Wednesday, August 20, 2014

How to be a dog mom and a single working girl

Last night I read something that raised my hackles.

It's an article on called "Top 5 Reasons You Do Not Deserve a Pet."

Now, there's a lot in this article I agree with. A pet is a lifelong commitment that shouldn't be entered into lightly. You should consider the cost of owning a pet, the fact that they grow up and get old, that the "newness" and maybe even the "cuteness" will wear off.

But the number 3 reason, "you work a lot of hours," really got to me.

Because I do work a lot of hours. Oh, and to add to that, I'm single. I also don't have enough time to drive home and let the dogs out on a lunch break. And I don't have a dog sitter, and Lulu can't handle doggy day care (she can't handle an hour at the groomer).

"I miss you when you go to work."
So why bother having dogs? In both cases one of the reasons I did it was so the dogs would not end up rehomed or back in a shelter. Yes, in Lulu's case she also came to keep me company after my home was broken into, but my parents had also been asking me if I would be willing to take Lulu because they were having trouble with her.

I did it because I love these dogs. I love Lulu and Jasmine.

It would have bothered me less if the point was brought up in a "Reasons not to get a dog" story. Then the point reminds people that it can be a problem and you take it into consideration. It's the word "deserve" that bothers me. Like I don't deserve ice cream because I didn't eat dinner. That to me implies punishment.

In fact, the very definition includes the word "punishment:"
to merit, be qualified for, or have a claim to (reward, assistance, punishment, etc.) because of actions, qualities, or situation:
to deserve exile; to deserve charity; a theory that deserves consideration.
Besides, there are a lot of people in this world who are single and work full time. If we told all those people they couldn't own a dog, they don't deserve a dog, how many potential animal adopters does that ban from saving animals in shelters? Pets on death row are a much bigger problem to me than pets at home waiting for their owner.

Lulu at the shelter, Nov. 2009
 So how does one be a single working girl and a pet mom at the same time? I did it. I think I'm rather successful at it. Here are my tips:

1) Know your dog. I have a friend who has a German Shepherd mix. She takes her dog on 3-mile runs. Then he sleeps with the TV on while she's at work. Oh, and he's a puppy in a studio apartment. No problems. But she knows what she needs to do to make sure he's not a behavioral problem while she's away.

Now, fortunately she's an active person (she ran the Boston Marathon and did Iron Man). So she wanted a dog who could run with her. If you're practically a couch potato like me, this wouldn't work. So know what is required to keep your dog happy and out of trouble BEFORE you get a dog.

Lulu and a friend at the apartment complex dog park.
2) Keep your pets active. I take my dogs for walks. When Lulu and I lived in my one-bedroom apartment (a beagle in an apartment, heaven forbid!!), we went for at least a 20 minute walk in the morning, one in the afternoon and one at night when I got home. We also had the dog park in the complex and the one about 15 minutes away and we used it frequently.

Now I have a screened in patio and a backyard which will eventually get fenced in. And Lulu has Jasmine to run around with. They keep each other active. And they tire each other out. Then they relax throughout the evening while I'm at work. A tired dog is a happy dog.

3) Keep them mentally stimulated. I play games with my dogs. We do training stuff. I have puzzles and treat balls. It also aids in exhausting them while I'm away, but as long as they have things to do, they keep themselves busy.
4) Don't crate them if you can help it. If you tire your dog out and give them things to chew on you shouldn't have to crate them all day. Then they have freedom of movement. Lulu since training has stopped chewing. Unfortunately with Jasmine I can't trust her not to get into a fight with Lulu. Jasmine has to stay in the crate.

ADDENDUM: I just want to add that I don't dislike crate training, though I have a mental block about it. I prefer confining the dog to a space in the house rather than the crate. When I'm gone Lulu is confined to the kitchen, dining room, and my master bedroom. If I didn't worry about Jasmine and Lulu mixing it up I would let Jaz out of the crate.

