q: i am someone who has considered getting a dog, but feels like it's not sensible given my busy city life. are there certain kinds of dogs that make better city pets than others? is a small dog necessarily better than a big dog? how many times a day and for how long should you walk your dog? are piddle pads really a good idea? in general, aren't dogs better off with fields and yards and all that? -leah black, brooklyn
a: leah, that is a good question. owning an animal is a commitment. this commitment is not only in time but is financial and emotional as well. in order to have a mutually beneficial and rewarding relationship with your animal, you have to view this responsibility as a labor of love and not a chore. if your pooch is going to be always on the bottom of your daily "to do" list, then i would suggest you consider a pet that isn't completely dependant on your comings and goings.
dogs need social activity and behavioral enrichment to thrive. bored and neglected animals can manifest undesirable behaviors like nibbling on your favorite shoes, grazing on a couch cushion, barking, digging or in extreme cases have severe anxiety attacks. then, there are the dogs that will just happily snooze on the bed until you get home and manage to stay out of trouble.
bathroom habits can vary, but i can't imagine getting away with less than three trips per day minimum. there are plenty of small-breed dogs that can be litter-box trained. but walks are more than for relief purposes. they are a good source of exercise, social networking (for both you and your dog!) and a bonding activity. hundreds of thousands of families living in new york city own dogs and most of those folks work full time. and surprisingly, we have many well-adjusted dogs that have adapted to city life and love it! we have dog walkers and pet sitters and doggie day care available to us. new york is a very pet friendly town. i have lived in the country, and i have lived in the city and both of my dogs were just happy to be with me, no matter where i was. as most pet owners do, i adjust my time and activities to include my dog.
so the bottom line comes down to you. pet ownership comes with a price, but i don't think you will hear many pet owners tell you it isn't worth it.
robin brennen, dvm chief of veterinary services and vice president of program operations, bideawee
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