Pets, roommates, and the responsibility of the non-pet-owning roommate to the pet
This is going to be long and a little convoluted.
I live with one of my best friends. A year ago he got a German Shepherd puppy, Jo. Jo is now a year old, and she is a cool dog. She is smart, playful, and sweet, and usually enjoyable to have around. I am not a dog person myself- I prefer cats- but I can appreciate that although I would not get a dog, she is a nice dog.
But she is a German Shepherd. She is a large dog, she is energetic, she is busy, and she needs a lot of exercise and attention. I grew up with dogs (a GSD among them) in the middle of nowhere and when the dogs got too rowdy inside the house, you opened the back door and they had a couple of acres to go romp around. They also went on two-mile walks twice a day, and in consequence, they were usually able to cope with themselves. We live in a condo and cannot open the back door. Housemate is a graduate student working part-time with various outside the house interests. He usually walks Jo once a day, or they go to the dog park and throw the frisbee for awhile, but this is not an every-day occurrence- she does not get out every day.
You can probably see where this is going. Jo's usual demeanor is like a kid who's eaten an entire bag of pixie sticks. She has too much energy to cope with herself. I don't think it's reasonable to expect a large puppy to be 100% obedient the first time when she's jumping out of her skin because she isn't exercised, but I cannot bring people to the house because unless she is crated when they come in, even if leashed and held tightly, she goes absolutely ballistic with joy wanting to leap up and kiss faces and generally be enthusiastic and offensive. She does not do this when she has been exercised. When he leaves the house without spending time with her in the mornings, she paces the house and whines for hours loudly enough that she wakes me up (and I sleep like the dead.) I am pretty sure this is attention-seeking. Ignoring it doesn't work; I have tried to train "good quiet" and this hasn't worked, probably due to lack of consistency (see below.)
A few days ago this came to a head when housemate worked a planned double at the hospital from 6AM to 11PM and left Jo alone with me all day. I was not intending to be home all day and in fact I was intending to have people come over in the evening, but his plan for the dog was apparently "Renn will feed her and she will be OK without a walk." She was not OK and it wasn't a pleasant experience for anyone. The bottom line is that I feel bad for the dog.
I keep bringing up "You need to get a dog walker or doggy day care and you cannot leave her in my care for 18 hours." Thus far it hasn't changed, which is a separate issue that is going to be handled because I don't do passive-aggressive. The issue I am currently struggling with is my responsibility to the dog. She is not my dog. I like her, but she is not my dog, and I am not a dog person. I work two jobs, one of which involves 10-12 hour days, and go to school full-time. I am often home (because I work from home for one job,) so I can be company for the dog, but I don't feel that I have time to train a dog. That is why I do not have a house pet right now, despite the fact that I'd love to have a cat- I do not have the time. I can take Jo for a quick mile walk once a day on some days, but I do not have the time to provide for the kind of exercise she needs. I also do not have time when I am home to give her attention- when I am home I am at work. What this results in is often that I'm distracted from work (because she's constantly whining despite peanut butter kongs, rawhides, various distractions and I can hear her over music, headphones, etc.) and trying to find something to praise her for so that she's not getting negative attention 100% of the time, and generally feeling bad for the dog.
I would love input on any of this, besides the fact that my housemate clearly did not think this whole dog thing through and as it stands now is not an appropriate home for a high-drive dog, which I think is evident. I am trying to figure out what my responsibility is to the dog.
"I'm not always sarcastic. Sometimes I'm asleep."
- Harry Dresden
You have no responsibility. I would tell your roommate that if he doesn't not change his schedule to accommodate the needs of the working breed puppy he CHOOSE to acquire that you will be moving out. This dog is interfering with your sleep, ability to focus on work, and social time. No matter how much effort you put in the situation will only change as long as you keep up the exercise, training, etc. If he is not willing to make the lifestyle changes to have a young dog then he is not ready to own that dog. Period. If you value your friendship I would move out and leave him with a list of local trainers, local rescues, dog walkers, etc. and say that you are doing this for your friendship.
