How much time does a dog need?
On average, you can expect to spend at a minimum, 1 - 2 hours each day on providing dedicated attention for your dog. This can be in the form of a walk, play, enrichment activities, training or general cuddle time.Dogs are pack animals so most of them love attention and company. How much attention and time a dog needs is determined by the breed and training the dog has. For example, high energy breeds like Border Collies would require more time and energy then a Maltese.
Read on for tips on how to plan the amount of time needed to take care of a dog, the factors you need to consider and how to prepare your dog for being alone.
How to determine how much time a dog needs
A puppy or an older dog?
Of course, it's very exciting to bring a puppy into your home! But those irresistible fluffies do turn your life upside down. You can almost compare the work and attention involved in caring for an 8-week old puppy to looking after a human baby. Puppies play, eat, sleep, explore, chew - and that goes on and on (and on!) throughout the day so they need constant supervision.
The first year of a puppy's life is also the most important. This is the time where they are learning how to experience the world, how to behave in it and also how to be alone. So you can expect to spend more time during this first year on training, play-time, enrichment and supervision. If possible, take some time off from work for the first 3 to 6 weeks, or arrange for a pet sitter to be around to keep your puppy company.
An older dog generally requires less intensive care than a young, active dog. Most will be confident enough to be left alone for periods of time and can be quite content spending the day napping. Depending on the breed and age, they might also just be happy with a nice walk each day or some cuddle time on the couch.
But they may also require different attention: some dogs need more affection or medical care as they age. Dogs with an unclear history, such as shelter dogs, can also have problems with separation anxiety, fear or other behavioural problems. Think carefully about what would fit into your life: do you enjoy spending times outdoors and being active every day? Or do you prefer a quiet walk and lots of cuddling on the couch? Then choose the dog that suits your character and lifestyle.
Breed and character
Each individual dog is different, but characteristics between breeds can vary considerably. Labradors or Maltese, for example, are often friendly family dogs. Kelpies or Border Collies need more stimulation and training time. A busy family with young children may do better with a dog that is easy to train and friendly with kids and other pets. Maybe you live on your own, are an experienced dog owner and would be comfortable with a dog that is very owner-oriented. In that case, you might choose a dog that you can spend a lot of time training and playing with, and really build a special bond and a beautiful life together.
Take the time to do some research on different breeds. Of course, you can also go for a mixed breed pooch from a shelter or a rescue centre. Mixed breeds can be very fun, friendly and healthy dogs - plus, you know you will be saving a precious life! However, your dog's character traits might be a little trickier to predict than with recognised breeds, so do your research. And always sure you get your dog from a reliable pet shelter or breeder.
Also, if you want to become a dog sitter, think about what kind of dog breeds and personality are a great match for your situation. If you have a Pawshake profile, you can indicate whether you accept small dogs, male or female dogs etc.
How long can a dog be alone?
This is something every pet parent has to consider. Obviously, this will differ between individual dogs and dog breeds. Some dogs start to feel anxious after only two minutes without their owners, other dogs can quite happily be alone for 5 hours without chewing on shoes or messing up the house. However, bear in mind that most dogs are not happy to be alone at all. Dogs want to please and aren't quick to complain, so even if a dog seems happy alone, they may still feel miserable and eventually end up being depressed and lonely.
In any case, every dog should have the proper training to stay alone. You can slowly build up the alone-time from 5 minutes to an hour and gradually up until 3-4 hours. Really take the time for this process: in fact, your dog shouldn't be left alone at all during the first 2-3 months of ownership. In more severe cases of your dog not coping with being alone, you can read up on how you deal with separation anxiety here.
Can you combine full time work and a dog?
Yes of course you can! It may seem impossible to have enough time for a dog when you work full-time. Nevertheless, it is still possible in many situations. Talk with your workplace about your plans of having a dog. Can you make agreements about working from home or flexible hours? Maybe it is even possible to take the dog to work?
Pets at work improve social connections, increase productivity and reduce stress. How could any employer resist that? Of course, not every work environment is suitable for dogs. Plus, not all employers and colleagues are as fond of dogs as others (think of allergies, genuine fear of dogs, etc). Also, some dogs don't like being around 'new people' at all. Regardless, have a chat with your employer and colleagues about your plans. This will help you plan and discuss the support you will have in your new life as a dog-parent.
Alternatively, if your workplace is not flexible about this, many other options also exist. Consider doggy day care, dog walkers or getting a pet sitter to do a home visit. On Pawshake we have many pet sitters who are experienced with taking care of many types of dogs. Many are vet nurses, dog trainers and experienced rescue carers so you can search and find a pet sitter that would be the best fit for your dog.
Do you have back-up support for your dog?
Even if you're really motivated, it's an illusion that you can always provide 100% care for your dog 24/7. Situations will sometimes come up where you need a hand taking care of your dog. Think of hospital visits, weddings and parties where dogs aren't welcome, or just holidays and work. Provide a few good backup carers from early on. Ask your friends, family and neighbours if they're interested in looking after your dog every once in a while. It really gives peace of mind to have a second home in your address book with people you trust. Of course, you can always find a pet sitter online in your area via Pawshake.
With proper care, you can prevent problem behaviour in your dog such as boredom, aggression, and even depression. If your dog gets enough exercise, structure, love and stimulation, they will be quiet, healthy and easy going. In short, you will have a best friend for life!