A lot of people (specifically fellow unmarried twenty-somethings) ask me about my schedule and routine for my dog, Charley. “Why did you decide to get a dog?” “What do you do with him while you’re at work?” “Who watches him when you go away for the weekend?” “How do you find time to walk him?” “Is he expensive?” I totally get it–before I got Charley last December (of 2013), I was chock full of similar questions. Having a family dog is a totally different reality than taking sole and complete responsibility of another living thing!
Here’s some insight into my life with Charley, the process that brought me here, and what I’ve learned along the way.
Deciding to get a
I have wanted a dog for as long as I can remember. I have Christmas lists from years and years ago, each one with a bulleted “Puppy” as one of my top requests. My parents had all the typical excuses and reasons–“It’s too much work,” “We’re away too much,” “We don’t have time for a dog,” etc, etc. Trying to pacify me, I got a precious stuffed dog from Santa when I was nine with a tag that read “Sorry I couldn’t get you the real thing…”
That little dog, Scooter as I named him, kept me quiet(er) for the next decade and a half about wanting a dog. I remember telling my mom “I’m getting a dog as soon as I get my first place” time and time again. She just laughed.
After I graduated from college and moved to Texas, it was only a few weeks before I started to obsess over getting a furry little companion. I looked at all kinds of breeds and sizes, but I quickly realized that I wanted a non-shedding, hypo-allergenic, small dog. I live in a small apartment, and I didn’t want hair everywhere or a huge dog that was cramped (although I love big dogs and would love a German Shepherd someday!).
I was able to narrow down my search to a few breeds, but my favorite (from what I had read) was the Maltipoo, or a Maltese-Poodle mix. A couple of my cousins had Poodle mixes (a Schnoodle and a Goldendoodle), and both were smart, sweet dogs–and neither shedded!
I had initially intended on trying to find a dog about two years old, but there weren’t any pups that fit my description. Plus–a puppy? How can you turn a puppy down?
When I saw my Charley and knew right away that he was meant to be mine. I had prayed for the right dog for months (seven months to be exact!) and when I saw him, I knew. He looked like a little black guinea pig, and his tiny eyes were precious little spheres of brown. He was the cutest puppy I had ever seen.
I drove home with him, totally elated, but also nervous and worried–I didn’t know how to raise a puppy from experience, only the [countless] books and articles I had read!
The first few months
The first few months were really difficult. Like a baby, a puppy requires a lot of time and attention…from vet visits, to potty breaks every 45 minutes, to the right amount of food–it’s all exhausting! I loved those months, but I wasn’t sad to see them go.
After about four months, we started to get in a little routine. I would wake up, walk him, play with him, and feed him. While I was getting ready for work, I’d let him chew on his toys or play independently. I crated him with a Kong full of peanut butter, leave for work, and come back at lunchtime to let him out for an hour and walk him. Then, in the evening, I’d come home and we’d walk and play, cuddle on the couch together, and snuggle up for bed. The more of a routine we got in, the better our days got.
Finding a pet-sitter
I remember panicking, thinking, “Who do I trust with my only irreplaceable possession?” I could think of a couple of friends, but even then, many didn’t have a flexible schedule that would allow them to care for him when he was still just six or seven months old and still quite needy. I began to research pet sitting services and came upon Rover. It’s a website similar to Care.com, except for pets. Essentially, you can find pet-sitters in your area, read reviews, pay them online, etc. I found the most wonderful woman who works from home full-time, has two small dogs herself, lives around the corner from my apartment, charges a reasonable nightly rate, has a huge enclosed yard with a doggie door, and had amazing reviews.
I sent her a message and we scheduled Charley’s first weekend with her when I knew that I would be going out of town. I still use her very frequently (usually about twice a month). When I know I’ll have to work an event late into the evening, I’ll book a night with her for Charley so he’s not crated for too long. If I’m going away for the weekend, I book a night with her. When I moved due to ridiculous circumstances (read about that here), I booked her for moving day. She is awesome–she even texts me photos of my baby and sends me updates!
Our schedule now
Our schedule has changed quite a bit now that my little one is a year and three months old–he goes potty less often, has less crazy puppy energy, is hungry more predictably, etc. I love him so much! Here’s a rough schedule that we follow daily. (No times because my day-to-day isn’t that rigid.)
In the AM
- We wake up, I let Charley out in the yard while I get ready
- When I let him back in, I refill his food and water bowls
- He plays, stretches, or sleeps, while I gather my things and prepare to head out
- I scoop a spoonful of peanut butter, instruct him to “go to bed” (get in his crate), close and lock his crate, and slide the spoon through the crate
- I leave the house while Charley eats his peanut butter and then cozies up for a nap
I frequently come home from work for lunch and let Charley out. If not, it’s because worked from home in the morning or will be coming home early to work from home in the afternoon. He is rarely crated for more than four to six hours.