You have a responsibility to the dog as far as making your housemate aware of the situation, which you have done, and laying down the law, which it sounds like you need to & are planning to do. State that while you are working from home, you are WORKING. That means you do not have time to cater to dogs needs. Therefore dog must go to appropriate doggie day care or have a minder coming in to feed/walk/otherwise exercise. If not, you will have to reconsider your living arrangements. Further explain to housemate that current situation is not fair to you or his dog. End with being firm that it is his responsibility as the dogs owner to make the necessary changes.
"Choose to chance the rapids, and dare to dance the tides" - Garth Brooks
"With your permission, dear, I'll take my fences one at a time" - Maggie Smith, Downton Abbey
I am sure your housemate is an otherwise lovely person but he really deserves to have his ass kicked over this. And this would be a big reason why there are so many unwanted animals in shelters. Grrrrr. I am no expert but it seems to me that the dog not only should be getting out every day, but multiple times a day!
I know you know this, OP, so it's not directed at you! To answer your question, I don't think you have any obligation except maybe a moral one--to ensure that the dog at least has food and water. But not to dog sit.
Your future is created by what you do today, not tomorrow.
My fiance does this to me. He HAD to have a dog, etc. I'm the one home all day. Now, we're in a relationship, so it is different, but I work from home and I am working, so the situation there is the same.
I told him it was his dog and he needed to arrange for someone to come take the dog for a very long walk once a day, because I didn't have time to walk the dog for an hour and a half, ride, work 9 or 10 hours, cook, clean, and generally keep everybody alive and happy.
He grumped and he complained and I completely ignored the dog for a day. I made sure he had enough food and water, and I took off for my parent's house to stay overnight. He got home from work at 6pm after the dog had been inside for 11+ hours and got to deal with the aftermath.
Was it fair to the dog? no. I think he's forgiven me, though, and STB husband learned a lesson about expecting other people to handle things for him.
agree, you have no responsibility to or for the dog. Not even to refill water dishes or take it out for a quick potty break. If you find yourself doing these things out of concern for the dog (or your carpets), I suggest you BILL the housemate for your time and effort, and bill at the rate you get paid for your regular job. If the dog disrupts your work, ditto.
You might have to move out, or kick out the housemate if he fails to correct the situation.
Depends on whose name/s are on the lease. If it's just you, tell Boyo that either he hires petsitter/dog walker or he and Jo must look for another place.
If it's both of you with equal responsibility, then you really have to have a sit down and get him to step up for his dog. I'm sure you can handle the dialog since you don't do passive aggressive (good for you!).
~Kryswyn~ Always look on the bright side of life, de doo, de doo de doo de doo
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Yes, time for a sit down discussion with the roommate about the situation.
It is wrong for the roommate to assume you are his fill in dog watcher. It sucks for both you and the dog.
Dog day cares are all over the place now days. I am sure the dog would much prefer to be there all day than pacing around the house bored.
1. You have no responsibility for the dog (the living manifestation of your grad student roomie's head living up his well-educated a$$).
2. You have a responsibility to prevent really bad suffering to an innocent animal if you can do otherwise.
So the right course of action is to talk directly to the roomie about how this is going and who does what, when. It's tough: You name the minimal standards of care that he needs to engineer and make it clear that the buck stops with him for getting it done. In practice, however, do what it won't kill you (or piss you off) to do. For example, yeah feed the hungry dog but don't rearrange your life to do it on time. What will make you happiest, however, is not having roomie ASSume that you'll pick up the slack.
Good luck to all three of you. (And who gets a big, young dog while in grad school? Cats were designed for this phase of life. Duh.)
Thanks for the input. I was feeling guilty (still am) as an animal person, if not a dog person, for not doing more for the dog.
Moving out is not an option; for one thing we just moved in to a place we both LOVE, we both get along really well as roommates, and for another, financially, I'm not going to find a better option. I want to work this out with roommate, with the understanding that my standards of dog care are not the same as his, but that the dog has basic exercise needs or she is going to start tearing up the furniture. (Which she doesn't do. She is very "conscientious" about not tearing up things that aren't hers. When desperately bored she did eat a pair of my shoes, which he will be replacing. I would prefer she didn't graduate to furniture- the majority is mine.) The other understanding is that I do not function as a dog sitter. I don't mind feeding dinner and taking out to do her business; I don't mind the occasional walk; but I am not going to meet all of dog's feed, water, love, and go out to run and flail like a spider monkey needs.
