Dear PoPville – Advice on getting a Dog and more specifically walking the Dog

Photo by PoPville flickr user Brandon Kopp

“Dear PoPville,

Thinking about getting a dog. How do people deal with a dog’s walking/pooping needs when everyone in the house works? Dog-walkers? Let them out in the yard during the day (what about winter)? Walk first thing in the morning and right after work? I’ve never understood how the logistics work. Advice from PoP readers? Our family is in Petworth, parents plus 8-year-old daughter.”

80 Comment

  • If it’s a puppy, the rule is the number of months old they are is the number of hours they can go without a potty break (so 4 months old = 4 hours). When our dog was younger, we had a walker come twice a day. Once she hit a year, we did once a day. We took her out in the morning and again at night. She is super high energy though. We tried daycare for her, but she hated it. Now we send her to K9 Divine three days a week – it’s a daycare out on a farm in MD. They pick her up and bring her home. It makes her energy levels much more manageable, plus they post cute pictures on facebook. The other two days she stays inside all day – we take her out around 8am for a walk and then again when we get home around 7.

    • Oh, I should point out the 17 acre farm daycare with pick up and drop off comes to the same price as a 45 minute walk – so it’s a steal!

  • A lot of this depends on the individual dog, age, needs, etc. I have a dog who is almost three but adopted her when she was a puppy. I had flexibility with work when I first got her and was potty training her but transitioned to a dog walker. Younger dogs have smaller bladders and need more frequent breaks, so she got two mid-day breaks while I was at work, eventually transitioning to one.

    With adult dogs, I have friends who do and don’t have a walker. Some dogs are fine going up to 9 hours without a break. Personally, I like having a walker – good for my dog to have attention during the day and it gives me flexibility should I have somewhere to go after work.

    I highly recommend Fetch! Pet Care (franchised business). I used them in Silver Spring and now in Petworth. Having a service that has multiple walkers is great, as there’s always a backup if someone is on vacation, sick, etc.

    Hope you find the perfect match for your family and choose to adopt!

  • Doggie Daycare is a good option; not only will you have somewhere to take your dog so they can go to the bathroom, but they also get socialized and let out a bunch of energy. We take our dog to Wagtime (the one by the convention center) and she loves it.

    But keep in mind that it IS an added expense– of about $30-$35/day. Dog walkers are usually significantly less expensive. Most of the dog trainers, pet stores, or doggie daycare facilities can help you find a good walker.

  • Walking during the day isn’t just about a potty break. Also important for exercise and socializing/assimilating to the area and getting the dog used to the neighborhood. Our dog could probably go all day but we have a walker because it’s good for her on many fronts.

  • We take our dog for a long walk/play session first thing in the morning, and as soon as we get homes she goes out. I would recommend getting a dog walker. Most folks I know have a dog walker at least 1-2x, some 3x a week. We are fortunate that our doorman will do walk our dog a couple time daily for a very reasonable rate.

    • We also will do doggie daycare sometimes if our schedule is really hectic and requires early mornings or late evenings. It’s also good to do it just for socialization and to get out some energy! Our puppy also loves wagtime.

  • We got a puppy in November. I think it really depends on your circumstances and how old the dog that you are bringing home is. As a puppy, she really needed to go out at LEAST four times between 8am and 7pm. So we had a dog walker come twice during the day and then one of us would leave for work a little later and one would come home a little early. Now that she’s a bit older (6 months) we alternate between dropping her at daycare for the day (wagtime on 9th, they are great) and having a dog walker come once. For reference, the dog walker is $15 a walk and daycare is $26 a day. If you have a puppy, be ready for a whole lot of work for the first few months. The rule of the thumb is that they can hold their bladder for about their month in age (so for a two month old puppy, they need to be going out every two hours).

  • really depends: how old/continent is the dog? do you have a yard where you feel comfortable having a doggie door (some come with a collar so it only opens for your dog, not a burglar or other animals)? What does your kid do after school? Growing up, my mom worked close to home, so she could walk the dog til 8:30 and a kid was off the school bus by 3 to walk him again. It worked out fine, but your kid has to be home and able to pitch in.

    The breed and personality of the dog is huge. Many shih tzus are perfectly happy to lay around on the couch all day, but a sheepdog, for example, would not be practical without a ton of exercise. How long are you willing to commit to walking/running/playing fetch with the dog each day?

    I always thought of myself as a dog person, but without a yard and when working full-time, I am so glad to have cats instead.

