So You Want to Get a Dog: Is Your Lifestyle Dog Friendly?

If you’ve waited to get a dog, chances are you were waiting until you had achieved another goal first. Maybe that goal is working fewer hours, having more money, or having a fenced yard. That’s good, because having a dog requires you to change your lifestyle in ways you can’t always predict. Before you do ANYTHING else, you need to figure out if this is the right time for you to add a dog to your home. You need to look at the way you live now, carefully and realistically.

Here are some of the things you need to look at.

  • Do you have the time to have a dog? Dogs need to spend time with you. That’s part of the deal. If you have an active social life that includes doing a lot of humans-only activities, you’re going to need to change that. You shouldn’t be leaving your dog at home most nights of the week. Even dogs that might be OK spending a lot of time alone, like Chow Chows, shouldn’t be left alone that long because they need regular socialization
  • Is your job dog-friendly? I guarantee there will be days when you’ll have to cut work short to take your dog to the vet, so you need to have an employer who is somewhat flexible. One time I had to tell my boss that I would be late for work that day because I had spent my night in the emergency room with my dog, who had overdosed on cicadas. That was not an easy message to deliver, I assure you. In addition, you need to have a job that doesn’t require you to do business travel on a dime because you are going to need to arrange for care for your dog while you are gone, and that can take time. You might be able to work around that, but you’ll need to set up a very good support system to do it.
A picture of the havok a dog hath wreaked.
Yes, this can happen. (Photo courtesy of Laura Carroll)
  • What is your home like? Is it sparkling clean with white carpets and soft wood everywhere? You need to prepare for the idea that once you have a dog, you’ll either have to increase your cleaning time significantly or lower your standards. Do you have a garden? Is it secure? If not, how attached are you to it? My dogs managed to consume all of my Karl Foerster feather reed grass, an extremely hardy ornamental grass, so thoroughly that it never came back.
  • How long are you away from home each day? Do you work 10-hour days? That’s not going to work for most dogs’ bladders — we consider 8 hours to be the realistic maximum. If you do have long days, you’ll either need to arrange for someone to let your dog out during the day, or you’ll need a dog door. Also, don’t forget to factor in things like going to the supermarket after work. You might find that your 10 hours is closer to 12, all things considered.

    A picture of reed grass against a blue sky.
    Karl Foerster feather reed grass. Perennial of the year, grows abundantly to six feet. Devoured by a beagle/lab so thoroughly that it never came back. (Photo is from a government website and does not have a copyright)
  • What is your wardrobe like, and how much do you love it? Attention clotheshorses: your butter-soft Italian leather jacket might be a tempting treat for your dog to chew on. That cashmere wrap you tossed casually on the couch when you got home might have a dog curled up on it the next time you see it. You’ll have to protect your nicest clothes (AND SHOES AND PURSES) from your dogs. If you are distracted and forget, you might no longer have things you really love. If you are a clothing buff, you need to ask yourself how meticulous you are about taking off nice things and immediately putting them away carefully.
  • What are your walls like? If you live in an apartment with paper-thin walls, it might not be a good time to get a dog. This is doubly true if you are gone for a long time each day. Dogs get bored and anxious, and when that happens, they bark and whine.

Ask yourself these questions and answer honestly. Otherwise, you are setting yourself, and your dog, up for failure. The reality is that you might not be at the right point to get a dog right now. Don’t worry, though, because there will always be thousands of wonderful dogs looking for homes. You won’t be missing out.

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Moretta

Moretta will take that applause. Her Twitter is https://twitter.com/GobezMoretta.

12 thoughts on “So You Want to Get a Dog: Is Your Lifestyle Dog Friendly?”

  1. My major criteria include:

    Does my living space/landlord allow for a pet? Is there enough space for a pet? (Allow, yes; enough space, for a smaller/lazier dog or a cat)
    Will the living environment be positive? Will a pet be welcomed, or simply tolerated? (Right now, I have two not-pet-people for roommates; they’d be nice to a pet, but wouldn’t engage with said pet)
    Can I afford to pay rent, pay other bills, feed myself, AND feed/buy toys/pay for vet visits for a pet? (Ha. Ha ha ha ha ha. BRB crying now.)

    So, right now? I don’t have a pet-friendly life. Yet. I will, though, and then I will adopt ALL THE ANIMALS or at least a dog and a few cats.

  2. I’m planning on adopting a dog soon, and this article covers many of the things I considered. I would also add to consider your energy levels and the typical energy level of the breed of dog you’ll be adopting as well as your commitment to training. My biggest concern has been trying to find adoptable dogs that aren’t highly energetic because I simply don’t have the physical capability to handle that.

    1. An adult Basset Hound could be a good fit. And by adult, I mean over 5. My guy goes for two 45-minute long walks a week, and then sleeps the entire next day. And the walks are pretty slow with lots of stopping and sniffing. Maybe one 15-20 minute play session, but that doesn’t necessarily have to involve you. Gershwin is perfectly happy tearing up an empty box. Just, you know, standard caveat, each dog is an individual, yadda yadda yadda. Just be aware that some bassets can be total escape artists.

      Also, it’s been a while since I looked, but I think many adult bassets were given up due to changes of circumstance, so there won’t be a lot of personality rehab required (other than dealing with their essential Bassetness).

  3. The boyfriend wants a dog. It’s to the point where we can’t even walk into Petsmart on pet adoption day for fear of him walking out with ALL the dogs. He doesn’t think he’s ready because of housing/work, but I can tell that not having a dog makes him so sad. Is there a way to help his doggie fever without him getting a dog before he’s ready?

    1. I think a cat version would be unintentionally hilarious. Get a cat: it’s basically a piece of furniture with a lot of attitude and sometimes snuggles. (I am a cat lady to the fullest extent, and I love how they are so low maintenance, especially compared to my adolescent chi-weenie.)

      1. I’d throw in something about stress peeing outside of the box, and cat hair and night noise, etc.
        Cats are low maintenance, but some people still hate pet fur on the furniture. When I volunteered with Cat Adoption Team, we had an older chilled out adult cat returned after two days because she “touched [his wife’s] antique dolls”.
        Some people need to be honest with themselves and adopt the stuffed version.

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