I think the solution is 1) him waking up an hour earlier to take her on a morning walk; 2) a consistent lunchtime or evening walk or dog park time in addition; and 3) a dog walker or doggy daycare for days he is at work. And both of us working together to improve training on the way she greets people at the door and installing a consistent "quiet" command.
Roommate is not an idiot in general, but I think he way underestimated the needs of a GSD in comparison to his beloved Labrador at his parents' house, way underestimated the needs of a puppy of any variety, and way overestimated the amount of time he was going to have. He's very much a "go with the flow and things will work out" kind of person. In a lot of ways this has worked well for him. In other ways this is bloody stupid!
"I'm not always sarcastic. Sometimes I'm asleep."
- Harry Dresden
I think that you might be best served by going out and asking around if there is a middle school kid or something in the neighborhood who might be willing to walk the dog for $6-7 an hour when they get home from school. You can let roommate know he can write you a check for the amount it will cost, consider it added to the rent as "pet rent."
We looked into doggie daycare for ours and while it's a nice idea, my horse's board is cheaper. So we sent out a flyer to our neighbors and a nice 13 year old girl signed up and now takes our dog for a 30 minute walk (in the winter) or plays fetch with him in the yard for 30 minutes when she comes home from school at about 230pm M-Th. We pay her $20 a week and the cost is definitely worth it to us.
I tried the whole "bill for your time" thing with my fiance and it didn't work because my time should always be free to him, according to him, and never mind that time spent entertaining his animal was time I could not bill $150/hr to a client for.
He's very much a "go with the flow and things will work out" kind of person. In a lot of ways this has worked well for him. In other ways this is bloody stupid!
You both sound like good housemates. You aren't a "I'll not help you on principal" kind of PITA.
I like it about guys that they have the "meh, let's just roll with it" approach to domestic problems. How to keep him on this side of the line between Roll With It and Bloody Stupid? Don't enable the guy. Let him roll with the consequences of what he decides to do.
yes- emphasize this point. Skimping on the dog's exercise is not that different from deciding to not feed the dog today. It's a matter of not meeting the dog's minimal needs of life.
Also, these working-type dogs often have a greater need for mental work than for lengthy periods of physical exercise, so instead of just running the dog for an hour, the dog will probably be more satisfied with a shorter run plus some kind of advanced mental work- advanced obedience, tracking, nosework, tricks, anything.
But yes, at a bare minimum a dog of this type needs an exercise period morning and evening, every day. NEEDS, not wants.
Renn- I can completely commiserate. I was in a similar situation with my roommates and their dog. A few months after we moved into our townhouse they asked me if they could get a puppy. I told them ok, with the understanding that I would have nothing to do with the dog- I wouldn't walk it, feed it, water it, play with it, clean up after it, anything (Not a big fan of dogs in general, expect for a few). What a big mistake. The puppy wound up being really destructive (as puppies tend to be!), chewing walls, peeing and pooping everywhere. I could have dealt with that, if they hadn't taken such lousy care of the poor thing. It would get left in it's crate for probably 23 hours a day, they'd forget to water it, make it go hours and hours between potty walks, etc. I felt really bad for the dog and was walking/watering/playing with it because it looked so miserable. I couldn't just walk by a dog that had been in its crate for 10 hours. And the BARKING! I'm surprised we didn't get animal services called on us, as it would bark for hours on end. They're moving out early, and I'm glad to see them go. If I had to do it all over again, I wouldn't have let them get a dog in the first place. If they weren't leaving I would have sat them down and told them that they needed to take better care of the dog, or find someone who would.
I just don't get people who get dogs, and don't take care of them. It's not fair to lock a dog up in a kennel all day. They need exercise, attention, and training. If you're not in the right place in your life to provide that (Work, school, live in a condo, etc) then DON'T GET A DOG! I don't have the time for one, so I have a cat. She's perfectly happy to sleep in my closet all day (which she usually does even if I'm there!), then get up whenever I come home for treats, laser-kitty playtime, and pets. I guess my parents just raised me differently. In my house, if you wanted an animal, you darn well better take care of it, for its entire life (not just until you got tired of it). I remember one time I forgot to give my rabbit water when I was 7. My mom screamed at me for an hour, then wouldn't let me have anything to drink for the rest of the night. I'm glad my parents raised me this way, but lots of people seem to have much lower standards.