  • My husband and I both work 8AM-6PMish, so we walk our dog around 7AM, then a dog walker comes in around noon (found her on Yelp), then we walk him again around 8PM. He sometimes also gets a walk around 6PM when we get home from work.

    Before you get a dog, I would call around to a few dog walkers in your neighborhood (if you choose to go that route) and check their availability. We live on Capitol Hill and there was a waitlist on almost ALL of the dog walkers in the area. It’s like trying to find daycare in DC!

    Prices tend to range a lot for dog walkers. I found they range from $10-$17/walk. Also, it depends if you want a pack walk or a private walk.

    Our neighbors don’t have a dog walker and just walk their dog early in the morning, then again when they get home, then once before bed. However, some dogs cannot hold it that long, so it depends on your dog.

    Hope this helps!

  • If you can, it’s best to adopt a dog during a time when you’ll be home for an extended length of time (ideally at least a week, but that’s not always feasible, but it’s great to at least have a few days to allow the dog to acclimate to you and your home–this can help to prevent anxiety-related issues once you start leaving the little fella home alone when you’re at work).

    The old yarn is that “a tired dog is a good dog,” and I’ve found that to be 100% true. Walks are wonderful for physically and mentally tiring your dog out, and you’ll quickly get used to including lengthy walks into your routine. At a minimum, you’ll need to walk your dog in the morning, mid-day, and in the afternoon/evening, but the length of the walk and whether you’ll need to walk more frequently depends on the dog’s energy level. My dog is a quite large, nine-year-old German shepherd/husky mix, and we walk from 40 minutes to an hour every morning, depending on the weather and how long he want to be out, then we spend 30 minutes in the dog park during lunch (I go home, but have also used dog-walkers), then we go out again for another 40 minutes to an hour when I get home from work. When he was younger, I would also take him out to quickly pee right before I left for work and give him another quick pee break before bed, but he’s not particularly interested in the extras as he’s gotten older. Make sure to get a good-fitting harness for your dog for walks. Harnesses are the absolute best and most humane way to control your dog on walk (choke and prong collars can crush your dog’s trachea and/or injure his skin).

    There are tons of options for dog-walkers in the D.C area, and you can set up meetings with a few candidates who can meet you and your dog before you make a decision on who to hire. There are also lots of doggy day-care options in D.C., and depending on your dog, that may be a good option, too (or you could do one day a week at day care for a treat, or something too). Those situations can be frightening or overwhelming for some dogs, though, so aren’t for everyone.

    While I’m here, I have to stress the importance of adopting, rather than buying, your dog. 30 million dogs and cats are euthanized in shelters each year because , and as long as there are animals dying, there is no excuse for supporting breeders who continue to bring more animals into the world. Purebred and so-called “hypoallergenic” dogs abound in animal shelters, and because animal shelters have a vested interested in finding a forever home for dogs in their care, they’ll work to find the dog who best fits with your family’s lifestyle, and are always there for support as you bring your dog home and acclimate to your new life together. The Washington Humane Society and The Washington Animal Rescue League are both stellar places to adopt a new companion for your family. Good luck!

    • Why do you state personal opinions as absolute fact?
      “At a minimum, you’ll need to walk your dog in the morning, mid-day, and in the afternoon/evening.” Actually, no. I also have a large German shepherd/husky mix and he’s fine being home all day without a walk.
      “Harnesses are the absolute best and most humane way to control your dog on walk (choke and prong collars can crush your dog’s trachea and/or injure his skin).” Again, no. Choke collars aren’t great, but prong collars are quite humane. Do a little research before making absolute statements. For example:

      • I took a humane society class on leash skills, and they said that a harness is the absolute worst for control.

      • How about I just advise that the reader consult her veterinarian about the appropriate collar? Any reputable humane organization will tell you to avoid prong or choke collars (and that dogs should go out at least 3 times per day). Aversive tools are inhumane. Walking my dog (who weighs 105 lbs) was a nightmare until I got a harness (I used the Gentle Leader for a short time, too, but he hated it).

        • Prong collars are meant to be used as a training tool. They require that the trainer knows what they are doing. I 100% agree that in the wrong hands they can be harmful to the dog.
          My dog also responds better to a harness (100 lb rottweiler mix).
          Obviously, all dogs are different, and sometimes you need to try a few different collars till you find one that works.

