Researching dog ownership (breeds, cost, general advice?)

Some background
I’m currently renting a room in the home of a dog person who is allergic to cats, and she has told me since I moved in that I could get a dog if I want to. I don’t see myself moving anytime soon, because I’ve been living here for over a year and we’re both happy with things. I used to dislike dogs as a result of several bad experiences in childhood, but I’m okay with them after being around dogs that were nicely-trained (I’m more of a cat person, but she’s allergic). I am quite capable of bonding with dogs, even if they are smellier and higher-maintenance than cats. :wink:

**Living arrangements **
I live in a ranch house in a nice quiet suburb. The backyard is huge and fenced, with sunny/shady parts and quite a few trees. Lots to interest a dog! It would stay inside when nobody is home, of course–I don’t believe in tying-up and I don’t want to crate it, because those trappings remind me of animal shelters and make me sad. There are no other full-time pets in the house, but my LL “shares custody” of a dog with her dad. It’s a very well-trained dog, and very nice to humans (I’ve never seen it interact with other dogs, but I can ask). However, it’s some kind of white husky, and is enormous. I’ve never felt threatened by him, but I was wondering if maybe an animal might, due to his size. He comes over a couple times a week, for several hours a day (sometimes overnight, maybe once a month–he sleeps in her room, though). My LL has also fostered a couple dogs before, for up to a week at a time. So, interaction with other animals would be inevitable for my dog, although it wouldn’t be a constant thing. I work full-time, and so does my LL, but our schedules are different. My dog would only be alone in the house for about 6 hours a day, 4 days a week. On the rare occasions my LL goes out of town, the most consecutive time it would be left alone would be 9.5 hours (my work day plus commute). Weekends would be all dog, all the time–I’m a homebody.

Basic requirements[ol]
[li]Relatively quiet. I know that dogs are animals, and all animals make noise sometimes. But I really don’t want it to whine or bark when we’re both gone during the day, or waking me up at all hours of the night.[/li][li]Low energy. I can walk it in the morning and when I get home from work, and let it out to pee whenever it needs to go. But I’m not a very energetic person. I’m definitely not up to re-structuring my life around the needs of a high-energy animal. I took care of a friend’s Jack Russell terrier puppy for a week while she was out of town, and there is just no way I can keep up with those exercise needs. I can dedicate about 40 minutes of time to walking every day (20 in the morning, 20 at night, just a walk around the block each time).[/li][li]Non-destructive. I will dog-proof my room, but yarn projects and shoes may be left out on a regular basis (and I have several cords and computer cables that cannot be hidden, stuff like that). I do plan to buy chew toys and train to re-direct bad behavior, but I can’t have my stuff chewed up! If this became a permanent habit, I would not be able to keep the animal.[/li][li]Low-maintenance. I would like to do all grooming at home (with minimal grooming needed in the first place). I don’t want a dog that needs haircuts or shaving, but I can handle teeth cleaning and nail trimming and baths (is weekly often enough?). I also would like a dog with a low-maintenance personality. To be happy when we interact, and happy to sleep in my bed, but not needy and whiny if it’s not sitting in my lap 24/7. My uncle has a little chihuahua that whines and scrabbles until it’s sitting on somebody, and I DON’T want this. I want a chill dog.[/li][/ol]I’d like a dog that is smart enough to be trained, but dumb enough to be content with the simple things in life (chewing on stuff, watching movies, playing fetch in the backyard while I sit and read a book). I don’t care what size it is, as long as I can train it. I have looked at lists of high-energy breeds, and plan to avoid them. I want a middle-aged dog, because puppies always get adopted first. Besides, I’d rather have an animal with a known personality and some training under its collar. So, what breed(s) would best suit this environment? And how much should I budget for the initial outlay? What are the approximate monthly costs of food, toys, &etc? Do you all have any general advice on food brands, training resources, and types/brands of toys?

