Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Why you shouldn't get a dog

This a public-service announcement to my large and growing group of friends who are settling down and now thinking about getting a puppy.  To those who have already gotten a puppy--sorry this is too late!  (Although I doubt I would have dissuaded you anyway).

To the others:

Ever since you graduated high school and left behind your family dog, you have wanted a dog again.  A puppy, with that milky smell and the too-big paws and its earnest eagerness.  I understand.  Here you are, with your new partner/boyfriend/husband/girlfriend/wife, settled in your new place.  You make dinners together and look around at your new place and think "the only thing missing is a wagging tail."

Please think again.

It may not seem like it right now, but in just a few short years (or less!) you will be thinking about having a baby.  No big deal, right?  Dogs can get used to having a baby around.  I even wrote about it here!

Yes, but.
Your life will be full enough, no dog needed!

Having a child is wonderful, precious, life-altering--and also, as you may have heard, it is an ungodly amount of work.

Most of the women I know are going to go back to work after having had a baby.  There will be a lot to do around the house.  The LAST thing you will want to do is walk your dog.  The second-to-last thing you will want to do is groom your dog.  The third-to-last thing you will want to do is feed your dog.  And because you will spend hours cuddling your adorable baby every day?  You will never, ever want to cuddle your dog.  

I'm sure that at some point, in about 10 years, when all of our children have grown out of babyhood, it will be nice to have a dog again.  The kids will want to play with them, and walk them.  It'll be great.  Too bad by then our dogs will be old and decrepit and gray around the snout.

As it is, if I could wave a magic wand and, in the most humane possible way, my dogs would disappear? (Preferably to a large partially-wooded farm where they would chase rabbits all day and then curl up in the evening by the farmhouse hearth).  I would do it in a millisecond.

So please, think very carefully before you get a dog.  Sure, it seems like a great way to "practice" having a baby.  But to use a passé SAT analogy:  the work of a dog is to the work of a baby as boiling water is to cooking a 14-course meal.  They are not, in fact, comparable.  It is hard enough to be a good working parent; the extra obligation of caring for an animal will quickly become tiresome.

If you also have a dog (or dogs!) and a baby, please feel free to chime in with all the other ways in which this complicates your life.  I can think of a few more off the top of my head:
--even harder to get away for a weekend
--tough to find a car that fits carseat, stroller, and dog safely
--babies are expensive and you will not want to spend money on the dog-walkers and groomers which will suddenly be necessary now that you don't have time to do it yourself
--crawling babies necessitate a very clean floor, which is difficult with a dog,
etc., etc., etc.

(Please note that I think the situation could be different if you're planning to be a stay-at-home parent. Although that is a TON of work, the extra work of caring for a dog might in that case be worth having the extra companionship at home with you.  Maybe).


  1. Holy crap, Derek and I have been having this argument for like 2 years now. I have to admit I have been team puppy. I guess I need to get a grip on myself, huh?

  2. This is the most ridiculous thing I've ever read. My friend recommended this blog to me so I subscribed. I am unsubscribing immediately. I have a dog and a four month old daughter. I still love my dog just as much now as I did before my daughter arrived. If you don't love your dog after your baby is born, you probably didn't love it very much before. My dog is not a burden at all. Readers: Please do not let this blogger discourage you from getting a dog. If you want to get a dog, go ahead and get one. This blogger probably just hates dogs. There are many homeless dogs that need new homes. If you have the ability to do so (and want one), please do. It doesn't complicate our lives in the way this blogger describes.

  3. I'm thrilled that your life has expanded to fit a baby and a dog comfortably! That's great. I think you are somewhat exceptional, in fact! My understanding is that moving and having kids are two of the most common reasons people end up giving up their dogs for adoption. Now, I would not consider putting my dogs up for adoption (in fact, we adopted them both as strays, like you), but I think that in general people might not think carefully enough about the work involved not just in taking care of a dog, but eventually, down the line, the work involved in taking care of a baby, too. My experience is that after having a baby, our dogs have, in fact, become a burden. They're well cared for, and we did love them very much before and are still fond of them, but we just have limited time for everything, and I find myself feeling guilty that they don't get the daily hour at the dog park, etc. anymore. I'm sure we can both agree that it would be better if people put more thought into the commitment involved before getting a dog, so that fewer ended up in shelters to begin with!

  4. I have consistently, throughout my life and to this day, been more attracted to and had more instinctive maternal feelings for animals than for babies and children. I"m hoping some good ol' human hormones are gonna kick in when I need them, or I may end up negotiating with you to trade our baby for your dogs :-) Takes all kinds I guess.

  5. I resent the assumption, "in just a few short years (or less!) you will be thinking about having a baby." Child-bearing is not (and should not be) a part of everyone's life plan.

    Let's remember that from the dog's point of view, this post would be called "Why you shouldn't have a baby."

    I do agree that people planning to breed in the near future should think twice about adopting a dog. However, I'm sure your dogs' lives are much better than the euthanasia they may have faced had they not been adopted.

  6. Good heavens. RS is addressing this post to her many yuppie friends like me who are discussing getting a dog and who, for the most part, are also interested in having children some day and in work/family issues. She is sharing her personal experience. And while some people end up loving dogs AND babies together, as her story demonstrates, others do not, and the whole point is you might not know beforehand. Obviously, RS would not have wanted to get dogs just so she could not want to cuddle them. And to the last commenter: if you are not interested in having a baby, you are probably not the target audience of this blog, which generally deals with how to, you know, do that.

  7. This post was very timely. I was just musing about how much easier it would be to clean up after a toddler's dinner or snacks if we had a dog. I hadn't really thought about the downsides... I have to admit our cat does not get the attention she used to.

  8. Interesting post. I felt exactly this way for about the first 12 months of my baby's life (isn't that about how old Jo was when you wrote this post? :)) But now I actually disagree with you! My baby (toddler) is 14months and I work full time, and I have a small dog. First of all, let me say that I think a small dog is a lot easier than a big dog, and of course way easier than 2 dogs, so I think your situation is harder than mine.

    But I'm now in love with my dog again. Ever since baby started walking, the baby and dog play together, and it's adorable! Baby throws dog's toy, dog fetches, dog and baby cuddle on dog's bed, etc. My toddler gets bored very easily these days, and the dog definitely entertains him. Same goes for the baby entertaining the dog sometimes.

    Dog cleans up baby's INSANE amount of food on the floor after EVERY single meal, which is seriously a godsend. We don't walk the dog as much as we should, but I'm often happy for him to force us to get a little exercise in this insanely busy new life, when we otherwise don't exercise at all.

    You mention germs and needing a clean floor. I disagree -- germs are good for babies to be exposed to. Germs in general, plus there's some evidence that babies in homes with pets have fewer allergies later in life.

    I agree it's a pain to deal with traveling with dog and baby, definitely overnight, even on day trips. I sometimes choose a park that is no-dogs-allowed but better for baby, and feel guilty. For multi-day travel, we've found friends that like to dogsit, so that works well.

    I'm sure I'm forgetting things, but let me conclude by respectfully disagreeing, and suggesting that you will change your mind sooner than 10 years from now! :) Pre-parental dog-lovers, don't give up hope. Maybe just start with one small dog, and tell him to bear with you during year 1 of baby's life.