Is It Right to Have a Dog If You Work Full Time?
Can You Leave a Dog Alone While You Work?
This question is often asked on dog forums, and the person posing it is normally shot down in flames with the response that dogs need their humans available 24 hours a day, and leaving a dog alone for more than a couple of hours would amount to animal cruelty.
So it would appear that dog ownership should be left in the hands of the unemployed, the stay at home housewife or househusband, people who work from home, or the rich who have independent means of support.
The poor person who must work all their lives to earn a living has to wait until they are in their sixties and retired before they can own their own pooch – and at that point may not even be able to enjoy or cope with the antics of a puppy (and may be refused a rescue dog).
But many people do work full time, and have well behaved beloved and cared for pets – although they might whisper this as though it's some secret habit that has to be hidden.
So what are the facts?
- Dogs Can Grow Accustomed to Solitude It is true that if you adopt a dog which has been used to its owners being around 24/7 it is unlikely to take well to being left alone for long periods, and may become destructive. But on the other hand, if it’s all the dog has ever known he is likely to be quite accustomed to his alone time during the day.
- A Dog Left Alone Regularly Will Often Sleep. A dog who is accustomed to being left alone will probably just sleep during the time his owner is working and have his waking and active periods when you are at home. As long as you make sure to give the dog plenty of stimulation and exercise when you are together, the dog will be happy to nap when you are gone.
My Story: How I Became a Single, Working Dog Owner
I had to address the question of whether it was right to work full time and own a dog when my partner of 9 years moved out, leaving me alone. As a lifetime dog lover who grew up with dogs, I’d always wanted one of my own, but my then partner didn’t like them at all. Rather than being alone in the house, I chose to get a dog for company and security reasons.
Bending the truth a little to the breeder about how many hours I worked, I bought a gorgeous English Setter puppy. For the first few weeks I took extended lunch hours so that he could be fed and let out at lunchtime, but after that I started being out the whole day. And he very soon got into the pattern of either playing with his toys and chews (vetted to make sure they were of the type that he could play with unsupervised) or sleeping until I came home. In the evenings he was active and playful. I walked him before work and in the evenings, and he was happy, well balanced and healthy. He didn’t bark or whine – the neighbours kept me informed that he was quiet when I was out. He lived to a healthy old age.
I’ve had two other dogs since who’ve also been left alone. As long as they know nothing else, I’ve found that they accept and adapt to it quite easily.
Tips on Caring for a Dog While Working Full Time
So you can certainly have a dog and work full time, but there are some things you need to consider, especially at the beginning when your dog or puppy is still getting adjusted to their new home.
- Take long lunch breaks: It’s best to start with a puppy, but young puppies cannot go 8 or 9 hours without being fed or being let out into the garden, so for at least the first few weeks you will need to be able to come home at lunchtime or have a neighbour pop in.
- House-training will require patience. House-training will take longer, as you are not going to be there to spot the signs and take the pup promptly outside. That's OK. Be patient and don't get discouraged.
- Make sure your dog is comfortable. Your dog should be left with adequate space to play: for example, a kitchen or larger utility room. If you are using a crate it should be available so he can sleep in it, but NEVER leave a dog crated during the day. Being confined in a small place is definitely cruel. And it goes without saying water should always be available.
- Spend time with your dog. If you are single and get a dog to keep you company, you’ll need to take into account that he will be relying on you to amuse him when you are at home. It would not be fair to get a dog and then spend all your evenings out with friends! You will need to make an effort to make your dog part of your life. This can be restrictive when you meet a potential partner, as your four legged friend will have to come along too.
Conclusion: If you work full time but want a dog, go ahead, but make sure to proceed with care. Try to get a more independent breed, the younger the better, or a rescue that’s used to being alone. Plan how you’ll spend quality time with him, and be prepared to justify yourself to anyone who has the luxury of not having to work. You work hard; so reward yourself with your canine dream.