In the PM
- I get home from work, let Charley out in the yard, and get comfortable for the evening
- We take a walk to the mail center, sometimes going on to walk for a while, other times we just take a short walk
- When I cook dinner, I refill Charley’s food and water bowls
- We play and cuddle as I do things around the house
- When I’m ready to go to bed, I call Charley into my bedroom (if he hasn’t already put himself to sleep–too cute!), remove all toys from my room, and close the door–he quickly settles down and falls asleep
There is a lot to consider when you’re thinking about taking on the responsibility of a dog. When you’re considering adding a fur ball to your family, make sure to consider everything honestly–will you have the time to spend with your pup? The money to keep him healthy and happy? Do you travel a lot? Which breed is best for your lifestyle?
After you’ve weighed the options, make a weighted decision on what will be best for you. Just because you can’t get a dog now doesn’t mean that you’ll never have one…on the other hand, just because people tell you that it’ll be “too much” doesn’t mean that you can’t handle it!
I’d love to hear your story…comment below! 🙂
Stay tuned for a post on my puppy essentials!
Y do u leave peanut butter in his cage for?
Blair Menzel says
It soothes and distracts him when I’m leaving…kind of like using a pacifier on a baby! 🙂
Crystal Joleen Thompson says
when he was still a puppy did you leave him in his crate while at work & how long did it take before he was fully house trained?
Blair Menzel says
It took him about 8 months-1 year to never have accidents anymore. I did (and do still) crate him when I’m at work!
I love love love this! I can totally relate! I also have a maltipoo my little black ball of fur! I got him in January 2014 he was a little under a year. I had just moved out on my own and I’m also a single 20 something! As challenging as it is I lover my full of life amazing little baby! I can’t imagine life without him! Thank you so much for sharing your story!
Blair Menzel says
Love it! Thanks for reading, Ashlie! 🙂
Do you ever go anywhere over night like your parents house and take Charley with you? I’m wondering how well he does being in different places, even if its just the same one or two places that are not considered “home” for him.
Blair Menzel says
I take him with me to different places all the time. Probably twice a month! He does GREAT! I’ve been toting him along since he was tiny, so that may have helped, but he does generally have a friendly and adaptable disposition!
Lindsay Miller says
Hi! Just curious what you did in those first few months when you mention he needed bathroom breaks every 45 min? Was he okay when you were at work in the morning/afternoon?
I’m about to be in the same situation!
Blair Menzel says
Yes, he was okay because he was crated. Dogs won’t generally soil where they sleep! It’s never been a problem!
It’s wrong to support breeders. I wish you and your dog very well – it’s obvious that you really love and care for him, but I hope that the next time you wish to add a dog to your life, you adopt a dog. You can very easily search for a specific breed and age via petfinder.com. Supporting breeders is the reason why too many dogs are in shelters and killed every day.
Blair Lamb says
I appreciate you reading and commenting, Jessie. I applied for many dogs to adopt at shelters (probably 7 or 8), but was denied because I was a first time dog owner. (Pretty ridiculous if you ask me!) I would like to adopt in the future, but for now, I’m going to love my Charley Bear!
I was wondering if you could go into more detail about the first few months? How long did you take off work? How long was he left alone for while you were at work? Puppies can’t hold their bladders for long so surely he would have accidents? I really want a Maltipoo but I want to get a better understanding of if I can get a puppy while working full time and how to look after a puppy.
Blair Lamb says
The first few months were HARD, so I try to block them out as much as I can! 😉 But really, before I got a dog, people told me that getting puppy was like having a baby. I didn’t believe them. I should have! I’ve never had a child, and I’m sure that’s much harder, but I would imagine getting a puppy is similar in many ways. I didn’t work for two weeks, I came home every 3-4 hours, took Charley on three walks a day, woke up in the middle of the night to take him out, went to Puppy Preschool with him at the local dog training facility, and did little on the weekends but spend time bonding with him.
Certainly it’s easier raising a puppy in a family (or even roommate) setting, where there’s someone besides just you bearing all of the responsibilities. However, if you’re ready for the challenge and up to it, there is something really special about raising your fur baby by yourself. There is such a sense of accomplishment when your puppy outgrows him poor behaviors and starts going potty outside, stops chewing everything, etc.!