      • It baffles me how so many educated people use/defend prong collars. Just because someone tells you it’s humane doesn’t make it humane (and I know you will say it goes the other way too). I would suggest you spend some time actually leash training your dog using positive reinforcement instead of using a device that scares/hurts them into complying with you. Yes it’s much more difficult and time consuming but it makes for a happier dog and a better human/dog relationship.
        Oh, and I’ve volunteered with rescue and aggressive dog rehabilitation for the past 5 years. Many of the dogs we have coming to us were formerly on prongs…

  • Adopting a dog was the best decision I’ve ever made. Good or bad…the majority of my life revolves around my pup’s schedule…..and I’m totally 100% fine with it. I live in Petworth also and do a mile walk before and after work. I use Anytime K9’s dog walking service during the weekdays…they are amazing and my pup loves them. On occasion I’ll take my pup to the dog park on Allison and Arkansas…but only on off-peak hours because she’s easily overwhelmed with other dogs.

    Aside from the unconditional love a dog will offer you, I’ve met a lot of my neighbors just walking around…and am constantly reminded of Petworth and DC’s beauty.

    PS – go to the Washington Humane Society…they’re great people and do good work…and (sadly) have so many dogs in need of a home.

  • Emmaleigh504

    I have no advice, that that is the cutest dog ever in the picture!

  • dcgator

    Rave: unintentional early Afternoon Animal Fix!

  • Home Buddies DC (outsanding dog walking / sitting service)

  • I work 830-4 every day. I have two dogs. We go out around 730 just around the block for a pee and poop, 4:30 for a long walk either in rock Creek or to the dog park (or just around the neighborhood). Then out for a pee before bed. They do fine with it, in fact I used to work from home every day and they actually seemed annoyed when we would go out during the early afternoon, like I was disturbing their sleep time 😉

  • When I had a yard, I installed a doggie-door, which was great for when I was at work or in the middle of the night – Even in the dead of Winter they would go out whenever they needed too. We’d also have a long walk around the neighborhood when I returned from work (and also paid a kid around the corner to do it occasionally)

    Now that I am in an Apt, I do a walker once a day and mix that up with Daycare every other day. We take other walks as soon as we get up, when I get home from work, and right before bed. My dog is now 14 and this schedule seems to work great.

    • I’m curious about the people who let their dogs go in the yard. How often do you pick up the poop? And doesn’t the yard reek of pee? If I let my dogs go out there once or twice a week the pee smell gets really bad, so it’s something I do only in emergencies.

      • I think it depends on the size of your yard. I let my dogs out in the morning and evening every day. I also play with them in the yard. We have a bigger than average city yard, so that could make a difference.
        I pickup at least once a day, sometimes more if necessary. I’ve never had a problem with it smelling bad, though I am pretty much unable to grow grass anymore. I have found other more hardy ground covers that work better.

  • I walk mine right before I leave for work and right when I get home. It’s usually about 9-10 hours that he’s home alone. He does fine, but he’s about seven years old and is extremely laid back. Other people in my building have a dog walker who comes mid-day.
    If you haven’t had a dog before, a puppy can be a lot to handle. I’d recommend going to a few shelters and seeing if you can find a dog that’s a year or two old.

  • I love my shelter dog! Number one suggestions I would have is to get a dog, not a puppy, if you both work. Puppies need to pee frequently during the day. With a large dog, their bladders are bigger so there’s a little more wiggle room. We walk ours around 7:30 in the am and around 6:30 in the evening and a run-out before bed.

  • houseintherear

    I think people tend to feel too guilty about leaving a dog home all day. I started doing this for about 9-10 hours per day when my dog was 3. He has never once had an accident in the house, and the one time I set up a webcam to watch him he slept those entire 9-10 hours with a water break here and there. He didn’t sit at the window watching for me, which is what I was afraid was happening. I think what’s most important is establishing a routine, and exercising the dog a lot when you are at home. Long walks, even leisurely ones, get the dog out of the house and bond him with his human. When you leave for the day, set the dog up with an awesome situation. A special bed that is only out when he is home alone, and a Kong filled with frozen peanut butter and treats, and maybe a special toy. I do a “get on your chair” routine, with lots of petting and praise and a treat every morning. The key is working to not have a dog who is anxious when he is alone. Crate training is super great for this because they learn to take ownership over their space, and soon enough they treat the entire house as a special space.
    All that said, a dog-walker is always great, especially if they take the time to get to know your dog and his quirks. I use Bloomingdogs and they are wonderful and understanding, even with my cranky terrier who is quite particular about… well, everything. I do two walks a week, 1/2 hour each, on the days when I work a bit longer than normal.

