big dog

Five Ways to Stop Someone from Getting a Dog

cute puppy

Did you ever want to stop someone from getting a dog? Case in point, as this happened to me last year:

“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.

small dog

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.

big dog

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.

cocker spaniel

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, a dog lover and rescue/foster parent to dogs says, “A walk through the kennels, and one realizes these dogs are barking for their lives.” In response 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.

QUESTION: Did you ever discourage someone from getting a dog? Tell us about it in the comments!

Here are some pet lovers who, no doubt, have faced wanting to tell someone not to get a pet…it’s a blog hop:


Note: I originally wrote this story for Dogster magazine, but it is timely and since we are Fi-DOSE of Reality, it’s time to get the word out again.

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  1. During the majority of my therapy visits, I am often asked what kind of dog I am, what I cost and how they would like to give their child a chihuahua. Or how they are looking for a puppy. For people looking to get a dog for their family member or that have been convinced by their children to get one, I always strongly persuade them not to get a chihuahua or a small dog. In fact, I turn them around to something else in hopes that they will 1 – not get a chihuahua (the second most euthanized dog in the US – as told to me by SShumane Society) and 2 – get a waiting dog that needs a home. My answer is always the same – to go to and to get a dog that is over 2 years old waiting as a foster or at a shelter. Most dogs around this age would be out of the puppy stage and trained to go out and the chewing stage is out the window. These are two of the biggest reasons people get rid of dogs – they chew up their house and they pee everywhere, number three is barking. So getting a dog already in the system that someone already had to give up (due to death, housing loss/layoffs, life changes) can make it a win-win for the dog and the person. the person can ask the foster volunteer if the pet is trained to go out, if it gets along with children or other animals and if it is a barker. The person can decide how much they can handle in their household and make informed decisions while helping get another pet out of the shelter system. THis is something I recently told a woman at the store who wanted to get her 8 year old daughter a chihuahua. Since she was not a dog lover, I advised her to get a dog over two years old that has already had the hardest training under its belt. This would ensure the mom would not return the dog later (because it messed on her carpet) and the dog would get a permanent home!

  2. This is a easy subject for me when you have a pawent like ma. I have heard her tell people they didn’t need a dog, they should foster first, they were too stupid to take care of a life or get a cat. When people ask her about a dog or getting a dog she always does a series of questions to see what type of dog would match their lifestyle. She doesn’t want someone who is highly active to get a dog that would prefer to stay on the couch or vise versa. The one time that sticks out in my mind the most is a lady who was in her 70’s that wanted a puppy. Ma explained how much training puppies needed, how they go through a chewing stage that can last months to years and the fact that they could live 14-18yrs. The woman never even had the thought of how long a dog could live!

  3. There are times people clearly concern me when you can see they are at risk for abuse or neglect. However, frankly I’d rather see people ask the “stupid” questions and get some help, then just jump in and pretend they “know” everything only to have a pet end up in a bad situation because of ignorance.

    People can be awkward and rather crude in how they ask questions, but it doesn’t always mean they can’t be good pet owners. Cost is a constant question I get when I’m out with the dogs from getting the dogs, to feeding, grooming, vet bills, etc. Some people just lack social skills in how they inquire about the knowledge they want. If I am not in the mood, I find a way to change the subject if I can’t move away. However, I have learned in this economy some people are trying to think less impulsively and more rationally about the costs of adding new things into their lives. Many could use some social skills training about how they ask, but digging below the surface I’ve found most are not animal abusers, they just lacking human social skills.

    I’ll be the first to admit I knew nothing about dog daycares until I started researching them after we rescued Bailey. Common sense told me I couldn’t leave him at home all day. However, I had no idea the range of options we’d have. Since our provider has closed her business I’m even more amazed at the range of options that is out there a decade later. I admit as a seasoned dog owner the options can be overwhelming at times. I still find it wonderful when trusted family and friends say have you tried … place for … services. It gives me some comfort to know someone I trusted has been through the process and been OK. I still have lots of homework to do, but it is a leg up.

    As for the landlord issue, I talk to lots of people about that in this state. I did not adopt until we bought our home because it is hard in this state to find dog friendly landlords. Cats are fairly common, but dogs not so much. If you are lucky enough to find one and have to move, it can be next to impossible to secure your next apartment. When you do the costs for extra security can be painful. This is why many rescues don’t adopt to renters in this state. However, I do think the rescues could do a better job explaining WHY rather than just saying this is our policy, DEAL.