5) Spend time with them on your days off. Take them places -- a walk on Main Street, the beach, the park or just for long walks. Make sure your dogs socialize with other dogs. Take them for classes. Do training, it helps bunches.

Ideally, if I could stay home with my dogs all day, I would. The world isn't perfect, and we have to make do. It hurts me when Jasmine gives me the big eyes when she goes in her crate, or when I see Lulu's tail go down as I walk out the door.

But I'd rather Lulu and Jasmine were at home waiting for me than waiting for someone to save them in a shelter. No it's not the perfect situation, but it is possible to make it work.

I'm not the only blogger who feels this way. Check out Jessica Shipman's post over at Beagles and Bargains and Jen DeHaan's over at Dogthusiast.

Please feel free to agree or disagree below.


  1. I too have a severe issue with the word "deserve" Heck my hackles get up when someone says "adopt this cat or dog, they deserve it" implying that others don't deserve to be adopted..

    (btw, do you know you have word verification on your comments?)

    If you care enough to want a pet, care enough to get a pet that fits your life style and care enough to provide for it. To me then you are an awesome pet owner.

  2. Great article, Christie!

    At first I liked (and even shared) the Blogpaws article because, like you, I do agree with so much of it. But you're right - to say that someone who works 8 hours a day doesn't DESERVE a dog? That's a bit harsh, and it's extremely unrealistic because like it or not, most of us have to work outside the home and the average American work day is 8 hours, so that tells me that MOST of us are leaving our dogs alone a lot of the time. Does that make us bad owners? Of course not.

    There are ways to be a responsible pet owner even if you have to be gone many hours a day, as you've pointed out here in your post. People who love their pets always find a way to make it work. And you're absolutely right - even though this may not be the PERFECT situation, it sure beats waiting in a shelter for an adopter who may or may not come.

  3. I totally agree with you I feel the same way. I work all day too and am not married. So I got no one at home for my dog. So she gets lonely. So I understand your feelings. Hang in there it will be OK.

  4. I had a real issue with the word 'deserve' in that article as well. I consider myself so incredibly lucky that I don't work incredibly long hours, but that doesn't make me more deserving. If i go out of town, my husband, who works long hours, is responsible for the dogs. Our dogs are very low key and don't need a lot of activity. It's all about finding the right pet for your situation. If you work long hours, you should probably refrain from getting a puppy or a high energy pet. I know that there is a pet that would fit in that situation. Many of us work full time so we can give our pets the best quality of life. Shouldn't that be all that matters?

    1. I've even made it work with a high-energy dog by providing her with a playmate, and taking a lunch-time trip home or hiring a dog walker to give her a potty break and some mental stimulation during the day. We don't have any accidents, she is not destructive, and they are completely adjusted to the weekday routine.

    2. Exactly what I mean. You just have to have an outlet if they're high energy. Mental stimulation, a dog walker, doggie day care... Whatever works for you and your pet

  5. This is a wonderful response to a misguided article. My dogs are both rescues. Ruby was on death row at nine months old in a shelter that did not offer adoption. They picked up strays, housed them in dirty cages for a few days and then off to the back room. Boca lived on the streets of the Bahamas before being taken in by the Humane Society of Grand Bahamas where she stayed for a year. She lived with many other dogs and got to spend time outside but did not have a person or a home to call her own. As my dogs snooze in the sun every day in my kitchen on comfortable beds with fresh water, a mid-day potty break and treat for yes...eight to ten hours a day...I don't think they are missing their previous lives or alternate fates or even wishing for a guardian that was home all day. My father stays at my house off and on and he reports that they hardly move until I get home. I almost never do anything away from home on the weeknights, because after waiting all day, I feel I should spend that time with my dogs. This is just one of the many compromises I make to ensure I'm giving them the best of my ability. Working full-time should not preclude people from having pets.

    1. Sounds like you give your dogs more than the best life possible, Lara! I'm typing here and the dogs are laying down. How is that different than typing outside the home? Thanks for stopping by!

