Five Ways to Discourage Dog Ownership

Dexter as a puppy

Why in the world would Fidose discourage dog ownership? Oh, do we have a tale to tell…

“How much does that type of dog cost?”

It seemed innocent enough, the gentleman’s question, but for some reason it caused the hairs on the back of my neck to stand up and take notice.

“Excuse me?” I said.

“My kids are wanting a dog, and I like the looks of that one. How much for a dog like that?” he said.

My mouth was agape and I was searching my dog-writer brain for an intelligent response.

I looked over over at his car and saw six kids inside, fussing about, and then down to my little boy’s eyes and his “can we go now and play?” look at the other end of the leash. And then the words came to me.

“A lot of Cocker Spaniels end up in shelters, sir,” I explained. “This is a breed that requires a lot of care, grooming, close attention to eyes and ears, and though they love people, I’d probably not recommend one for a big family.”

Something in my gut fluttered, and I hoped that answer dissuaded him from wanting a Cocker Spaniel, or any dog for that matter. He left his car full of kids and went inside the store, with me scurrying to get back to my car.

Perhaps you’ve been in a situation similar to mine. Someone inquires about getting a dog, maybe one like yours. Perhaps the someone is a co-worker and has talked of getting a dog the way most of us would about getting, say, a houseplant. In other words, it’s a person who probably should not bring a dog into her life. Call it people profiling, but some people should not be allowed to have a dog. There oughta be a law, right?

Until that day comes, here are some things people might say to you when they’re talking about getting a dog, and the different ways you can respond.

1. “I want to get a dog, but I work all day”

This sentiment resonates with many of us, whether we work remotely, telecommute, work part-time or full-time. I might take flack for this, but dogs should not be left alone for inordinate periods of time. Dogs are pack animals who take comfort and thrive with their humans. To expect a dog to stay home alone without some sort of mental stimulation, potty breaks, or human interaction is unfair.

Helpful Response: “There are really good doggie daycares and pet sitters available these days. If you are considering a dog, I can help you find a reputable one.” The old Carol would have been snarky and biting and would have discouraged a dog entering this person’s life; the new Carol realizes that some people do react well to being educated and offered assistance. Knowledge is power and all.


2. “I want a dog to keep my kids company”

This is a very touchy one, as the kids might be responsible. But has the adult determined whether or not they are? How many instances have you heard about where the kids want a dog, the dog enters their lives, and then who ends up taking care of the dog? The adult, right? Not always, as some people get sick of a dog and then dump it at the shelter. Call me cynical, but years of volunteering in rescue and with foster groups gives one a jaded view of some dog parents.

Helpful Response: “What sort of breed are you considering? Are you going to a shelter? A lot of shelter pets need homes.” These questions generate a genuine interest and aren’t attacking or offensive in nature. If you are certain that a pet is not a good fit for this person, feel free to voice your opinion, but be aware you might sever a friendship.


3. “I just watched a dog show on TV, and I really want to get a [insert breed here]”

This one causes me the most grief. As much as I like watching dogs prance around the ring, I cringe knowing that the ones who win end up in high demand at puppy mills and backyard breeders. It is a sad and tragic reality that the most popular breeds are also the most damaged. In a “Whew, thank goodness” way, I always emit a sigh of relief when Cocker Spaniels don’t win at big dog shows like Westminster. Cocker rescuers sure don’t want to see a greater influx of dogs come through their shelter doors.

Helpful Response: “You know, a lot of those dogs on TV require a ton of time, care, and attention. They look really good, but I’d suggest doing a bit of reading about the breed. Have you had one before?” Trust me, there have been times I want to say, “Seriously, are you nuts, you couldn’t handle that breed,” but my manners precede me.


4. “I want a dog but my landlord won’t accept pets”

Ask a shelter worker why a pet was dumped there — you would be amazed at the number of people who say their landlord found out about the dog.

Helpful Response: “Don’t risk it. If you get found out, you’ll have to move or the poor dog will suffer. You don’t want him or her to end up in a shelter. See if he’ll let you get a fish.”

5. “I want a dog, but I don’t feel 100-percent ready to commit”

Some people want to try on dog ownership for size, and there is nothing wrong with this. Perhaps they recently had a dog pass away, or maybe it’s been a few years since they shared their life with a dog. I respect someone more for admitting this than attempting to be a dog parent and falling short, thus putting the dog’s fate at risk.

Helpful Response: “Did you ever consider fostering a dog? I know plenty of people who have fostered dogs and receive tremendous satisfaction in doing so.” As Terry Humerickhouse of Gulf Coast Cocker Spaniel Rescue says, “A walk through the kennels, and one realizes these dogs are barking for their lives.” In reponse to that, Terry has fostered over 150 dogs in his lifetime. While a permanent owner is sought, a foster parent enables dogs to find solace until a forever home is found.

There are a variety of reasons some people should never be allowed to have a dog in their life. We have no law for that, so the voice of reason is our best weapon.

Did you ever discourage someone from getting a dog? Bark at us below.

Note:  I originally wrote this article for Dogster magazine, and it bears repeating in light of BlogPaws‘ celebrating Adopt a Pet Month… pets needs homes but not everyone should have one.