I understand the guilt you feel as someone who cares about animals and has high-standards for animal care. It's really hard to see someone take sub-par care of an animal, when you are right there and can take the dog for a walk, or play with it (even if you really don't know have time). But it's not your responsibility. If you had wanted a dog, you would have gotten your own dog. This is your roommate's dog, and he's responsible for all aspects of its care. If I were you, I would have a sit-down discussion with him about what needs to happen in order for you being comfortable having the dog stay. One thing we did was have dog-owning roommates pay another roommate to walk the dog a few times a day. I don't know if you're interested or have time for that, but that might be an option where you don't feel like you're getting used.
Having dogs in a situation like yours takes some commitment to exercise schedule.
That dog needs twice daily big walks. NEEDS. Not wants.
This, so much! The SO and I just got a dog about a month ago. She's condo-sized but good energy (some kind of terrier cross?) and goes out for at least two walks, usually three, per day, though they're sometimes just a lap around the condo complex (about half a mile). We both work weird schedules, and it takes planning to make sure she's getting exercise and attention the days we're both working.
You need to set out really clear rules about what needs to be done, and what you're willing to do, and especially NOT to to. Because the situation as is is both unfair to you, and especially to the dog.
For someone who's not a dog person, you have certainly done all the right things you should have/been obliged to do, for the dog. I think you've been very reasonable.
How about he pays $x more at rent time - enough to cover a dog sitter? You can arrange it if you're comfortable doing that, although it really is his job - but logistically you're more affected by the dog.
Like the idea about posting for a neighborhood kid.
Being right half the time beats being half-right all the time. Malcolm Forbes
I grew up with dogs, I like dogs in theory, I just could never make the commitment to be a dog owner because their preferred lifestyle is different from mine. My spirit animal is a cat (or a honey badger. Depends on the day.)
We have no shortage of neighborhood kids but I don't think a kid is suited to walking an energetic 80lb dog. She is pretty good on a leash but there are times when she can give me a pretty solid tug, and I'm used to 1200lb horses. For the time being at least she needs an adult who is experienced with large breeds. That (as roommate pointed out) complicates things and I think is the primary reason, aside from money, he hasn't acquired a dog walker yet. (I also don't want to be the one who hires said person. Not my dog and I don't want to be liable if she pulls a wingding on somebody.)
I really do appreciate the replies as this is a new situation for me.
"I'm not always sarcastic. Sometimes I'm asleep."
- Harry Dresden
Is the dog getting out to do her business a few times a day, or is she not being walked at all?
You're a better person than I am, I would have lost it on rommie a while ago.
I live with my SO and his brother lives with us. We have two dogs but in no way is the brother expected to do anything with them. He will occasionally walk them and let the rottie out of his cage if he's upstairs but he's not expected to do that. We plan our days as if his brother isn't there to care for them unless we're really stuck then he'll be asked to walk them but that's pretty rare. I get up and give them their morning pee break then I'm usually home at lunch to give them a good walk or go to the park. Whoever gets home first walks them again and they get another pee break/walk before bed. I do not expect my dogs to spend more than 5-6 hours during the day in the house or 8-9 hours at night. I'm a full time student and work 25hrs/week, SO works full time and often overtime but the dogs get out.
Your responsibility to the dog is nothing, it's not your dog. But obviously roomie feels differently so you're right in feeling boundaries must be set and he needs to step up and take care of his dog or find another solution.
I would have to tell roomie he has until the end of the month to figure out a plan for this dog that does not involve you. That you aren't going to let his dog continue to interrupt your work any longer. He can take it to his work (not likely), hire a sitter or walker (which you've said he can't afford) or put it up for adoption.
He can get another dog later in life, when he's more ready for it. He simply isn't. This situation isn't fair to the dog, or to you.