    1. You hit the nail on the head, and I so appreciate this commentary. Loved that you said, “Since our provider has closed her business I’m even more amazed at the range of options that is out there a decade later”

  4. I have discouraged people numerous times…I’m probably a little too assertive, but having fostered so many dogs over the years, I hate seeing them end up in bad situations. I’m for licensing dog owners.

    1. I do think this is a problem that stops people from adopting and moves them towards breeders. There are certainly people who aren’t responsible enough to own dogs or any animal for that matter. However, a lack of communication and social skills doesn’t always translate to how great a job they are going to do as pet parents. How we talk to people makes a huge difference in what happens next.

      I’m not for more government regulations regarding pets. It is hard enough to get people to step up and do the right thing to get homeless dogs and cats into new homes. Adding regulations only makes that problem more challenging and expensive.

      How we approach people can and does make a difference in the future lives of dogs. When we speak politely, respectfully, and honestly about the challenges and responsibilities of dog ownership and any specific issues that come from our specific breed, we can get people to listen. When we are aggressive or rude, we cause people to tune out and ignore us doing the very things we don’t want them to do.

      In the case Piranha Banana cited I think it is kind of logical if you are visited by a therapy dog, it makes you feel better, that you might think about getting that type of dog. It doesn’t mean they should, but you should anticipate that people will ask you about it. She has great answers about why an older dog is better for kids, etc. She provides specific breed related information that might help people decide if this would be a good fit for more than a therapy visit.

      With our dogs we get the cute factor. However, we did a great deal of research before rescuing a Sheltie and the rescue had specific questions for us to make sure we understood not only the wonderful aspects of owning one, but the breed specific challenges. When people ask we try to provide a balanced approach and do suggest researching and breed rescue as resources to learn more. I’ve known a few people who were hooked on the cuteness factor that once they researched more decided to go in a different direction. I didn’t have to be aggressive about pushing them not to get a Sheltie. I just had to encourage them to research and learn more about not just Shelties, but any breed they brought home.

  5. I’ve suggested to several people who were interested in getting a dog but weren’t sure just what it entailed that they try fostering a dog for a rescue first. It’s not a long-term commitment and gives them the chance to see just what having a dog in their home 24/7 will be like. Then again, some people just aren’t cut out to be dog or cat parents. For me, I can’t imagine my life without my furbabies. If I have to be out of town and leave them at home (with other family members, so they are cared for) I miss them terribly.

    I think one of the problems some people have is that they get a dog to match their current situation. I’ve had more than one dog live to 16 and above, and one cat that was just short of her 20th birthday when she passed. When you get a dog, you need to look ahead – a dog that fits your life as it is now may NOT fit your life in another 10 or 15 years. One thing that gets me the most angry are people who dump their dogs when they find our they’re having a baby – or just after the baby is born. I think having a dog with a baby is great. I had my Misty before my first daughter was born and Misty was a second mother to Hillary. When I was pregnant with my second daughter I started thinking about the fact that I would have a newborn and a toddler and that I wouldn’t have as much time for Misty as I did up until then. My solution was to adopt a second dog – as much to be a companion to Misty as to be part of the family. It was the single best decision I have ever made.

    Anyway, thanks for the post.

    1. Love this, Linda: “When you get a dog, you need to look ahead – a dog that fits your life as it is now may NOT fit your life in another 10 or 15 years.”

  6. Mom tried to keep her brother and his family from getting a Lab but had no luck. They wanted a mellow dog that would hang out on the couch. They were deciding between a Lab and a Husky. Mom tried to get them to have a cat instead, but no luck and the result is a totally nervous, exercise and stimulation lacking Lab. She loves staying at our house when the family is gone so she can relax, be a dog, and get a ton of exercise.

  7. This is such a great post. Not everyone should have the right to own a dog, research is the best option and leads to matching a better breed to family. So sad how many dogs end up abused, neglected or put in a shelter all because someone made a hasty decision.

    Hope everyone on the WWblog hop relays this info!