Similar Posts


  1. You have some good points and answers there! Our biggest pet peeve is all the families that get a dog for the kids and after a few months, the dog is boring. One of our neighbors gave their goldendoodle back after almost a year because it was high energy and they wanted something like a couch potato, grrr…another neighbor got the kids a lab, walked it as a puppy for a few months and that was it. It now is allowed only on the deck, chained to a tree in the yard or the house. The poor thing is a wild mess, has run away numerous times, been hit by a car. Just makes us sick. Don’t people see that we dogs are living creatures with thoughts, needs, hearts and feelings? Shouldn’t even get started on this.

    1. So true, Emma… it makes us broken hearted. We are involved in dog rescue, and like you, we see the dogs who get dumped. I just don’t get it – they get bored with the dog and that’s it – dump him or her. I so very much try to educate people…. I know how you feel totally.

  2. As always, an excellent and helpful post!

    As a vet I can say that while there are a *very* rare number of children who can take major responsibility for their pet (these are the ones that normally come in with the pet for the vet visit and know more than the parents about how the pet behaves at home), 95% of the time parents don’t feel like their kid stepped up to the plate. I think it’s only natural, the adult parents are the ones who have to pay for everything, drive the pet places, and for most kids there’s just no way for them to really understand or for young kids have the attention span for the amount of work it takes to train and care for a dog properly. I always tell parents who say “I want to get an animal to teach my kid’s responsibility” or “I will only give in and get that animal if the kids promise to take care of it” – don’t do it unless *YOU* want the dog and are willing to take responsibility.

    The other thing I would add to this list is “I want a dog but taking care of them is so expensive”. It’s so important for people to be financially ready to have a pet. You learned first hand with your pet how expensive a fixable medical problem like a CCL rupture can be. One family I saw had multiple young pets in a row with major health issues. First it was a kitten with ringworm who had major congenital problems and passed away during her spay (at another clinic), then a puppy who came down with parvovirus.

    I recommend any potential pet owner have at least $2000 in the bank (though an appropriate amount may be a little more or less depending on your area) before even getting the pet in case of a fixable pet medical emergency and ideally pet insurance to boot.

    Sometimes even if a dog isn’t the right pet for that person, a different kind of pet might be. There are rescue societies for everything from guinea pigs to parrots. Petfinder is great for finding rescues of any type.

  3. I’m going to have to remember your suggestions. My problem is your #3, but often the people have never seen my dogs before & suddenly decide they want on in the 5 seconds they’ve looked at mine. I’ve discouraged many people from Airedales, Corgis, and now Black Russian Terriers. Airedales and BRTs are strong willed AND physically strong on top of it. Plenty of Airedales end up in shelters because the people didn’t know exactly what they were getting, and they wouldn’t do the work to make the dog the best it could be. I’ve rarely seen BRTs in shelters, but if one of us finds one, a call to the rescue-group head is all it takes. Corgis end up in shelters a lot too because they are an energetic handful despite their height. For some reason, people think, “Little equals easy to handle.” All 3 of these breeds will outsmart people if they’re not used to this type of temperament that turns into trouble if not given a job.

    I’ve gotten really good at pointing out the bad things about these breeds–even if it makes me look like I might not really care for my dogs’ breeds as a whole. I’ve still found that grooming requirements and pitching out dollar amounts for feeding each month to be some of the best deterrents of all. If those don’t make that gleam in their eyes go away, I just mention the possible health issues of these breeds and the monthly costs of veterinary care on top of everything else.

    1. There is an awful lot of education that needs to take place and I am glad you are informing interested parties of the breed attributes and reality.

  4. Those are great tips. As a concerned dog owner, and organizer of a large Dachshund club, I often come up against touchy dog-ownership questions. It’s not usually whether to get a dog but I have heard people say “My fluffy is so cute, I want to breed her so she can have puppies”. Yikes! If you can write a post on how to handle that one that would be great.

  5. I want to get a dog, because my heart is broken after having lost our dog and I need a distraction. Response is that I need time to mourn my dog and to find a new normal for our family before bringing a new sweet soul into this confusing environment. Plus it’s important for everyone in the family to be on board, because it’ll be all hands on deck with three dogs.

    Great post, Carol.

    1. I have had you on my mind so much, Kimberly. I can only imagine what you felt and are continuing to feel, but as a dog mom whose dog has passed away, I can understand. I am glad that you recognize when to get a dog – I went through the same thing. Many hugs to you and your family.

  6. This is one of those topics where you need to take a deep breath and use all the tact and skill to politely discourage these people from getting a dog.

    The rationalization is always similar…. My son Elroy has wanted a dog his “entire” life, he will be 5 next month. – My wife and I are having our first year anniversary. She loves Huskies and I thought I would surprise her. We just got new sod in the backyard so the dog has a nice place to play. Aghhh, People put more time and energy in researching a new tv than a dog.

    Elroy may want that dog now but what about the family? Will the family be there for the dog when Elroy decides he wants a pachyderm or a triceratops instead?

    Surprising someone with a dog as a gift is the worst idea every especially your new wife and certainly not a Husky with a new backyard. One of those will certainly go and oddly enough people like their manicured yards better than the dog.

    If the potential family and dog are not a match then having the skills and tact to explain why this is not a good idea is best for all involved.

    As the dogs temporary guardian it’s our responsibility to do what we can to ensure the dog has the best chance possible in a new home. Discouraging people is not often talked about but is a necessary conversation at times.
    Josh Sterling

  7. I adopted the most laidback bulldog ever at the age of 6. people are always asking me about him and how chill he is and I am constantly telling them that he is considered OLD and thats why hes so laid back and that bulldogs are expensive when it comes to the vet! so many potential health problems

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.