Yes, it’s OK to adopt a dog if you work full time!

I used to work 10-hour shifts at a newspaper, which meant my then 1-year-old dog Ace spent 11 hours home alone on my work days.

I lived just close enough so I was (barely) able to get home to let him out during my break.

Ace seemed to do just fine with this routine.

I had specifically chosen to adopt a laid-back, potty-trained dog because I knew I would be gone a lot. I knew I needed a calm dog, that a puppy wasn’t right for me.

I also made sure to exercise Ace for an hour every single morning before work. While he was a mellow dog, he was still young and deserved my time. After a good walk or run, he was always content to lounge around until I returned.

Here he is at my grandparents’ house in 2007 – just a kid! (2019 update: Ace has passed away.)

My dog Ace the black Lab mix

Our money and our time

Yes, dogs require a lot of our time. And they require a lot of our money, too. We all know that.

But sometimes there is an attitude out there that people don’t deserve a dog if they work full time or if they don’t make a certain amount of money.

Unfortunately, certain rescue groups will even reject families from adopting a dog if everyone in the family works outside the home or goes to school full time.

There are also wonderful adoption groups that are not so picky, but this type of “high and mighty” attitude is all too common in the dog world, and it’s not helpful.

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Yes, you deserve a dog too

I recently read a blog post called “Working? Struggling? Yes, you ‘deserve’ a dog too” by Jen deHaan at DogThusiast.com, which is a blog I regularly follow.

Jen’s post touched on these issues in such a thoughtful way that I decided I’d share it with you.

“I used to work all day long at a corporate job,” she wrote, in the post.

“I did a lot of adjustment of my work/life balance prior to adopting Mikey [her dog at the time, pictured below], but I didn’t leave my job altogether or ask to work from home … I made sure to go home on time. But I still had to work, and no, I did not feel guilty about it.”

Sounds pretty similar to my arrangement with Ace, doesn’t it?

Articles that suggest working families don’t deserve their dogs or shouldn’t adopt a dog to begin with do nothing to help keep dogs in their homes, Jen wrote. These articles also do nothing to find homes for dogs in need.

“ … the good news is so many dogs do well, despite being left at home during a day,” she wrote. “And if they don’t there are many ways to solve this problem.”

Mikey the senior mixed breed dog
Photo: DOGThusiast.com

Life’s challenges

Jen also wrote about some personal examples of how life throws you surprises, and you can’t always plan for everything. People lose jobs, for example. Or they change careers.

“I ran into some extreme hardship right after we adopted a couple of cats,” Jen wrote.

“My husband lost his job, and I was still in school. He managed to find a new, but much lower paying job that sometimes made us wait to cash the check. What did we do? We ate ramen noodles for a couple of years and bought the best cat food we could afford.”

Can’t we all relate to this in some way?

My husband and I both took a risk and quit our jobs (not at the same time) to start our own businesses back in 2008. While working for yourself comes with benefits like being able to set your own schedule, it also comes with financial ups and downs, especially when you’re first starting out.

There were definitely times when I wondered how I was going to afford a bag of dog food.

But you know what? We made it work.

Jen said it better than me:

“Families on a limited income or experiencing financial or medical hardship should have the option for experiencing the emotional advantage that having pets can bring to their life. They should not be ripped apart, they don’t need to be judged.”

Of course, sometimes families will decide they can’t keep their pets for whatever reason, and we should not be so quick to criticize. We should be helpful, not judgmental, because we rarely know all the details.

I hope you’ll head over and read Jen’s post. I’m sure she’d love it if you left her a comment too.

Have you ever faced a life change that made caring for your pet more difficult?

Any advice for someone who might currently be struggling?

Let me know in the comments!

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27 thoughts on “Yes, it’s OK to adopt a dog if you work full time!”

  1. I definitely think there are creative ways to make it work even when a home situation changes. It’s sad that there are families out there wanting to adopt and are being turned down because they don’t have the ideal home environment. Friends and families are often willing to help out, there are also dog sitters, dog walkers, doggie daycare, etc. Let’s hope attitudes change on this topic.

      1. Very slowly. My family applied to adopt a dog recently (fall, 2016) and we are away (work/school) from home for about 6 or 7 hours/day during the workweek. Everything else was fine with our application, but needed to get a dog walker to come in if we were to be considered.

  2. I totally agree! People can usually find ways to make a situation work, and we can’t forget than many of our pets would be in much worse situations if we hadn’t taken them in, even if we’re not “perfect”. Years ago I had a cat with a serious heart condition, and at one point I only had enough money to either fill his prescription or mine; I chose his (obviously my condition wasn’t life-threatening). Clearly I wasn’t in a good place to take in a special needs cat, but before I’d taken Gus home he’d been slowly dying on someone’s porch in a trailer park with a gaping, infected wound in his leg.

    1. Your example with your cat is perfect. Obviously we have to consider our financial situation before taking in an animal, especially a special-needs animal. But most of the time, we can make it work within reason, especially considering the alternative for many of these animals is dying in a shelter when they are perfectly healthy.

