How much time does it take to have a dog?

I’ve looked at way too many dog ‘re-homing’ advertisements on Craig’s list that say, “we just don’t have time enough, not enough to give her/him the time she/he deserves.” And the dogs range in age from 12 weeks to 8 years old.

I guess I can understand the sheer overwhelming reality of trying to train a puppy and variable work schedules, but an eight year old dog?

So how much time does a dog take? A big question with lots of variability since it depends on your facilities, the dog and your experience and what purpose you have for your dog.

Max, well-mannered older dog doesn't really need much time per day.
Max, well-mannered older dog doesn’t really need much time per day.

Let’s take an example of Max, my 12-year-old shepherd (old, well-trained dog). He sleeps in the house, he has an outside kennel run which we use occasionally,  I walk with him for 45 minutes each morning and do training games at the same time and he gets potty/play breaks 4-5 (20-50 min.) more times each day (although he doesn’t have to have that many so far) which are at good times for me to have potty/play breaks too. I do his toenails every Sunday (10 min.), brush his teeth daily (3 min.), give fresh water, he’s shedding this time of year so there is daily coat brush outs (6 minutes) and towelling off after walks, extra vacuuming. I have to buy him food, take him to the vet a couple of times a year – shots, heartworm. And he likes petting breaks several times a day.

So, that is about 2 hours/day required, but most of that is exercise that I need too. Then there’s the stress relief that I also need. And occasionally several more hours tacked on for special reasons (vet, fun outings, lake, doggy stuff). But if I needed to I could contract that down, skip the majority of the walk and just give the potty breaks and care and use up 30 minutes/day. I wouldn’t want to very often because he is old and not providing adequate activity and fun will speed up the aging process.

Puppies take much more time, this one became a Leader Dog for the Blind.
Puppies take much more time, this one became a Leader Dog for the Blind.

What about a puppy? Well, more time because they need potty breaks during the day every one to two hours and they can’t have prolonged crate time without risking accidents. Their training needs are much higher during the first few months, and then continuing through the 2nd year of their life. Depending on what your purpose is to have them – pet, hunting, agility, obedience competitions, service, therapy, and your training capabilities or mistakes makes the time expand or contract.

But still, adding on the extra potty breaks, which mostly are pretty brief (unless you don’t do them and have to clean up too), and the extra (and fun) playtime, and the training (20-25 minutes per day). So that is about 3 hours/day. This could also be contracted down especially after the pup is 6 months or so, since they no longer need so many breaks and even though exercise is very beneficial, sometimes having less is OK … so maybe down to 30 minutes to 1 hour/day total for care. And if feeding is combined with training, and if your exercise is their exercise I don’t actually see why anybody wouldn’t have enough time for a dog unless they just weren’t home for long spans.

However, if no one has taken the time to learn about and do the training and your dog/puppy is not polite and doesn’t rest quietly in the house and instead you are chasing after them as they destroy stuff, or trying to convince the neighbor not to call animal control, maybe you don’t have time enough to have a dog. Maybe they are a stress causer instead of reliever. I have no idea of how many more hours/minutes a day this would add. So time unknown and ? a Craig’s list ad saying ‘don’t have the time that he/she needs.’

My conclusion, 30 minutes broken up during the day is probably the least you could spend and still have a happy dog. And you need to do your homework so you know how to train and have the facilities you need to make life easier (crate, gates, fence, kennel run, leashes, treats, vet care). If you don’t have that (or someone who will cover for you) don’t even think of it.



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