I won’t take on any animal if I’m not 100% certain it would mesh well with my lifestyle. So, if you don’t think I’m dog-owner material, please say so. Thanks in advance!

A boxer sounds like a nice choice for you. I think they make a nice family pet, they are good natured, like to fetch and the ones I know are fairly quiet. A pug if you can stand all the snorting and snoring. I think collies and keeshonds are nice too, but they both have a lot of hair. A lab or golden retriever will work if you get one that is past the puppy chewing/hyper stage.

A greyhound might be a good choice. They have a personality similar to a very sweet cat and enjoy lounging around in the house. They aren’t the brightest of dogs and they do have the sight hound instinct however. You can’t just let them run free in an unfenced yard in case something catches their eye. They will chase after it at greyhound speed. They don’t mind being walked on a leash however.

You’ll get a lot of advice in this thread, and it may well be that a lot of it conflicts. :slight_smile:

It may well be that a dog isn’t a good fit with your lifestyle and needs. Yes, you can look for breeds which tend towards what you’re looking for, but every dog is unique. Just because a breed tends towards being calmer and quieter, doesn’t mean you won’t wind up with the rare barker or chewer.

That said, as far as the energy level and being mellower when left home, you may want to look into adopting an adult dog (i.e., older than 2 or 3 years). IME, most dogs, once they get past about 3, tend to mellow out (or, at least, are a lot less hyper and likely to get into trouble than they were as pups and young adults).

You’ll probably want to make sure that the candidate has a history of getting along well with other dogs (some just don’t), and that he or she gets along well with your landlord’s father’s dog, since it’ll be around a fair amount.

I’ve heard conflicting things about greyhounds. On the one hand, they seem to like being retired athletes / couch potatoes (and I’ve heard them described as being “co-dependent love slaves”). On the other hand, I’ve also read that they still do need regular (and fairly intensive) exercise. I’m no expert on them, so I’ll qualify all of what I just posted on the breed as being hearsay. :slight_smile:

Avoid any of the higher energy breeds like the plague, particularly the smart higher energy dogs (e.g. border collies), they will go out of their minds with boredom and become anxious or destructive. I’d probably avoid a lab for the same reason. Boxer is a good suggestion. Pugs aren’t super high energy, but they can be smart, so they might get bored being left alone all day.

Also, the number one rule of dog training and ownership: stop anthropomorphizing. For instance, dogs love crates. What you think of as a prison, they see as a safe nest where they can relax. Don’t keep them in there all the time, obviously, but some dogs are much happier sleeping in a crate than in a dog bed in an empty room. Dogs also don’t have the same inductive powers that we do, so training has to be done in a specific way. Don’t assume that you’re being nice to the dog by treating it like you’d want to be treated: some dogs need a lot of structure, and will be happier being bossed around than they will being allowed to do whatever they want. Read some dog training books and take at least one obedience class with the dog.

Lastly, realize what a huge time and energy commitment a dog is. Your OP sounds a bit lukewarm on the whole thing, honestly. Don’t get a dog just to get one, you have to really want to do the work it takes to keep you both happy.

I missed the part of the OP where you said you were planning on adopting a middle-aged dog (good for you, btw!), in which case I retract my suggestion to avoid Labs. Most Labs older than 3-4 years are closer to your ideal: fairly lazy, not needy, generally content to hang out with you while you read a book.

Definitely an older or middle-aged dog would be the way to go, based on your requirements. Have you considered fostering a dog to get a feel for how it would fit into your lifestyle?

Other ideas…
You might consider adopting a retired guide dog. That would likely mean a Labrador around 7 years old or so, or maybe a little older. The dog would be extremely well-trained and would not be at all high-maintenance. If you want to go a little younger, a dog who failed out of guide dog school could be an option. (The dog in that situation would probably be about 2 years of age, and would require more attention and interaction than an older dog). In either of those cases, you’d be getting a dog with a known temperament and a lot of training invested in them. There’s usually a waitlist for those dogs. They are in high demand.