  • I have two small terriers. I take them for a 10 minute walk before I leave for work in the morning, and another walk when I get home 9 hours later. The afternoon walk might be longer, but there are some days when that one’s only 10 minutes too (especially this week, the pups hate the rain even more than I do). They seem fine with this arrangement, but they’re adults and not a high-energy breed.

    • I should also add that even my light dog walking schedule requires some diligence on my part (e.g. I can’t go straight to happy hour after work, spend the night at someone’s house, work late, etc). If I had a more demanding job or didn’t work so close to home I’d probably have a dog walker on hand.

  • During the puppy months it’s a full time job! I have a job with summers off so I could be home and take care of her/let her out all the time. After about 8-9 months I was finally able to leave her in the crate for most of the work day. Once she hit 1 year I left her out of the crate with run of the house all day while I was at work. Now our routine is out/brief walk in the morning before work then a longer walk with a trip to the dog park after work. She’s super well-trained, though, so I really lucked out in that regard. She’s also very subdued and low-energy which is a plus when it comes to working during the day.

    It really depends on the breed/age/temperament of the dog when it comes to logistics. If you’re looking for a dog that can stay at home during the day while you work I’d recommend adopting one that’s 1-2 and that’s already housebroken, with a good temperament. Dealing with a puppy while you work is next to impossible unless you can make it home throughout the day!

    My pup has been the greatest addition to my life, so if you think there’s a way you guys can swing it, I absolutely think you should! Good luck!

  • the best advice is to be consistent. I work evenings, and long hours on weekends so doggy day care isn’t really an option… but I feed my pup twice a day, with routine walks (and extra play time outside when I am not working) and he’s totally great with his potty training.

    had him for almost three years now, with only one issue when he was sick. he’s about 15 pounds, 3.5 years old

  • Please do NOT leave your dog in the yard during the day while you are at work. This is stupid (given enough time almost any dog can escape from almost any yard, and most will) and in some circumstances illegal.
    Most dogs need to use the bathroom during work hours, as do most people. Others *can* hold it, but might be uncomfortable for them. So you will likely need a walker/daycare. These services range from roughly $300-$700+ a month in the city.

    • + a million on not leaving your dog in your yard unsupervised. Not only can he potentially hurt himself or escape, he can become a nuisance to neighbors if he barks constantly and even worse, become a target for potential theft or harassment.
      By the way, that goes for leaving your dog tied up outside the grocery store or coffee shop while you run in. Someone’s dog was stolen from in front of the P St Whole Foods a few years ago- it can happen anywhere.

  • While my wife and I mostly work 9-5, our beagle is able to hold it while we’re at work. I let him out in the backyard first thing in the morning, walk him when I get home from work (my wife usually beats me home and lets him out in the backyard), and then usually another one or two times again later in the evening. He’s also an older dog so he doesn’t care to go on long walks.

  • We have a two-year-old dog. When we got her, she was 14 weeks and needed to go out every 2 hours. Luckily I have an office where I can bring her in to work, so she came with me the first three months or so. Now we have a dog walker who comes once a day to give her a “social” walk, where she walks with a bunch of other dogs. We let her out first thing in the morning, once when one of us comes home from work, and once last thing at night (around 11).

    When they are still really little, before they get all their shots, they can’t interact with other dogs because they don’t have immunity. In DC, there is a high risk of Leptospirosis, so they also shouldn’t be in parks. This can cramp your style a little if you don’t want to take risks. Also, when they are going through adolescence (for us this was 6-7 months) they have A LOT of energy. We could walk her for an hour and not tire her out, but long walks definitely prevented destructive chewing. +1 on the comment above that says to tire them out.

    One of the best things we did was crate train her. She LOVE the crate – sees it as her safe space – and happily trots in there when we leave her for long periods of time. It seems cruel if you haven’t had animals before, but it prevents a lot of anxiety/destructiveness. The other best thing we did was teach her how to ring a bell when she needs to go out (do this after you housebreak them and they understand the outside-is-the-bathroom concept). It’s just a little christmas bell hung on our doorknob from a ribbon, but as we live in a condo and she was struggling to find a signal, it’s been amazing. We found instructions on google.

    Finally, BE STRICT when they are young. Dogs thrive on social order, and knowing that you are the pack leader (and not them) means they listen to you and trust you their whole lives. It really cuts down on their stress and makes them better behaved. I felt like I was always yelling at ours when she was little, but now she is SO well behaved, knows all the rules, never growls (unless she gets carried away at play), doesn’t chew shoes/furniture, and isn’t territorial (I say this knowing she will probably have disemboweled a toy now when I get home).

