com·mit·ment– /kəˈmitmənt/

Commitment—an agreement/pledge OR an act of committing to a charge or a trust.

Owning a dog is about commitment. You don’t have to be like me, a total canine nerd, and make your life revolve around your dogs but there is absolutely a need for a level of dedication.

Caring for a dog requires more than caring for a lawn ornament. Of course dogs can survive with just food, water, and shelter but if you want dogs to do anything more than simply exist, they need more. If you would like your dogs to fit into your lifestyle and home, and behave in a manner that you deems appropriate, the dogs need more–training, exercise, companionship, and socialization.

Some of the most common problems people approach me with are simple things like “he’s too hyper” or “he barks at people/dogs” or “he’s chewing things apart.” The vast majority of these problems are caused by a dog who doesn’t get enough exercise and a dog who doesn’t get enough training/mental work. In order for these things to be addressed, one must be able to commit to working with their dog (or playing with their dog)–seems simple right? Well, it’s pretty shocking the number of people who expect these problems to be fixed with no work on their part. I’ve had people who contact me almost laugh when I ask if they can commit 15-25 minutes a day to working with their dog. I have no idea what they were expecting me to say… maybe I should ask them. Do they expect me to come to their home for an hour, wave a magic wand, and POOF their dog would no longer need any exercise?

I really do wonder what some people were thinking when they brought their dog into the home in the first place. If you work 3 jobs an average of 75hrs a week and have two kids, do you really think you have the time to commit to a dog–let alone one that is young and has high energy? I’m sure there are some people who DO work 75 hour weeks and have two kids who still find time to squeeze in some doggie time but they are probably canine nerds or their choice of dogs is probably not a 10 month old border collie.

I’m not saying people who have busy lives should not have dogs, but that they need to think about what they are able to commit to the dog. This is where breed/personality decisions do come into play I think. Dogs, as different breeds and different individuals, will require different levels and types of commitment to be great house pets. Bandit, my mom’s shih tzu, needs his nightly cuddling time, his 5 minutes of playing, regular walks in nice weather, and periodic adventures (maybe a trip to the pet store, or a walk at a park). He’s very low maintenance as an adult and it’s easy to keep him happy and fantastic member of our family. His breed probably has a lot to do with that, shih tzus are not known for their high energy or their need for a job. Back when my mom was working 60-65hr weeks, Bandit wasn’t suffering at all. She was still able to give him the nightly cuddles, the few minutes of play time, and walks/adventures on the weekends.

Shayne, on the other hand, requires much more on a daily basis in order to be a sane house pet. If she doesn’t get 2 hours of exercise, an hour or so of training work (agility/frisbee/obedience), cuddle time, and frequent adventures, she is a bit of a monster to live with. She’ll throw toys at me for hours at night, she’ll get the zoomies running around barking, she’ll find something to get into (like hunting out one piece of kibble left in the pocket of a coat in a closet), and her reactivity increases when she doesn’t get out as much. The level of commitment needed to keep Shayne a happy sane member of my family is much larger than the commitment for Bandit.

I just wish people would realize the commitment needed for any dog but the additional commitment needed to happily live with a young energetic breed/individual. It is truly unfair for people to expect their young energetic dogs to be ‘broken’ of their energy and for their energy to disappear without any effort on the part of the human.

  1. I totally agree! Great post!

  2. Great post, as always! All very true, of course. I feel so fortunate that I can bring my dogs to work, as even though they spend a lot of time napping, they can still get out for a thirty or forty minute walk at lunchtime, and frequent breaks for potty-time and play. That way I don’t feel COMPLETELY guilty if I want to drop them off at home and go meet friends for dinner or a drink, or when I want or need to socialize or run errands on the weekends. I still try to make one weekend day a “dog day” but if I didn’t have all the hours during the day each day to spend with them, even if it’s just passively (ie – they sleep, play together, work on a chew, or socialize with the other employees while I work) I would be much more fraught with guilt than I am now. And they, and I, would not be nearly as happy.

  3. Great post. I have run into so many people who didn’t get the right dog. The dog itself is great, and the person might be great, but they aren’t great together. They spend too much time thinking about what they want their dog to look like (or act on the “AWWW!” factor), and too little time thinking what they want their dog to be like. Some of my favourite breeds are breeds I could not have – I’m not high-energy enough, and chances are, I wouldn’t end up with the unusually calm and low-energy vizsla, I would get the as-described-by-any-vizsla-owner dog.

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