As far as toys and whatnot go, that will depend on what breed you get. For advice on food, Something Awful’s pet forum is a good resource.

I would contact a rescue and tell them what you’re looking for and ask if they have any that fit the description. Foster-based organizations will be able to tell you the temperament, energy levels, and habits of their dogs. Breed has some to do with it, but each one is an individual. They’ll be able to lead you to dogs who fit your description and you can go from there. That way, you have a starting point with the mixed breeds and the individual dogs.

You mentioned that your landlady had fostered a few dogs briefly. Would it be possible for you to do this so you could “try out” a few different dogs and see how they fit? You could also do a little volunteer time at a nearby shelter to get some experience with different breeds. I agree with pretty much everything Giraffe mentioned and would go so far as to recommend an adult lab or a golden retriever. For the most part, they’re calm, trainable and friendly, and they’re pretty easy to care for.

I’ve always been a little-dog person, but in my do-over life I’m going to try out a Bernese Mountain Dog. They’re a little (okay, a lot) pricey and don’t generally come up for adoption, though.

I have already decided to look at middle-aged dogs (4 or 5 years old, at least). Puppies are cute, but too insanely energetic for me. Thanks for the breed suggestions, too! I will look into boxers, labs, and golden retrievers–golden retrievers are really beautiful and have longer, softer hair, so I might look into them first. What is grooming like for these breeds, anything intensive? I don’t know if I could consider a greyhound, I would have to learn a lot more about them (and spend some time getting to know a particular animal) before going that route. They’re awfully pretty, but I’ve heard they can be prima-donnas since they’re used to being the center of attention.

Thanks **Giraffe, **for the thoughtful criticism. I don’t know if lukewarm exactly describes how I feel about owning a dog. I know I don’t have a burning passion for them, like I do for cats. But I like well-trained dogs, they’re cute and fun, and I think owning one would be mutually beneficial. I know I would make a good dog owner, because I know how to avoid the things that make bad pet owners bad (well, that and I didn’t just rush out and buy a designer puppy mill dog with my tax return :p). Most of all, I believe having a rescue pet to take care of would give me a sense of duty and purpose. That’s something I’ve been lacking for a long time now. And, even if I never like dogs in general as much as I like cats in general, I would still like MY dog very much. I mean, I still meet cats that I hate sometimes. And I’ve gotten very emotionally-attached to ALL of the pets in my life, even the icky hermit crab I had as a kid and the beyta(sp?) fish I got in college. Obedience class as a pair is a good idea too, thank you. I’m sure I have at least as much to learn about training a dog as the dog itself. :stuck_out_tongue:

QuarkChild, thanks for the recommendation. A retired guide dog would be an interesting idea, but I’m not going to adopt a dog with a waiting list. It’s a bit antithetical to “rescue” a dog that doesn’t need rescuing. :slight_smile: I can’t check SA from work, unfortunately. I will consider posting in PI later, once I’ve done some more initial research.

Before I make any kind of final decision, I need to look into costs, too. Is the cost of owning a bigger dog significantly more than the cost of owning a smaller dog? I can google obedience classes and stuff in my area, but I would like to get an idea of how much current dog owners are spending… just to make sure it isn’t going to exceed my available budget.

Also, is it unhealthy for a dog to be in a home where there is indoor smoking? Thanks again for all the advice, great help so far.

Beat me to it!

Guess I’m the first to mention Great Danes, though…

Yes, the bigger the dog is, the more expensive its care will be typically.
Big dogs often eat more food. Medication, grooming, boarding, etc. is often more expensive for a bigger dog than for a smaller one.

Nuisance barking and chewing are both behaviors that you can train dogs to stop doing. Often when owners say a dog is badly behaved the real problem is the owners haven’t figured out how to communicate with the dog well and haven’t trained it properly. Still, an older dog typically will be less boisterous than a puppy and is less likely to have bad behaviors, so I think you’re right to consider older dogs.