    • Good advice on the crate training. If it’s a wire crate, cover it with a blanket or towel. My dog also loved her crate. We rarely closed the door on it after she was housebroken, but kept it as her “refuge.”
      Also good advice about being strict. A good bit of advice is “Don’t let your puppy do anything you don’t want your grown dog to do.” While it’s cute when your puppy jumps up on anyone who comes to visit, for example, that is really not cute when it’s an adult dog (of any size), so you need to teach them not to.

      • We keep our dogs’ crates open during the day but give them the freedom to roam the kitchen if they want. I’ve never seen any evidence that they do anything but sleep in their crates all day. They love them. Sometimes a crate door will accidentally get closed and I’ll come home to pee on the floor and an anxious dog trying to get in.

        • I discovered that a clothespin to keep the door in open position keeps the dog from locking herself out of the crate!

    • I also am a big fan of crate training. My dog loves hers (usually goes there before I’m ready to leave for work). I have it covered on all sides but the front, but will cover that at night (as a result, she sleeps solidly and is still snoozing when I come and get her).

      Using the bells is great, as well. We no longer use them but they are handy…especially if you live in a high rise (as I did until last year).

  • Holy s***, this reminds me why I don’t have a dog. I don’t know how people have enough money and time to deal with one!

    • ‘Deal with one’? I’m sorry you see it that way. We have two dogs and they have brought more joy to our lives than I can explain. If you’re smart about it, caring for a dog doesn’t drain your pocketbook. The best time in my family’s day is spent with our dogs. They’re anything but a financial nuisance and/or time constraint.

      • Someone quoted dog walking as costing $400-700 a month. You’ve gotta be pretty rich for that to not be a drain on your pocketbook.

        • Dog walking is about $300 (20 work days a month at about $15 per walk). Day care is about $30-35 per day most places, so that’s where the upper limit of $700 came from. Yeah, no question that it’s expensive. And food, medicine, veterinary care, and other miscellaneous expenses average at least another $100 a month.

        • We budget $150/month on our two spoiled hound dogs, which includes their pet insurance premium.

          • I spend about that as well on my two (large) dogs. That includes premium kibble, pet insurance, any meds they need, toys and treats. It does not include pet sitting or routine vet care- those are extra costs. We don’t have a dog walker since I have a flexible schedule and am able to do it myself.

    • My dog is so important for my mental health. Unconditional love + a wiggly butt = a powerful combo. If I didn’t have him, I bet I’d easily spend that much on a shrink and still be less happy!

    • Replace “dog” with “kid” and you get how I feel. It’s not for everyone, but I’m not one to begrudge others for their life choices.

  • If it’s an adult dog, it depends on the length of your day and the energy level of your dog. Our lab mix is a little over a year and we adopted her from a shelter when she was between 9-12 months. She’s adorable but she’s got a much higher energy level than we had hoped for or expected. Therefore, our routine is: one 20-30 minute morning walk around 7:30, then she’s out of the crate until 9 or so when the last one of us leaves the house. Dog walker comes around 2 and takes her out anywhere between 15-30 mins for exercise/attention more than pee break. The first one of us who is home (between 6:30 and 7 or so) takes her out for a long play session in a nearby park. Because she’s fine off-leash as long as we have toys in hand, we throw a frisbee, tennis balls, etc to get her sprinting and burning off energy. Depending on her energy level, we usually have her outside between 30 mins and an hour, running the whole time. Or we take her to a dog park where she’s wrestling with other dogs for 30 mins to an hour. If the weather is terrible we will take her on a quick walk after work but she is usually climbing the walls in our house afterwards without getting to run around. Then one of us usually takes her out quickly before we go to bed (11 or so). It’s a huge time commitment — we love her and would never give her back but it’s a lot more than we had expected. She really can’t go a day without hard exercise. Doggy daycare is also a great option that completely wipes her out but it’s pricey and a little inconvenient because you have to take and pick up the dog.

  • I have a 6-yr old, 25 lb terrier. When he was a puppy, he needed to go out every 2 hours and had boundless energy! Now, he only needs a morning and evening restroom break and a nightly stroll for exercise. Even when I work from home, he just sleeps on the couch most of the day! LONG STORY SHORT, THE OLDER THE DOG, THE LESS FREQUENT ATTENTION IT NEEDS.

  • anonymouse_dianne

    Today’s WaPo Crossword puzzle 1 across 5 letter word “Take home from the shelter” Love it! Highly recommend Zoolatry for mid-day dog walker. Ultra responsible and nice to the pups.

