bad Idea" trifecta. After you get this dog look forward to searching the AskMefi archives about dealing with a dog that can't stop chewing up things and pissing and shitting everywhere.

I don't know if getting two dogs would make a difference, in that they would keep each other company. In this case you would probably have to get two puppies, because leaving two strange adult dogs together for ten hours a day is even more awful an idea than leaving one dog along for ten hours a day. And if you get two puppies, well, that means twice the training and you will still have to be home for long periods of time for that initial training period. So even that doesn't work.
posted by schroedinger at 1:59 PM on February 9, 2008

it does depend from dog to dog but in general…if you are going to be gone up to 10 hours a day, it's really not fair to the dog. i mean, you're gone all day, then you get back, you're tired, you gotta get dinner, you gotta wind down. how much time between getting home—doing all the stuff you do when you get home—and then going to bed are you gonna have to devote to the dog? your dog gets to see you a few hours and then it's off to bed…when, what has that dog been doing all day except be bored? not a whole hell of a lot.

in many ways, as A189Nut says, having a dog is like having a child. you need to make some pretty major lifestyle changes to accommodate this creature who will be, for all intents and purposes, like having a teenager for it's lifespan. you need to put it's needs first. like, for me at least, i can't just take off whenever i want anymore. if i need or want to leave town, i have to make sure my dog has a place to stay, whether that be with friends or being boarded. it kills a lot of spontaneity if you are going somewhere where you can't take a dog.

if you really really want a dog, i would advise you to take it to daycare a few days a week. but that can be spendy and they also need you to pick up the dog at a reasonable after-work hour.

justinian is right, if you do it, this is more about you than what is good for the dog. many people get dogs for reasons that are more about satisfying a sort of selfish need so think long and hard about whether you can provide a good life for it.
posted by violetk at 2:07 PM on February 9, 2008

I agree with the folks who say "not a good idea"...but I also wanted to say good for you for thinking of this *before* you got the dog.

This might also be a stock answer, but if you want to spend time around dogs your local animal shelter has lots of volunteer opportunities, as well as lots of dogs of all shapes and sizes who would like someone to come and pet them or throw a tennis ball.

Sorry for sounding overly dramatic, but I'm off to my own weekly commitment at the humane society in about 20 minutes!
posted by handful of rain at 2:09 PM on February 9, 2008

This might also be a stock answer, but if you want to spend time around dogs your local animal shelter has lots of volunteer opportunities, as well as lots of dogs of all shapes and sizes who would like someone to come and pet them or throw a tennis ball.

I did this and I know some people would find it really depressing. The other good alternative is dog-sitting for friends or in general making friends with people who have dogs.

But yeah, if you had a dog it would be sad. However, you could pay a dog sitter or for someone to come and walk the dog. My mom had to do this and it was expensive, but it allowed us to keep our dog.
posted by melissam at 2:19 PM on February 9, 2008

IF you could hire a dog-walker to come in and give your dog a mid-day walk, then I would say go for it. A lot of people with demanding schedules take that route. Perhaps shop around for dog walkers and see if there are any available within your budget?

However, if the dog walker is not an option, I would definitely say no. Dogs are social pack animals and a dog left alone for that long would be unhappy. My in-laws have weimaraners that they cage for far too long, and those dogs area quite literally crazy. They are so poorly socialized that they don't know how to act around people.

Or you might consider a chinchilla instead. They're low-maintenance and fairly clever, and you can block off a room and let it out for exercise when you get home. Plus, chinchillas are darn cute.
posted by Ostara at 2:31 PM on February 9, 2008

i'm not even a dog person, but it would break my heart to see a dog live like that. dogs are pack animals--they need to be socialized and they need structure. if you want some animal companionship, get a cat. they're much better suited to lazing around and solo prowling.
posted by thinkingwoman at 2:37 PM on February 9, 2008

Even though you don't think so, you're asking for a cat. Dogs are much more social and are pack animals (be it you or other dogs). 10 hours without a single walk or way being let out on a regular basis is not fair to the dog, imho. Agreed with the people above, good for you to think of this now pre-new-dog.
posted by joshgray at 2:38 PM on February 9, 2008

Lots of knee-jerk reactions here and not enough reading the actual question.

If the dog is going to be alone 10 hours a day, 5 or 6 days a week, then I'd say "Yes, it can be done... but it shouldn't."