  6. Excellent post, Christie. Thanks for speaking up for us single working dog moms.

  7. Brilliant post Christie. I'm absolutely on the same page. You hit the nail on the head about "deserving" a pet.

    Here's my reaction: How Can You Know if I Deserve My Dog?

  8. Thank you for taking a negative and turning it into a positive! Bravo! I have to crate my dogs because even with massive amounts of exercise I have two strong herding drive/farm protectors who bark at every possible threat out the window. Yet, I am very fortunate to never have to be away for long since I work from home AND I have a partner with a flexible work schedule as well. And if neither of us can help being away for more than 4-5 hours? I have three dog walkers/pet sitters I can call on even at the last minute! Where there's a will, there's a way- and nothing wills me (or you, obviously) more to "deserve" my pets than how very much I love them!

    1. With Jasmine she gets dominating and her and Lulu have gotten into it. Actually, tomorrow the trainer and I will be discussing this. Again, I do what I can to make it work.

      Someday I'll work from home. Someday. Thanks for stopping by Bethany!

  9. This is a wonderful article! I am a single gal who works long hours and I adopted a young Chihuahua mix who is very active. It took some trial and error, but I finally figured out the way to keep her happy (and to keep my throw pillows intact) is to take her for an active, mile long walk in the morning, have a dog walker take her on a solo, very active 45min-1hour walk around 3:30, and then play hide and go seek with a toy with her when I get home. If I know I'm going to work late then I try to get a walker there to take her out and feed her dinner around the time I'm usually home (7:30). Is it perfect every day? No. Is she happy, healthy, and loved? To the point that people have wished to be reincarnated as her so they can be that pampered.

    1. Lol! I've heard people say that about Lulu too. That's great that you can make her so happy.

  10. Thank you for writing this. The word deserve was used inappropriately in the original article; so many of us would never own a dog if we had to live up to such strict black & white standards. Love that you made this into a great positive article about how to responsibly care for your dog. I have a 3 year old Shepherd mix so I know exactly what you're talking about when you mention your active friend. We make it work - she sleeps quite well after her physical and mental workouts each day and I get a lot of satisfaction knowing I adopted her and we're making it work.

    1. Thanks Jen. That's exactly what it's all about. You can make it work if you do what it takes. Glad to see you made it work too!

  11. Yes! Thank you! Both my partner and I work full-time and because of this we weren't able to adopt a pug from a local pug rescue group. This upset me because we have so much love to give.

    Eventually we got Chowski a little sister (Killa). She was an ex-show pup and at one years old her and Chowski have a ball together and keep eachother company in the house whilst we are at work.

    My situation is slightly different because I have a partner that gets home at around four (I don't get in until 7pm). They are alone from 7.30am - 4.00pm every week day and they are fine. I don't feel guilty because I know I spoil them and they are comfortable inside the house with warmth and water.

    Also at the weekends we are at home 90% of the time and they get attention from us and other family members :)

    1. A partner would be so helpful. lol I do find having a second dog does help with keeping them active.

  12. I think your dogs are very fortunate to be living with you. Being a responsible pet guardian is key and there are so many ways to do that. It is short sighted to have these rigid rules that don't account for the dog's individual needs and the humans' ability to meet them in creative ways.

  13. And I truly believe that does adapt. Our dogs have adapted and seem to understand the weekends and weekdays. They are happy, healthy, and I believe that we've given them an amazing home.

    Yes, we both work outside the home. If only people who could work from home could have dogs, the homeless dog population would be 1000x worse that it is today.

  14. I work full time and have 4 dogs. When I am home with them we do agility, herding (yes with chihuahuas) and hiking. When I am at work, they do this:

    I feel pretty good about it. :)

  15. Great post! Dog exercises are paramount to keep them healthy and happy. I once was too lazy to take my dog out for a run - hence, she howled and ran all over the place and bit my other dog (there was very little bleeding!) She became aggressive which I should have known better. If a dog owner can make it work, then it is entirely possible!


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