If your job is inflexible, you should consider a midday dog walker until your baby is 9-12 months old. Someone to let your pup out, feed him, play with him, etc. Puppies cannot go 8 hours without socialization or being let out, that’s for sure! But there are definitely people who you can hire to help! 🙂 Best of luck!
At night would he put himself to bed in the crate or in bed with you. Which option do you recommend?
Blair Lamb says
When he was 1 year and under, he slept with me. Now, he sleeps in his kennel. Long-term, the kennel is probably better, but use your judgement based on your pup’s personality!
Did he ever pee the bed? hehe
Taylor H says
I just got a maltipoo and also a single 20 something! My puppy is 9 weeks old, does not like being in her crate.. she will cry herself to sleep but it kills me. I noticed you said she slept with you when she was 1 year and under, so she wasn’t crated during the night? Also, I work 100% from Home.. lots of perks but also challenge crating her during the day when I am still here. Any suggestions or help would be SO appreciated!!
Kerry Leggett says
this is so funny because this is exactly my story!! my parents never let me get my own puppy, i said i would get one right when i moved out, so i recently got my MALTIPOO too!! he is 4 months today. he is CRAZY!! he bites everything and does not listen. He is extremely good in his crate though and is already potty trained but the energy is out of this world. I hope he calms down soon!
Blair Lamb says
Aww, love it! Maltipoos are the cutest! 🙂 Thanks for reading and commenting!
I am getting a mini Dachshund next week and I am so excited!! I work full-time, and as I have been doing my research, it’s discouraging to see so many people say that it won’t work for me to get a puppy. Thanks for the open and honest post- I will be crate training and will definitely have a dog walker to come in for the days I can’t get home for lunch!
Blair Lamb says
Best of luck! Definitely get a dog walker for your little one–he can’t hold it that long (and shouldn’t have to)! Good luck, mama!
I just purchased my maltipoo, and will be bringing him home February 13th. So excited, but very nervous! Your posts about Charley have helped calm those nerves a little 🙂
Katie Williams says
I’m so glad you wrote this! I have so many people telling me mixed things now – either that “now is not the right time” or “you can’t handle it” and so reading this made me feel better about my decision to get a puppy in the next few weeks. Thanks so much!
It’s great to know that it is possible to work full time and have a fur baby all solo! I will be getting a sheepadoodle puppy in March! I’m extremely excited and have been googling the crap out of raising a puppy (I currently have 2 windows with 10+ tabs each all about puppies). I currently have a roommate who will help me out when I’m working nights (I work a shift schedule) and will be sending him to doggie daycare during the day since my shifts are super long (12 hrs).
People keep telling me I’m crazy for doing it but it’s what I want, I want a furry best friend!
Thanks for your post, it has encouraged me greatly!
I’ve been thinking about getting my own little pup soon but the financial aspect has made me wary. Could you give an estimate on how much you had to spend in the beginning with food, vet bills and having a sitter? Just so I have a better idea of what I’m in for. Thanks!!
Blair Lamb says
Hey Jo! I’ve outlined that all here: https://blairblogs.com/2016/02/the-financial-cost-of-owning-a-dog/
🙂 Thanks for reading!
This made me feel so much better about getting my pup!
I’m a single + newly twenty year old + will be picking up my Olive (He is a mini labradoodle!) in just a few weeks. I was thrilled to find this article and see how you did it! 🙂
Blair Lamb says
Yay! Thanks for reading!
Thanks SO MUCH for sharing this!
I am not that young ( 45) and am about to get my first dog. Turns out it is a 8 week old Maltipoo puppy. I am single and live in an apt.
Scared, but so excited too.
Is there anytime you regreted having the puppy ?
This resonates so much with me 🙂 I moved to Fort Worth 3 years ago right after college and first thing I did was get Pooky, my poodle. Being a single dog mom is a tough job ☺️but completely worth it! I shared your post 🙂
Blair Lamb says
Haha–LOVE your comment! 🙂 Pooky the poodle. The best.
Thank you so much for sharing! You don’t know how encouraging this is. I’ve had my little cockapoo for about a week now and it has been really hard figuring out our routine. I’m glad to know I’m not the only one that found it hard and that it DOES get better!
My friend keeps telling me to put my puppy in the bed with me at night (because that’s my biggest problem; his whining causes me sleep deprivation!). Did your puppy have accidents? I would love to snuggle my pup to sleep, but don’t want to wake up to a wet spot! 🙂
Thank you for sharing your story!!
Priyankar Das says
Hi, greetings from India.
Your article is very informative and inspiring.
I would be thankful to you for a lifetime if you can assist me with your views in my situation.