    Thanks for posting – xx TH

    1. I get so sad (and frustrated) at people who treat pets as accessories or flash in the pan “items” when they are beings that need so much and that means being responsible for them. TY for chiming in, Talent Hounds

  8. I don’t have a problem at all in telling someone they don’t have time or aren’t ready to commit to a dog. If a family has a small child and complain about how much work it is raising a child, it is easy to tell the that a dog is just like their children. Especially puppies! I agree that there should be a law against some people owning a dog or cat. Very good tips to dissuade a person diplomatically.

    1. Yes, It’s hard to bite my tongue sometimes. I feel like knowledge is power and hope I help folks sometimes. It can be hard not to be angry, though. Such goofy people out there.

  9. I lost an acquaintance/neighboor for this very reason. She watched me with the Boys and to her I made pet parenting look “cool” and “easy” so she ran out and got what she calls her “Harley look-alike.” Well, I cringe every time I see her and her Malti-poo. He’s matted and unkept, only sees the out doors when he has his two walks, and rides in the car on her lap hanging way to far out of the window. I don’t know what she was thinking when she got him. I told her not to – told her it wasn’t a good idea, but she didn’t listen, and I feel so sorry for the dog. Great post, but for some people it will never register.

  10. This is a very interesting issue and generated interesting responses too. I certainly agree that some people probably shouldn’t get a dog, but also that some people just need some encouragement to do their research. Then there is the natural temptation to judge people who treat their dogs differently (but still well) by perhaps not being able to afford premium food or a house with a large fenced yard. It is a conundrum.
    Fostering is a great way to have a dog without the 15 year commitment. I also read a book recently by a woman who volunteered to help raise a service puppy on the weekends only, with a program where a prison inmate raised and trained the dog all week. Her role was to reinforce the training while providing socialization that the dog can’t get in a prison.

    1. Fostering is a fab way to give back, save a life, and perpetuate a positive cycle in a dog’s life for sure. TY so much, Amy!

  11. Great post, Carol. How about dog owners who cannot keep their dogs and household clean and smell-free? Once we launched Dog Fashion Spa line the biggest surprise for me was meeting all the dog owners who had no knowledge of proper dog hygiene. Talk to any dog groomer and they will tell you the best part of their job is to see the transformation in dogs after they have been groomed and the confidence they get, the way their mood and posture change, etc. When I see dog parents who have one dog that smells really bad and they say they want to get another dog, I am speechless but I am yet to find appropriate response that will not offend them. I usually just talk about responsible dog parenting and providing Quality Life for Dogs and hope that throughout the conversation they realize what they are not doing for their dogs.

  12. Great tips! There are so many people that shouldn’t have any pets. My niece recently had her second child, they had adopted a Beagle last summer. Life was good for Ava having a forever home, until the new baby. Now she’s soiling carpet in the babies room. Naturally my niece is very upset with this. Talking about taking Ava back to the shelter 🙁 Hearing this from her I went into a very long teaching session about how AVA feels, and that putting her in a crate isn’t helping, and explaining in great detail what Ava needed. After my very long speech my niece finally got it! Praying it sticks!

  13. I had a good friend ask me what kind of dog she should get. I asked her if she would want anther baby in her life (already 3 kids). NO! That’s too much work! Well then, you don’t want a puppy/dog in your life either.

  14. This is when I tell people that I write about dogs (lends authority) and that we have 4 (lends experience). I then tell them how much a dog costs. I think many people love the idea of having a dog the way I love the idea of having a little girl who I can dress up all the time. The dream is lovely; the reality? Not so much.

  15. What would you say to someone who has notions about getting a large dog to train as a service dog (mostly to carry stuff), like a pit bull, who:

    1. Has never even owned any type of dog

    2. Lives in an apartment with two cats

    3. Doesn’t currently have a car and has no realistic hopes of getting one

    4. Has very, very little money left over after paying expenses

    I’m pretty sure someone trying to get a dog under these circumstances wouldn’ get the go-ahead from a rescue to adopt one and certainly wouldn’t be able to afford one from a breeder. But, how would you point out to someone in these circumstances they need to seriously rethink this situation?

    Hate to sound so cynical, but I see too many casualties of such cases in rescues, like

    “I never knew how hard they were to train”

    “He mauled my cat”

    “The landlord said she had to go”

    “I couldn’t afford a vet”

    “20-pound bags of food are so expensive”

    Any ideas on how you’d talk to someone in these circumstances? Pounds in Texas, California, and Florida deal with too many owner-surrenders on account of situations like these.

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