    2. I agree with you 100%. You said it all when you mentioned that these animals would and could be in a lot worse situations. An animal would definitely be happier with someone that could feed it and love it than sitting in an animal shelter waiting to be euthanized. I cannot tell you how many people dump animals in our area here. I could never dump an animal like that for any reason whatsoever and just leave it. That alone should say something. I know of pet owners out there who are fit to take animals in according to these animal adoption places. These people have and would dump their animals. I know of one who had two of his dogs put to sleep for some really stupid reasons. They were not sick enough to have time to even recover fully to know what the outcome would be and both were put to sleep for the same reasons? I found that so strange as I worked with the pet owner for several years. He went through 2 dogs in the 11 years that I worked with him that lived to the same age and were put to sleep for the same illnesses that I had never heard of.

  3. We’ve been through pretty much everything from Mom staying home and not working, to full time, to part time, to some hours in the office, some at home, moving across the ocean and living with Gramma for a couple months. We all adapt to whatever situation we are in. We love having Mom home more, but sometimes we enjoy her being gone so we can just rest. You make do with what you have at the time. It works.

  4. Running Ace for an hour reminds me of running Tig for an hour at 5am for a while when my husband and I had a huge long commute (we eventually moved). During winter it was pitch-dark at the beach when we arrived (and *so* cold!).

    Thank you so much for sharing my post, and your thoughtful treatment of it. I hope that the more we talk about this issue, the more open minded rescue groups, adopters, and breeders will be when choosing families. Thanks again for writing about this!

    Love that photo of Ace!

  5. Totally agree with this post. I do find that dogs get into the routine and get used to it. So if their routine is to spend 6 hours a day at home, then its their routine and they are fine with it. Its handy for me as my boyfriend works until 2pm most days so they are never alone too long. But I will walk the dogs for 45 mins before I go to work at 9. Sean brings them for a 20/30 min walk when he finishes at 2pm and then I will walk them for another hour or so in the evening! My dogs get walked more when I am in work for 8 hours than they do if I am off for the day. If im off for the day, they will get two 1 hour walks or one 2 hour walk!

  6. I wish that more people would consider adopting adult dogs. So many people think puppy or nothing and it’s often not fair to the people or the dog. And I’m sure plenty of the time the grown puppies end up in shelters because they were not trained or exercised and became total nightmares. Or people decide not to get a dog at all but they don’t realize they could have found a perfect companion like you did!

    I’ve learned not to judge people who have to rehome their dogs for good reasons but dumping them in a shelter is a whole other kettle of fish. Norman was a shelter dog who was rehomed because their existing dog didn’t like living with another dog. I count my lucky stars for their decision and commend them for not bringing him back to the shelter – a high kill one at that.

    Anyways…this is fresh on my mind because my brother just told me they are thinking about getting a puppy. This is after spending the past 3 years raising a very hyper and unruly pup to finally be a manageable (but still hyper) dog. He said they went to the shelter and the kennels filled with sweet, loving and calm adult pit bulls. Many needed some TLC but he said most of them were quiet and calmly stood up to lick their hands through the cage. So what does he do? He checks out a spazzy 11-month old puppy. And during the intro with his dog, they both yelped, barked, play growled and flailed at each other. Before they even interacted the shelter worker took the pup away and said it wouldn’t work. I’m sure the pup is excited but fine and will likely be adopted out, being so young, cute and healthy. I think they’re asking for trouble by not seeking out a dog that is a little older and calmer. They also have an old but feisty small dog at home. Argh…you can see I dwell too much on these things!

    1. Well I guess it’s your job to remind them that an adult dog might be the best option! 🙂 When I adopt again, I will most likely be looking for another adult dog. Heck, the seniors sound the best to me! I think a lot of dog owners (long-time dog owners and first-time owners) seem to think that if they get a puppy, they can raise it to be a perfect dog. In reality, they often raise it to be an average, hyper, OK dog. It makes more sense to me to get an adult dog, because then you can at least tell the dog’s general personality and energy level.

      1. Yes…I totally agree! My next dog want ad would say something like “middle-aged pit bull who loves long walks on the beach and cuddling on the couch” lol.

        I’m working on my brother. I did not have much luck with their first pick who turned out to be that “average, hyper, OK dog” I should add very sweet but kind of a pain in the butt type. I could tell she would be even when I met her at the shelter pre-adoption.

        I probably learned that from Kaya (though she is even way less nutty than my brother’s dog). When I adopted her, I thought I could mold her into the “perfect dog.” It took me a long time to realize that our personality types do clash but I think I’ve done a good job at meeting her half way so we are both happy, full-filled and love each other!

  7. Yes, I’ve definitely faced those challenges. Years ago after my divorce where my ex got almost all of my dogs, it was just me and Sephi. I wasn’t working at the time and so luckily got to spend a lot of time with Sephi when she was a pup. But when a new job moved us to Kansas, I had to leave her at home alone all day. I lived too far to drive over for lunch and couldn’t afford a dog walker for afternoon breaks. So Sephi had to hold it for 9 hours. Sounds mean, but she did just fine. It would have been much more difficult to make it through my divorce and to deal with the stress of a new job in a new state where my family was miles away if it wasn’t for Sephi. She really helped me through those tough times. (As time progressed and I paid off bills left by the ex, I hired a dog walker, but it was probably at least a year before I got to that point.)