Indoor smoking isn’t healthy for dogs, just like it’s not healthy for us, but it’s better to live with a smoker than get put to sleep in a shelter.

You may want to look on websites like to see what kind of breeds of dogs are commonly available in your local rescues/shelters. I’d suggest doing that, see if something appeals to you, then read up on the breed rather than setting out with a specific breed in mind. Many humane societies and shelters have lists on their websites of what animals they have right now so check on their direct websites too.

Something to bear in mind in regards to big dogs. When they go down, you have to be able to pick them up. Large breeds that start having hip/arthritis/back end issues have hard times with stairs and their owners need to be able to get them into the car and into the vet’s doors when that happens. I would limit the dog’s size to what you can lift comfortably.

Thanks, SeaDragonTattoo. I will keep in mind to get only as much dog as I can lift! We only have a few steps going up to the front porch, and there are no staircases to worry about in case of dysplasia.

lavenderviolet, I appreciate that advice. I’m definitely talking long-term here, it might be a few months before I actually go out and obtain an animal. But I know the internet is a tappable resource for some of this.

I know there are obvious risks to rehoming a pet from Craigslist or similar sites (buyer beware, seller could be a liar, dog could have an expensive medical condition, etc). Has anyone had success rehoming or taking in an animal via the internet?

People have mentioned fostering in this thread, but I don’t think that’s a good idea unless it’s foster-to-own. I get attached quickly, and it would be too hard to give it up.

Boxers are awesome and anecdotally only, my two are not afraid of any large dogs. When they were in doggy daycare (I know, I know) their favorite playmates were the owners 2 huge great danes.

Boxer rescue is a great resource, there is a gorgeous female in Illinois right now :wink:

In general Boxers tend to have health issues young if they’re going to. They’re a pretty high risk for cancers but if they make it to 3 or 4 you can relax a little. Since you’re considering a middle aged dog and you get attached quickly you should be warned that boxers tend to live an average of 10 years only. Our two are 7 & 8 and we’re already sad. Now a lot of that is young cancer deaths but they’re still a very short lived breed.

I will concur with this recommendation.

Of course each dog will have its own personality, but my parents have had a few retired greyhounds and they sound like exactly what the OP is looking for. They are extremely quiet; in fact I have never heard one of my parents’ dogs make a peep, even when my niece and nephew are [del]torturing[/del] playing with them. They come fully trained, basically to the point of being institutionalized, i.e. they are extremely disciplined and calm animals. They almost can’t pee without permission. For exercise, my parents take their dogs out to a field nearby, let them go, they run one lap around and are done for the day (it literally takes only about 30 seconds). They get home and just lay around the rest of the day.

Generally animal rescue groups will be happy to let the foster family adopt the dog if you decided after a little while that it was the right dog for you. I’m involved in the animal rescue community in my area and I have seen numerous stories of “foster failures” (as animal rescuers call it when a foster family decides to keep the animal permanently). :slight_smile:

I totally hear you. That is exactly why I didn’t consider adopting the guide dog puppy I raised that failed guide dog college. The only reason he failed is that he had a habit of pooping on the sidewalk while “working.” He made a good family pet for someone else.

I eventually adopted a cat from a shelter and she turned out to be perfect. People sometimes say bad things about shelter animals, but my cat was in the shelter for 6 months and she couldn’t be a sweeter or more well-behaved pet.

Boxers are great dogs, but they require more exercise than Rachellelogram can give them. Unless she finds a particularly lazy boxer, which is certainly a possibility, she’d need to be prepared to commit at least twice as much time to walking one, with additional visits to dog parks and such.

Greyhound is a good recommendation. Bulldog could work as well, since they satisfy all the criteria, but they’re prone to health issues. A pug (as well as most pug crossbreeds) would make a good candidate. Puggles are adorable. Puggats are awesome.