I run the risk of having parents up in arms about how I’ll outline the work it takes to own dogs, but pet ownership (specifically dogs here, not turtles, birds or cats, even) can be the transitional stage between being fully independent and having to care for something or others (parents and kids or masters and dogs). Of course, at the end of the day, I can’t seriously suggest that taking care of three dogs would come close to taking care of three crazy kids, like my mother did as a young single parent, not to mention the financial costs.
However, there are some benefits to raising kids as opposed to dogs — the cerebral development of kids and their ability to gain speech comes a long way when you begin to try to tell them what not to do years later. Heck, within a couple of years a kid actually begins communicating with you, which is great. But dogs, years later, after a long time of grooming the relationship, may just pivot their necks from side to side in a sort of recognition which we like to confuse with understanding. But that is another story.
Despite how easy it seems to just get a dog, and many of us do because they’re cute fur balls, especially as puppies (if I could bio-engineer a dog to always look and behave as a puppy that’d be great, minus the lack of learning and endless peeing everywhere), there’s work in it. Years into dog ownership, at some point, you’ll realize that it is in fact, work, and there is a cost to it, whether that is time and money, or the responsibility of caring for them.
Anyhow, for those considering dog ownership, here’s a list of the things I have to do every morning before work for the dog(s). Initially I thought to write a post of the work and cost of dog ownership in general, but I realize that is a longer conversation and this is only a part of it.
Let’s focus on the morning routine.
Let me preface this by saying that my apartment does not have a patio and we do not have a place to leave the dogs outdoors while we are away, so that complicates things. They are strictly indoor dogs.
My Morning Routine with Dog Ownership
- Remove beds from room. The dogs sleep in the room on their individual dog beds. The first thing to do when the process starts is that I remove the beds and their individual sheets (they have 1 each) out of the room and into the hallway outside of the room. If they were able to stay in the room while they are alone, one of them, specifically Chico who has tremendous hops for a mammal, will most likely be on the bed the whole day. So we take them out.
- Remove the rotating fan tower from the room and place it in the living room. Admittedly, this step could be avoided for some dog owners. In our case, we don’t have A/C conditioning in the unit, and we only have one fan tower. So because I like sleeping with the fan on during the night, and because I want to ventilate the living area for the dogs while they are alone, and because I can’t bring myself to validate the purchase of another fan, I move it back and forth to accomplish different purposes.
- Close the bedroom door. When I’m all done getting ready and have removed these items, the bedroom door is closed.
- Close the bathroom door. We also keep them away from the restroom. One of them, Tito, has history of going after toilet paper in some occasions. But more importantly, it is a good idea, in our case at least, to reasonably limit their space when alone. Every dog comes with his/her own behavior.
- Refill water. Whether they have finished the water from the bowl or not, I empty it. Before filling it with new, filtered water, I also add a splash of a water additive meant to help with bad breath and plaque. Sadly one of dogs had a recent and costly visit to the vet for teeth removal (and the other is not far off) in part because I didn’t take care of his teeth as well as I should’ve for the first few years of his life. The anti-plaque water additive is a small way of trying to ease future teeth issues and it helps against bad breath. It’s a daily task.
- Refill food bowls. We buy our pet food in Costco, and we have a bin, so we refill the bowls so that they have dry kibbles throughout the day.
- Place down training pads. The dogs are good at not having accidents in the unit since they are accustomed to the routine and their bowel movements happen at about the same time each day (before we leave and once we arrive), but we place training pads in the case that they need to go. I place either one or two in the same place each morning.
- Turn on the music. We leave them with the soothing sounds of Frank Sinatra or some other station from a free Pandora account or from the radio. This helps them have some noise and hopefully not be so aware of the external noises and distractions that may cause them to bark. We also like to think it helps them relax and hopefully rest and sleep more. So this step requires turning on the speakers we use, and setting up the small tablet that runs the Pandora. Sometimes the tablet doesn’t connect to the Wi-Fi, so it needs troubleshooting. Not the best thing when you’re rushing.
- Walk the dogs. At this point (I’m almost in the clear), they need to be walked so that they can both pee and poo before being left for the day. The walk generally takes 15 minutes around the neighborhood. They are both great at peeing right away since it’s the first time they get to go outside in the morning, but they are different when it comes to bowel movements. Tito (the Dachshund) is great as he is quick to go, but Chico requires more walking distance and more time to find a spot. Chico sniffs around patiently from one spot to the next and needs to walk a good amount before feeling the need to go. Sometimes, when running late, I have to make it a point and rush him to a spot or command him to poop right away. Most of the times it takes 10-15 minutes to do a loop with them and come around. Of course, the poop needs to be picked up twice since they rarely poop at the same time.
- Give them a morning treat. Upon coming back from the walk, I give them a small morning treat so that they have a snack and prepare to be home for a few hours.
- Attach barking collars. We try to limit the barking for the consideration of our neighbors, so we got them used to wearing barking collars when we are not home. They work well in that the dogs learn to recognize the signs that come before the correction, so the collars are effective in minimizing the barking. This is the one we bought on Amazon. The only downside is that the battery runs out every now and then, so it adds an extra cost when replacing.
- Adjust the camera. We have a home security camera that we use to keep an eye on the apartment and the dogs. Usually when we are home, this camera is turned away or put in a different position. So before leaving, I put the camera in the direction of the dog spaces to be able to monitor them while away.
- Closing demands. Before taking off for a few hours, I demand that that they lie down on their beds, cover them sometimes, and then tell them the repeated commands I give to them every time I step out: sit down, sleep, no pee-pee and be quiet. I tell them to “stay” then leave and close the door.
As you can see it’s a detailed process. Every dog owner will have his/her own routine in the morning which will depend on the number of dogs, where they live and so on. So the routines are different. But I can assure you that every dog requires a routine when you leave them alone, unless of course you can take your dogs to work. Unlikely.
So before you rush into dog ownership, consider what new routine you’re welcoming into your daily life. Not to mention the rest of what dog ownership entails, namely time, money and other responsibilities.
Still, dogs are a great presence in the home and they provide companionship and friendship. But without opposable thumbs, the ability to speak or work to earn for themselves, know that they rely 100% on you for all of their needs.