I always had a full-time job and I have taken a 1.5 months chill-out break before joining my new company. I had impulsively adopted a 2 month old golden retriever puppy. My friend who adopted one too. But he has his wife to take care of him.
But I am single and the thought of leaving Max alone scares the hell out of me. He is way too loving to me. He can’t stay more than 10 mins without a human. He has separation anxiety
I would have to join the job in 10 days time, and a lot of thoughts are running through my mind. I can’t give him up. I am thinking if my absence kills him I’ll just give him to my parents maybe?. They raised dogs before.
Is there a way I can keep him and love him? I can let him play in his own room.
I have the liberty to drop in during lunch 4 times in a week
I don’t wanna give him to my parents as I love him way too much, I also don’t want him to howl all day being bored and anxious.
Hi! I loved this post and it’s great to hear that it worked out so well for you! However, when i turned 25 and decided to get a puppy, it didn’t work out as good; i’m just commenting this because i think it’s important that people read another type of a story too. So my mini poodle puppy was 2 months old and i took 2 weeks vacation and life was perfect despite a LOT of work with the puppy; i tried to leave him alone slowly starting from 10 minutes but when i had to go back to work and he had to be alone for 3-4 hours it just didnt work. He whined and cried and i heard complaints from my neighbour and everytime i left him my heart was broken. I tried to train him to get over this also went to a training course but it didn’t work because it would take a few months which i couldnt be without a job for so long. In the end i had to find another home for him because i felt like i was torturing him everytime i left him and the most important thing is that i know now that he has it good now. Maybe it was my dog’s personality or maybe it was something i did wrong that caused him to have anxiety, but this is my story. But i’m so happy for you and i hope you have many healthy and joyful years together!
Thank you for for sharing your story! I’m a single 20-something and I brought my schnoodle pup home on Friday. I am so worried about doing everything right. I work full time and tried giving her some space to play while I was away at first. My vet just convinced me to crate train so we started that yesterday… little bit wet the bed. I let her out at lunch and we play every morning and night. I’m just super grateful for you normalizing the experience of feeling nervous in the beginning and that it will get better and easier as the pup grows up! Solidarity to all the young, single, working pup owners out there.
Thank you for this article I’m a month into having my puppy as a single girl (in my 30’s) and it has been so hard. Not something to be taken lightly at all and I must admit I have spent most of the time thinking that I couldn’t carry on. What’s more I live in a flat so have an extra barrier in terms of outside toilet training. He is a very smart dog thankfully so he learns quickly. At the moment though I hardly leave him alone for more than an hour but on the 2 occasions where he has been left alone for just 4 hours he freaks out. I keep him in a playpen and he poos in there and makes a right mess. He then take hours to calm down after I let him out and won’t let me out of his sight. Do you think that I’d be better off putting him in his crate with no water and just a peanut butter kong? I’m wondering if there is something in giving him less space
i have had my own little girl pup since she was 7 weeks old. We both went thru growing pains!
She is now 5 months old ( well still VERY much a puppy, but clearly older and more calm).
I am a single 49 y/o dad, working full time.
I leave her in her pen when i am out. But have the luxury of coming back home to check on her around lunch time.
She does do ok in the pen, still gets excited and anxious to JUMP out when I get home.
Since this is something she will have to get used to, I don’t let her know that I am TOO concerned ( though inside I am!)
When alone, she prefers a pen ( never got used to a crate), but when I am at home, NO WAY she stays in the pen!
Luckily she does not poop in her pen. But now I do take her out for a walk regularly, though she does have carpet accident at least once a day.
Depending on how long you are gone, you can leave her without water. OR just cover the entire pen with potty pads!
I am a “novice dad”, so this is just MHO. Hopefully more experienced parents will chime in with better advise.
good luck, no matter the work, nothing beats the joy of raising a pup!!
I was single worked full time and raised a mini doxie. They take a little longer to potty train. As a pup she kept quiet and slept. I lived in an apartment at the time. Doxies are very vocal. She’s quiet when I’m at work. A watch dog when I’m home plus she loves to cuddle.
Hi, our issue is we live in an apartment, by we I mean my fiance and the puppy live there until i can move after graduation. Everything is going good during the day but Reese whines so bad if we crate him and night and leave the room. My fiance has to sit with him for the first 30 minutes while he is crated for him to go to sleep. We can’t leave him to whine because he is SUPER loud and living in an apartment that obviously upsets people. After 10pm we can have noise complaints filed against us. The issue I have is I want him to go to bed without someone sitting there. Will he outgrow the need for someone or will this get worse if we feed into it? If it is going to get worse, what do we do to stop it? If we leave the room his whining gets louder and louder the longer we are out of there…I’m lost.
