Dogs/Selecting a Dog Breed
Hello! I am a young professional who will be moving into my own apartment in the near future. I love to run (I run at least 3 miles, usually more, every day) and would like to get a dog that would be physically able to accompany me. Unfortunately, I also need to take my career into account, as it will keep me away from my apartment during most of the day. Can you recommend a dog breed, or breeds, that would be able to handle long hours alone in a fairly small space, but also have the stamina to be a running companion? Thank you so much!
I can certainly understand your desire to own a dog, but no dog should be left alone for more than 7 or 8 hours a day. Being left alone is more of an issue than the size of your home.
If you can possibly make it home at lunchtime for a quick walk, do it. If not, maybe there's a friend, neighbor or relative who could do the mid-day walk for you. Maybe having "doggie-daycare" at a local boarding kennel or getting a dog walker is an option, if not daily, then even two or three times a week. Is it at all possible for you to bring your dog to work?
Many dogs are capable of holding their bowels and bladder all day long. But itís not good for them (as it wouldn't be for you). Holding on for long periods can lead to urinary tract infections, and the highly concentrated urine a dog produces during a long wait can increase the likelihood of crystal formation and cystitis.
The best thing you can do for a dog that's going to be home-alone is supply some good, hard, first-thing-in-the-morning exercise...every morning. The object is, when your dog gets home from the run, he flops down on his bed and goes to sleep. A tired dog is a quiet and well behaved dog! It can be helpful to leave a TV or radio on when the dog is alone too. When you come home in the evening, give another active walk, run or active playtime.
It's also wise to leave your dog with something to do during the day. Having a "Kong" toy, or other food-dispensing toy counts as mental stimulation, which translates to a good use of the dog's time! Changing what you put in the Kong will keep it exciting and interesting. I should mention that rawhides and natural bones are unsuitable for a dog that's alone, they can be a choking hazard. If you plan on leaving your dog outside, be sure the dog has proper shelter and bedding, clean water, and that the kennel area is secure. Providing toys that give mental stimulation is also wise for dogs left outside.
A dangerous combination is to have a dog with pent-up energy who isn't getting the amount of exercise it needs, that's bored and also lonely, and who is left alone for hours and hours. In this scenario, the dog will find things to do. This can be anything from tearing apart walls or furniture, to howling or barking nonstop, or even self mutilation.
Now that you know how important it is that your dog is well exercised before leaving it for the day, and that it needs something to do during the day, if you still are thinking about getting a dog, look for an adult dog, NOT a puppy. When adopting an adult dog you know what you're getting, and it's even possible to find one that's trained. Puppies can't be left alone for any length of time, they need to relieve themselves every 2-3 hours or more.
Many breed rescue clubs and shelters have assessed their dogs temperaments and can help you select the ones more suited to your lifestyle. Breeds (and breed mixes) that usually make good running companions are:
Greyhounds run up to 45 mph, but they're more of a sprinter than cross country runner. They need to be leashed, as they WILL take off after small animals. Being hounds, they usually have sweet temperaments and are known to be couch potatoes when they aren't out for a run. There are many Greyhound rescue groups looking to re-home once racing dogs.
Whippets are like smaller versions of the Greyhound. They are known for their sweet and gentle nature, they don't need to run for long periods of time, but they do need to have regular exercise. They are delicate and sensitive to cold weather, so they aren't a breed that can stay outside in the cold. Being sensitive, this breed may have problems with being left alone for long periods, but this can vary with the individual dog.
Dalmatians are an active breed, famous for being dogs who accompanied coaches on their route. They have a high level of energy, and can go for longer runs in all sorts of terrains. The short coat of this breed makes them unsuitable to live outdoors in cold climates.
Doberman Pinschers, Fox Terriers, Jack Russell Terriers, Shiba Inu, Rhodesian Ridgebacks, Standard Poodles, Vizslas, Weimaraners, German Shepherds, German Shorthaired Pointers, American Staffordshire Terriers, Golden Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers (as well as the popular mixes: "Labrodoodles" and "Goldendoodles") can all be great running companions.
More than being a running companion though, the bigger issue is the amount of time your dog would be left alone. You need to evaluate any dog you're considering as an individual, and not rely on general breed descriptions. Within any breed there will be some who don't mind being left alone for longer periods of time, while others of the same breed may become destructive within the same time period they're left alone.
Just like a human athlete, a dog will need time to build up it's muscles and tolerance. Go slow, increasing the running distance weekly, and bring water along. In the summer exercise in the early morning and evenings, when it's coolest. A vet exam prior to starting a running regimen is a wise idea.
If you decide to get a dog, do your homework and read up on the breed you've chosen. Evey breed has some kind of illness or health condition associated with it, though it's not a guarantee that any individual dog will or will not develop the condition. For example, larger dogs such as the German Shepherd are prone to develop hip dyspepsia, which would make it unable to run. Mixed breed dogs are generally healthier than their pure-bred cousins. As long as a dog doesn't have a "pushed in face", it can be a fine running companion, no matter the breed mix.
It would be best to get your dog when you have some time off from work. Give a good week or two for the dog to adjust to you, your home, and the new routines of feeding times, and walk times, etc.
I hope I've been a help. Feel free to get back to me if you have other questions.
Best of luck,