If it's more like 6-8 hours most days, you can afford a dog walker, and you typically have time on the evenings/weekends to socialize the dog, and it's just every so often that the dog has to be alone for 10 hours, then I'd say there's nothing wrong with that scenario at all.
posted by toomuchpete at 2:57 PM on February 9, 2008

I'm the upstairs neighbors of a couple who leaves their dog alone in the apartment for huge chunks of time each day. I beg you not to do it. Their dog, during the 7+ hour stretches when they're gone, barks. And barks. And barks. Every two minutes or so. For 7 hours. He's doing it right now, in fact. That is not a happy dog. I am not a happy neighbor. I've been wanting a dog of my own for the last 10 years, but wouldn't do that to an animal because I'm away too often. I wish they had had the same forethought.
posted by MsMolly at 2:59 PM on February 9, 2008 [1 favorite]

Dog walker. I did it a few years ago, and if you get a kid from the neighborhood it can be pretty cheap. Is it a weekday thing that you'll be out for that long or everyday?
posted by sgrass at 3:00 PM on February 9, 2008

Get a cat or a hamster or something. Leaving a dog alone in an apartment for that long is the canine equivalent of being jailed in solitary confinement.
posted by bradbane at 3:42 PM on February 9, 2008

I've got a big dog that's in an apartment alone ten hours a day (though he goes to day care once a week.) He mostly sleeps, whether we're home or not. But then, he's lazy and has a much larger bladder than, say, a yorkie. A few people in the building have small dogs and most of them seem well-adjusted. Some are neurotic barkers. Some use day care/walkers.

If you do do it with a small dog, I'd say don't get a puppy, try to find a lazy dog, and exercise/socialize the hell out of it when you get home.
posted by Mr Bunnsy at 3:44 PM on February 9, 2008

I can't see that situation working for a dog. Could you research cat breeds and get a more dog-like cat? Some breeds are more loyal/affectionate/attentive than others.
posted by christinetheslp at 3:47 PM on February 9, 2008

I would love nothing more than to adopt a dog, or even two, of my own -- something very, very small

This comes across as you thinking of yourself, and looking for ways to make a dog fit into your routine. I'm not saying that that is a bad thing, but if you're going to be leaving the dog ignored for 18 hours a day (10 hours, plus 8 hours sleep), then it seems to me that you're not going to get much benefit from it anyway. Not to mention that the dog will be bored, for your convenience.
posted by Solomon at 3:57 PM on February 9, 2008

Please, please, please do not get a dog. I say this as someone who never owned a dog until I had to witness the horrible abandonment and neglect of the dog next door. These people got a puppy and played with it for about 3 weeks until they got bored and then they chained it up without interaction and only occasional food and water. I started feeding her over the fence and taking care of her as best I could until I couldn't stand it anymore and I called the authorities. Long story short, I now have this dog. She has behavior issues from being alone and neglected. I work during the day so even though she has a big yard and food, I can see her loneliness when I get home and it breaks my heart. I am in the process of trying to rehome her with a family with another dog or kids. Dogs want to belong to someone. They get depressed and develop behavior issues when left alone. They get very sad and it is hard to see that sadness in their eyes when you finally get back home. It is so unfair to the dog. You sound like a much better candidate for a cat, actually 2 cats--2 cats are as easy to care for as one, and they will keep each other company while you are away. It is easier to find a new apartment with a cat than a dog. You could probably get a good deal on a cat adoption at the local shelter. Please consider a cat instead.
posted by 45moore45 at 3:59 PM on February 9, 2008 [3 favorites]

If 10 hours is the maximum, but not necessarily the norm, and you can get a mid-day dogwalker, and you pick a breed that is less anxious, then perhaps. Talk to folks in your area at the local park and find out how they keep their pooches happy. Also look into daycare.

Do none of you dog-owners have dayjobs? If you work an 8-hour day with a half-hour commute, that's 9 hours away from home.
posted by desuetude at 5:27 PM on February 9, 2008

As a counterpoint to most of the responses on here. My dog Ginger, (a very calm, very quiet beagle) had very few problems living in an apartment in DC. We got her as an adult, socialised dog and she settled right in. She was already fully house trained.

We were assessed for ownership first, our apartment was inspected by the agency and we both were quizzed on our working hours. The inspector gave us lots of great tips on how to make sure that she was occupied during the day and got quality time with us when we weren't working.

She had some separation anxiety for a few weeks after we first got here, which we mostly trained out of her (by getting her used to us putting on coats and shoes etc). It helps that she gets without fail, 30 mins walk in the morning and an hour in the evening, and we spend at least 30 mins playing with her, so she got lots of social time with us. She also gets at least 5 hrs of walks at the weekend.

She still does get whiny sometimes, mostly at the weekend, when we have a different routine.

I think it helps that she is a laaazy dog. I can't imagine that there are lots of small, highly strung dogs, that do well in apartments.