Blair Lamb says
This is a tough one, and there’s no umbrella statement. Is your puppy at home all day alone? Can you send him to doggy daycare so that he gets more activity throughout the day? That may help with falling asleep. My dog hated being crated at night, so I let him sleep with me. To this day, three years later, he sleeps in my bed. We have a king-sized bed and Charley is only 10 pounds, so it doesn’t bother us a bit. His crate is in our room, and he often chooses to sleep in there, but if he wants to cuddle in our bed, we’re all for it. Sometimes you gotta “break the rules” to keep your sanity!
Ayisha Remtulla says
Hi! I just got a 6 month old rescue. He is such a sweetheart. I am single and going to be raising this little guy myself. He’s not housebroken as he was at a shelter so I will have to do that while working full time. I may be crazy in taking this on but I really want to make it work. Can you give me some pointers? I am planning on following your initial schedule as he is able to hold his bladder for longer. Meaning I will come home at lunch and take Vitto out for an hour or so and then again when I get home from work. It is more the morning I am concerned about…I need to leave for work at 7:30 a.m. so should I take him out first thing in the morning and then again before I leave for work? Thank you for your help!
Hey Blair, great narrative and especially loved the first person approach to the whole thing. I am also in my mid 20s, living single in Toronto but dating someone in New York. I have been just like you, since I moved out been putting it on my Christmas wishlist and getting discouraged by people in the suburbs telling me that its unfair to the dog with my lifestyle and urban living. I am willing to commit to a dogwalker and spending my weekends with my little fur friend. The only thing is that I grew up with massive dogs and although I wouldn’t get a massive one for me in the condo but I do want to get a medium sized breed like a Lab or something smaller (a cross called Oripei is my current condo favourite). The breeds you mentioned are a bit smaller so my only worry is that could your advice sort of translate for me? I live close to the lake and lots of parks within walking/driving distance. Another thing is that I might be travelling with the dog to states once in 2-3 months.
Anna Costa says
I’ve recently rescued a puppy, and I have crushing anxiety about losing my social life and freedom. Were you not much of a people person to begin with? Or did you feel canine companionship was superior, or more conducive to individual growth? I want to leave the house 3-4 nights a week, in addition to working, and I’m in tears sometimes over the isolation. I want to love my puppy – not feel like she is my jailer.
I am SOOO happy to have stumbled upon your post!! I just brought home my little ten week old Milo – he is a Havapoo! I have honestly been sick to my stomach trying to figure out how to do this and keep my full time 9-5 job or if its even fair to him. He hates the crate at night so I’ve been sleeping on the floor but thankfully after reading this I’m going to let him sleep in my bed with me. Much easier for everyone involved! You’ve truly relieved a lot of my anxiety thank you!
My husband I just got an adorable puppy (maybe all puppies are cute but I am biased) and I saw that your Charlie slept with you at the beginning. We are doing that as well and I am wondering how you taught him to like his crate. I am working full-time at work while my husband works from home for the first week, but we will both have to go back to work eventually. During the time before you went back to work, did you just get him used to being in the crate and then providing him with busy toys so that you could eventually leave him for a couple hours? Would love to hear your thoughts!
I got really excited when I stumbled upon this article…. I needed a voice of reason for getting a dog. Unfortunately I work 12 hours a day without lunch hour so my dog would be a miserable little fella 🙁 especially since I only have few friends around and closest family lives 5 hours away
Taryn Shaffer says
Thank you for sharing this. I got a goldendoodle at 8 weeks old (he’s 10 months now). and sometimes I question having him. I work split shifts so 4-6 hours he is crated then we go on a 30 min walk or dog park hang out before i go back to work for a few more hours. Now that he’s neutered I think ill do doggie day care 1/2 day 2x a week. He’s such a great addition (I have never had a pet before either). and i know im giving him a good home / doing what I can but i NEVER thought it was this hard. so kudos to single parents LOL.
I just got an 8 week old Australian Shepherd puppy and I’ve had him for 6 days. Problem is: I live alone. And my 2 week vacation will end eventually. I had been wanting a dog my whole life,like you, I read every book, blog post, article and watched every youtube video I could find – and I talked to all dog owners I met and asked about their everyday life. And still: I was not prepared. I wanted to take him to work with me but I cannot imagine it at the moment. It is getting better day by day but he likes to whine and work starts in about a week. I guess I’ll put up a crate under my table and conncet it to a fenced outside area and fill that with toys and a puppy pad (office is on the second floor). You think that will work?