  8. So great to read this. I’ve often wondered whether or not it’s OK to have a dog if you plan on being gone all day. I don’t see myself not having to work full time, although it sure would be nice, and yet I know my life will be incomplete without a dog in the house. As others have noted, here is where the benefits of having an adult dog shine. Adopting adults is always great – no matter what your work environment/schedule, you are usually bringing them into a better situation, and most can handle being alone.

  9. Great post, thanks for sharing. I’ve had moments of feeling really guilty, like a bad mum, since adopting my cocker Archie two months ago and reading lots of advice that said it wasn’t fair to work full time. It’s all very well to be independently wealthy or have a super flexible job, but we don’t all have that luxury! Yes, it would be wonderful to not have to work, or to be able to work from home all the time, but that’s not a realistic option for me or for many wonderful, loving, dog-friendly people who would make fantastic pet parents.
    I agree with Aisling that dogs quickly get used to a routine, and find that even if I am home all day Archie sleeps all morning and a good part of the afternoon too, so I’m pretty sure he does that when I’m away. Apart from the very first time there have never been any accidents or destruction, and he has run of most of the house.
    I think if you’re prepared to make some sacrifices and adjustments to your life then you can work and still have a very happy pooch. I actually wrote about that very point on my own blog the other day (https://archieinbrussels.wordpress.com/2016/09/25/why-im-not-running-the-berlin-marathon-today-hint-it-has-to-do-with-archie/)
    Archie gets a 45 minute walk every single morning before I go to work at 9am, and then has a 60-90 walk with his dog walker and beloved dog-walker pack every afternoon which leaves him zonked until I get home around 6.30pm. We spent lots of ‘quality time’ together in the evening cuddling and playing and he’s a very happy little boy. I love to spent lots of time with him at the weekends too. I don’t go out very often, and if I do I always leave early, but I’m happy to spend more time with him.
    Like you, I wouldn’t have gotten little puppy (Archie is 9 months), but that can work for people too if they have help.
    It reminds me of the bashing that single mums often get in the UK. Why can’t we all be a bit more supportive and kind, and less judgemental, and everyone would be better for it!

  10. So so very wrong. If you want to work full time get a cat. How selfish to leave a dog alone all day. It’s nothing short of abuse.

  11. Find a good dog walker and you should be ok.I walk a dog 3 doors down from me.He is a great dog in and out of the house.His mom & dad work full time at different hours.They have him on the weekend.Each case is different I guess.

  12. Dagmar Eva Bernitt

    Definitely agree with this post. Both my rescued dogs – (i) a GSD puppy that was thrown out of a car during Easter holiday (had him until his 14th birthday, died 12 years ago and still missing him!) and (ii) since 10 months (took me that long to overcome all the prejudices people held again having a dog while working!) a 10 year old yellow Lab – would have (i) died of his injuries and (ii) been euthanized in a shelter. Yes, I am away 10 hours from home and I tried to rush home during my break but lived to far and had to work longer at nights to get the time in I lost at lunch – so I tested the dogs. Luckily, Easter, the GSD was adult and potty trained when I went back on full-time and I found out that he was more upset in seeing me rushing home at lunch, hurrying him round the block and pushing him back into the flat to race back to work than seeing me coming home on time, taking all my time to walk him for 1 hour (helped me to relax after the day, too) and spend quality time with him before walking him again before bed-time. The same applies to Largo, the Lab. Plus he has a cat as company even if she is not always cooperative (but things approve daily). Many people scolded me for having a dog while working but as you say, they are better off with me now, loved, spoiled rotten and happy – because they would not have survived! By the way, love all of your articles and have learnt a lot through your posts. Thank you so much!

  13. Do you have any advice for people who work on how to have a better shot at getting an application accepted by a rescue? My husband and I both work but have the resources, space and time to take care of a dog; however, we’ve either been turned down or ignored by half a dozen shelters in our area! So frustrating.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      I would try talking to the rescue volunteers in person or by phone at least if you haven’t already. It’s hard to reject a real person vs an application.

  14. I think some people judge without knowing the whole situation. I was taking care of a sick family member, and they made me promise not to leave the dog. Now they are gone and he won’t warm up to anyone but me or have walks by anyone but me. Yet I have to work full time as I need to pay rent and bills, and there is no other family members around to help me and all my friends work long hours, and I don’t have spare cash to pay someone everyday to come in and see him. He’s a very old dog at 13years and already lived longer than expected. He can’t even walk longer than 10 mins because he’s so old and knackered and doesn’t really care for long walks. It’s not fair to give him to someone else who he doesn’t no and too old to settle with, as he’s sad his owner isn’t around and depends on me as I’ve known him since a puppy, I can’t leave him too, plus I made a promise. So people don’t take into consideration all the money it could cost for help, needing to work full time, and I never went out to get a dog, he was left to my by the family member I live with.

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