  • 3:25 poster here again. I would also add that if you’re worried about time, get an older dog and preferably one who already knows basic commands. Or spend some time and money immediately up front on dog training. When you can get your dog behaving the way you want her to, it’s a lot easier on the day-to-day stuff. On the point about leaving the dog outside, we don’t do it unless she’s reasonably supervised (i.e., I’m in the house and keep walking out to the deck every 10 mins or so to make sure she’s not getting into trouble). Otherwise she could start digging in the yard, chewing on the wood fence, eating grass/plants/other non-food items. I wouldn’t recommend leaving a dog outside unattended or giving the dog unrestricted access to the outdoors for long periods of time until you really trust the dog. She could be a danger to herself and others. Same goes with leaving a dog uncrated during the day. If you’re worried about leaving your dog indoors or in a crate for long periods of time, remember that dogs sleep a lot more than humans do — like 14 hours a day.

    • +1000. Households with two working parents and children should probably never get puppies.

  • We have a beautiful 2-year old dog and he now sleeps approximately 20 hours a day and requires very little physical activity.

    AKA there is no “one-size-fits-all” advice so please weigh everyone’s advice here very carefully!

  • We adopted a 2 year old dog this past January, after sorting through costs, putting aside money, and thinking about it all in 2013. He was already house-trained (he had some regression) but we did take a week off to get him acclimated to his new home. We *may* have over-prepared… Walking and exercising your dog, like other commenters said, is going to be rather dependent on the age and the type. We have a slightly disabled bulldog who can’t walk very far – a few blocks at most, so exercise for him isn’t really necessary but taking him outside for the bathroom and sniffing activity is. He goes out in the early morning (6ish), early mid-day (11-1ish), early evening (5pm) and later at night before bed (10pm). He’s really high energy despite his health issues, so we have a dog walker (from Wagtime) who also walks him with other dogs at the same time (she picks him up last). This way, he’s part of a ‘pack’, get’s socialized, gets attention, but it doesn’t completely wear him out. She also leaves us notes in case something is amiss. In all honesty, the expenses haven’t been super terrible – our dogwalker is about $50 a week (but my partner is home at least one day a week). He’s been the greatest addition to our family and provides so much laughter!

  • I’ll echo the other comments that walks needed greatly depend on the age and personality of your dog. As a puppy, it was 20 min walk before work, dogwalker during lunch, after work 45-60 minutes of walking or dogpark and 5 minutes before bed. At 5 years old, it’s now 10 minutes before work, after work 30-60 minutes run or park, and 5 minutes before bed. I also highly recommend crate training and K9 Divine classes. My biggest piece of advice is to calmly and quietly leave and enter your home. Your dog will learn to stay relaxed rather than freaking out because it’s just another part of his/her routine. Also, WARL is a great shelter and good luck!

  • I wonder if fostering or dog sitting would be a good first step if nobody in the house has any experience with the day-to-day issues of having a dog. It might be a way of testing if it’s a responsibility and routine that will work for your family.

  • I just adopted a dog after thinking for months about many of your same questions. I ended up getting a 3-year-old rescue, and I take him out for a run before I leave for work every morning, a medium-length walk immediately after I get home every night, and a quick pee right before bed. He’s pretty low-energy so he seems to be fine with this level of activity. If you get a younger dog or one with a lot of energy, you will definitely need to make sure he gets out during the day with a dog walker or day care, but if you’re aiming to avoid the expense of a dog walker, here’s my advice:

    – Before look for a dog, spend a week arranging your schedule as if you had a dog to take care of to figure out if you’re really okay with the demands of getting up earlier every morning/being home every day right after work
    – Look for an older dog (3+)
    – Tell the adoption agency that you plan to be out of the house all day and see if they point you to any particular dogs
    – Spend the first couple of days at home with the dog to judge his bathroom and exercise needs
    – Make sure he has entertainment during the day — marrow bones, Kong toys, etc.

  • Bookmarking this post. Great suggestions.

  • I’d just like to put in a plug for adopting a “senior.” Especially if you do not have the time to potty train! There are so many wonderful older dogs out there (many have a lot of years ahead of them — a 7 or 8 year old may have another 7 or 8 to go) that get looked over, and they might be a better fit for your lifestyle. You could let WHS or WARL or Lucky Dog know that you are looking for a senior, and I would also recommend Susie’s Senior Dogs as a resource ( They tend to feature the most desperate situations, but if you email them and tell them what you are looking for generally and your area, they have a lot of contacts that could help land you an awesome little senior.

  • Congratulations!! What an exciting time. I highly recommend City Dogs Rescue. Check them out online or Facebook. I also recommend K9 Divine.