Finally: maybe it isn't the ideal way to keep a dog (god knows I would love to have a farm house in teh country and acres of woods for her to play in), but in reality most dogs have owners that work. If you choose the right kind of dog, give her plenty of walks, show her plenty of love and affection and train her well, you might well be ok.
posted by tonylord at 6:44 PM on February 9, 2008

we are doing just that right now.
The dog has a fenced area where he sits, water and a rawhide bone. We got the dog from a shelter and he had already been abandoned once for his temperament. Unfortunately his temperament has not improved that much, he is still barking a lot at other people and dogs whenever we walk him. Might be the breed, might be the fact that he spends 10 hours a day alone.
Because of his aggressiveness, we cannot hire walkers or dog sitters, for fear of them getting bit or the dog escaping from them.

Is it good for him to be left alone for that long? Probably not. Did he get used to it?
Yes. But sometimes when both of us get home later than the regular time, he gets really agitated. Would we do it again if we had the choice? Yes, definitely. I mean, we got this fellow from a shelter and we are providing him with a home, love and care, we have spent quite a lot of money on him recently in medical bills as well, and because of his behavioral issues I doubt many people would have kept him. Could he have a better life? Maybe. But most likely, he wouldn't.
I don't feel in the least bad for the 10 hours/day alone issue. We are doing the best we can.

So, if you plan to adopt from a shelter, I would say go for it.
posted by spacefire at 7:24 PM on February 9, 2008

If you can afford doggie daycare, that would be the way to go. Or if you have a neighbor who is home all day and has a dog or doesn't and wants to care for yours, that would be good. But do not get a dog and leave it alone for 10 hours at a time. That is really miserable for the dog. Dogs love their people and want to be with them.

The suggestion of a cat or some other kind of pet is a good one, but I know that a dog is really not like any other kind of pet. If you do like cats or guinea pigs or rabbits or whatever, that might be a really good idea. They are a little less dependent on people and needing time outside, etc. I don't know much about ferrets, but that might also be an option. Most furry things can be affectionate, and with clicker training, any animal can learn anything.

If you really want a dog, maybe you can spend a few months trying to rearrange your schedule to allow for more time with the dog. I think 8 hours is the maximum to leave one home alone, and even then it is best if there is a dog walker or a neighbor or whatever who comes and plays with the dog for an hour or so in the middle of the day.

I think an older dog would be a better choice over a puppy in your situation as well. Someone gone for 10 hours a day probably does not have a lot of time for puppy kindergarten!
posted by AllieTessKipp at 9:05 PM on February 9, 2008

This can be done. When I'm away, my chihuahua stays in a fenced area with potty area, bed, food, and water. My schedule is flexible, so some days I'm home all day and other days I'm working regular business hours at an office, and it works out well for us. I notice that she will be more generally anxious and wound up when I'm busier and have less time for her, so I always try to make walks, playing, and attention a priority, as a tired dog is a happy dog. But honestly, any way it goes, my dog has a pretty good life and I'm not going to feel bad for not being with her 24/7- a dog is most certainly not a child, and I wouldn't trust the opinion of anyone who said so.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:07 PM on February 9, 2008 [1 favorite]

I, for one, don't think a dog is a child. A dog is a dog. Dogs are pack animals. And leaving a pack animal alone for 10 hours a day is not good for the dog. It may still have a decent life. It may be better than some alternatives. But getting a dog when you know going in that it'll be alone so much is thinking of your own needs and not the animal's.
posted by Justinian at 10:05 PM on February 9, 2008 [2 favorites]

A dog is not a child, but it is a living thing. A living thing that has needs. Those needs will not be met by locking it in an apartment for 10 hours a day. Do NOT get a dog.
posted by Spoonman at 9:25 AM on February 10, 2008

I'm with those who say it can be done if you find The Right Dog. Our furbaby is quite possibly the laziest dog on the planet -- almost catlike in her need for a daylong nap (even on weekends, when we're around). She's usually still asleep when we get home from a 9+ hour workday/commute. But in the evening, she's ready to play. For us, she is The Right Dog.

A good shelter/rescue org will screen you extensively (including your schedule and your home) to be sure that they're matching you with The Right Dog. It'll be easier if you look for older dogs (probably at least 4 years old) and avoid super tiny dogs (tiny dogs = tiny bladders). Rescues in particular will often have a really good read on the personalities of individual dogs, because they've been in in "foster care" in the homes of rescue volunteers - so they'll know who's a couch potato and who's bouncing off the walls at noon. In other words, a good shelter/rescue will not let you go home with The Wrong Dog, even if it means turning you away empty handed.

That said, some shelters/rescues are pretty much cash and carry, unfortunately. They do not care if you end up with The Right Dog. They just want you to take a dog -- any dog -- off their hands. If you end up in one of those places, it's incumbent upon you to be responsible, and not walk out with The Wrong Dog just because it made big puppy eyes at you. Since you asked this question, I suspect you're a conscientious person, so hopefully that won't be a problem. :-)

Good luck.
posted by somanyamys at 7:45 AM on February 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

« Older I want to build things! Electronic things!   |   Chicago Hotel, Dinning and Nightlife? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.