    I echo sentiments here – so much of everything depends on your schedule and the dog’s energy. First and foremost: dogs thrive on routine so the sooner you can set one for them the more easily they will adapt. Spend the extra dollars on doing a few (or more) training sessions. You’ll be happy you did. Don’t do it until you are absolutely ready. And lastly, when you do it, you won’t regret it. Dogs are incredible for so many reasons! 🙂

  • Please consider adopting – especially an older dog. It will be the best decision you’ll ever make. Puppies are extremely high maintenance. You’ll still need to figure out a walking schedule (before, during and after work), but older dogs are just easier going and they will be forever grateful that you rescued them.

  • Adopt a grown dog from a no-kill shelter and you won’t have to worry about the puppy issues! Both my small dogs are rescues, and we live in a dog-friendly apartment building in Petworth. The most important thing for them is to keep a consistent schedule. They know that they will go out around 8am and then get fed, that my roommate takes a break around 2 to walk them (that’s where a dog-walker might come in, lacking an awesome roommate) and I come home between 6-7 to walk them and feed them.

    There might be accidents to start with but once they have a basic schedule to count on, it’s smooth sailing. Plus rescue dogs (who were generally potty trained already) are so happy to be rescued — my 2nd one has never had an accident in the apartment. EVER.

    • I completely agree with adopting an older dog, but why do you specify a “no-kill” shelter? Dogs in kill shelters are just as much- if not more- in need. I would also add there is no such thing as 100% no-kill. Shelters classified as “no-kill” merely transfer dogs who need to be euthanized for behavior or health reasons to kill shelters. They do not, however, euthanize a healthy dog for space.

  • For anyone looking for a dog that doesn’t need to go out during the workday, my bf and I are fostering a gorgeous, super-sweet adult cocker spaniel named Leo. His bio and photos are here: Unfortunately, he’s not a good fit for the OP — he doesn’t like to be touched while he’s eating, so he needs a home without young kids — but I highly recommend him for any home where the youngest person is over 12, including single people who work 9-5. Contact me through the link on that page if you want to meet him!

  • I actually think you should consider not getting a dog if the dog is going to have to spend so much time alone. I know a lot of people will tell you, “Oh, I leave my dog home for nine hours, and he’s fine,” well, I’m not so sure they are looking at the situation from their dog’s point of view. A lot of people get dogs because they want to spend a few hours with them in the evening and on the weekend, but what about those long lonely hours of isolation that the dog has to experience every day with no one to interact with? And then at night, when everyone is asleep, there’s no interaction then, either. I don’t consider that a very good life for a dog. In my opinion, they shouldn’t be left alone during the day for more than four or five hours. Perhaps they CAN hold it longer, but why should they have to? Just so that we can have our cake and eat it, too? A dog is a living being who needs companionship and mental stimulation. Forcing them to spend so much time alone is also asking for bad behavior because dogs get frustrated and lonely. Please look at it from the dog’s point of view and ask yourself how you would feel.

    • Couldn’t agree with you more…

    • Dogs aren’t human for one, so putting our eyes into theres is quite different. True, as a puppy they need to have someone home all the time, or put into care, but as they get older they are OK. Opt for a puppy pee pad, rather than sticking them in a crate. Most sleep all day anyway.. Mine literally sleeps for more than half the day and goes to bed the same time I do. Shoot for taking them on 3-4 walks daily, including a few fetch play sessions and the dog will be fine.

    • I have a dog walker and agree with much of what you say, but past the age of 3 you would be amazed by just how much most dogs sleep during the day. I recently started working from home one day a week, and I’ve found that my pup (now 8) sleeps (and I mean out cold) for about 80 – 90% of the day. There are so many dogs that need homes — facing euthanasia and many living in a shelter for years — and many (not all, but many) would be happy to be yours, even if left alone for such a long stretch.

    • You don’t understand dogs very well. My dog sleeps probably 20+ hours a day. He usually sleeps in another room when I am at home. Some dogs don’t need, or want, constant attention and activity. Lots of breeds are pretty independent and do fine without having someone around all the time.

    • Some dogs get frustrated and lonely, but many do just fine being left alone for 8-9 hours at a time. Remember, dogs sleep a lot more than people do. Play with your dog when you’re home and take it for walks, and you’re generally doing great. Some dogs do have anxiety, but that’s absolutely case by case.

      • +1. If EVERYONE who works couldn’t get a dog, that would mean millions more dogs being euthanized every year. As long as the dog’s needs are being met and its happy and healthy I don’t see a problem with leaving them alone for the work day.

  • Just wanted to give another plug for Washington Animal Rescue League. They give a free training session when you adopt your pup, and you can sign up for more training after that. They do things like put the dog in a pretend living room and then report to you if they climb or chew on the furniture. There are also vet facilities right there so you know your pup will be healthy. We got our dog when he was 6 months – 1 year old. We both work and stagger our work hours a bit so he has about 8 hours alone in the house. It took some getting used to at first with a few destroyed pillows and shoes, but he’s used to the routine at this point and is an awesome part of the household.

    • WARL is awesome, AND they have a giant kitty room you can walk through when visiting.

  • Dogs are great! Lots of good adoption options listed so far, but I’ll also recommend Mutts Matters Rescue. They tend to get a lot of small dogs, and they’re really good about taking the time to understand every one of their fosters’ specific needs. They were able to pair us up with a little guy who fit our lifestyle really well.

    • I second that! I adopted my Bea from MMR in 2011, and they do a great job ensuring pups in need find loving homes.

  • epric002

    there’s a lot of great advice here. i highly recommend reading “inside of a dog”. my husband and i both grew up with dogs and a year and a half ago we adopted a 5+ year old corgi mix from lost dog & cat rescue foundation. she has added so much to our lives that we didn’t even know we were missing. we love her to the moon and back, and call me crazy, but at least weekly i promise to her that no one will ever hurt her again. that being said, getting a dog is a HUGE commitment- with time, money, and love. i also highly recommend getting an adult dog, unless you have the flexibility to deal with house training a puppy. that being said, not all adult dogs are house trained, so make sure you ask that question. we highly recommend getting a dog walker (or doing doggie daycare, if your dog likes that, ours doesn’t- too many dogs are overwhelming for her). yes, dogs *can* hold it for 8+ hours, but i don’t like doing that, so i don’t want to force my dog to do that every day. would also not recommend leaving your dog unsupervised in a yard for long periods. not only could the dog be destructive/bothersome, someone could take it or abuse it while you’re not there. you’ll also have to consider how your dog will do being alone. for the last 8 months we dogsat my brother’s beagle, and since he went back to him last week our dog has been quite depressed. we are planning on getting a foster dog soon, but we are honestly surprised how the separation has upset her. as for a schedule: she goes out in the backyard first thing in the morning; gets a short walk before we leave for work; gets a dogwalker mid-dayish walk; gets a long walk in the evening; and either a short walk or a backyard visit right before bed. and when the weather is nice, a run or a loooooong walk each weekend. think very seriously about how much time you want to spend exercising your dog. young dogs and certain breeds require a LOT of attention and exercise otherwise they can be quite destructive. invest in kongs, treat puzzles, look up things you can do to entertain your dog while you’re gone (hiding kibble/treats in the house for him to find). a tired dog is a happy dog, and a tired dog is not destructive. also- training treats are awesome. we buy them in bulk from amazon. finally- whoever suggested that you dogsit/foster first hit the nail on the head. if you’re not yet sure that you can commit to 10+ years with this animal, PLEASE be responsible and test it out first. and get your 8 year old involved with the dog- feeding, walking (if able), scooping poop, brushing, training, etc. good luck!

  • I’m the OP. I can’t thank everyone enough for all the thoughtful advice, I’ve read all the comments and will reread them. It really helps the decision process!

  • My advice: don’t get a puppy. Adopt an older dog (2-4 years old), who is house-trained. It’s definitely easier than having a puppy. And adopting a rescue is always a great idea. I adopted a 2-year-old chihuahua/corgi mix, and I can go 10 hours without breaking to go home. She sleeps all day; but I make sure she gets a big walk in the morning AND in the afternoon (when I get home from work). Some dogs are better with others when it comes to potty-traing. Best of luck! Please feel free to message me if you have additional questions. I volunteer with a local shelter.

  • Anastasia Beaverhausen

    First of all, good for you for considering all of these things BEFORE getting the dog!

    Honestly, I think it all depends on the dog. Some need a lot of exercise, others don’t. There’s really a wide range. For instance, I’ve noticed that my basenji may still have pent-up energy even after a long walk, so I take him to the dog park about every other day. He needs to be able to run really fast to get out all of his energy. Some dogs don’t do well in dog parks and need long walks.

    Whomever you get the dog from should want to know about your lifestyle and what kind of dog you want, and they will try to match you with an appropriate dog. With enough money there’s a resource for just about any issue you may encounter.

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