A few months ago, I got a question from a reader about our dog Rocky, and if Amy and I would recommend getting a dog from the lens of minimalism and intentional living. What are the pros and cons of getting a dog?
It’s a good question, and one I likely would’ve answered differently before having Rocky in our lives.
When we first embarked on our minimalism journey, a dog was never in the picture. I never had a dog growing up, while Amy’s family had dogs throughout her childhood to adult life. At the time, we were focused on location independence and increasing our free time—things that don’t really align with bringing a puppy into our lives. Amy knew what taking care of a dog involved, and so we figured getting a dog was something we’d do later on in life.
But when we started looking for a dog a couple years ago, we were in a different phase.
Amy was working full-time and I was building up the business while working from home. We were just starting to realize that, for us, we needed a creative space that was more rooted.
We looked at several adoption sites, but with our allergies and need for a hypoallergenic dog, it seemed nearly impossible to find one to adopt. The few hypoallergenic dogs available were seemingly snatched up within a day. We were about to give up and hold off on looking for a dog until I happened upon a listing for a maltipoo puppy named Rocky.
I fell in love with the little guy from the pictures.
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At nearly five months old, Rocky had been returned to the local breeder from the family that got him at two months old. He came with a whole bunch of toys, a play pen, dog beds, a training crate, grooming items, blankets, food and treats. He clearly had been with a family who got everything for him, but didn’t know what having a dog—much less a puppy—involved.
After showing the listing to Amy, we decided to schedule a visit, which unsurprisingly resulted in us coming back home with Rocky in tow. While Rocky wasn’t an adoption in the traditional sense, we felt it was the next best thing given our need for hypoallergenic. That was the start of our lives with Rocky. It’s now been a year and a half later and we wouldn’t trade Rocky for anything in the world.
First, the pros on getting a dog. For us, the pros far outweigh the cons.
1 / More joy
Just looking at Rocky makes us happy. Add that to the love, affection and excitement he gives to us each day.
Getting a dog will add more joy into your life. There’s nothing else quite like having a pup snuggle next to you on the couch, greet you ecstatically at the door, or look up at you endearingly. They’ll also add more laughter with their antics, such as trying to sneak off with a sock (Rocky’s favorite activity) or doing all the tricks to get a treat.
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2 / Reassuring presence
When we first got Rocky, I spent most of my days by myself working from home. During challenging political events and the cold winter, it was beneficial having a little pup around who needed my time and attention. It was nice not being alone in the house, and having an adorable presence to play with and break up the day. This is still the case with both Amy and I working from home now. These days, Rocky will just hang out with us in the office while we write, film and work.
3 / On schedule
Taking care of Rocky has helped us better take care of ourselves. It’s all in the daily routine.
Rocky helps get us up and going each morning. Every morning, we get outside to take him for his walk and get our vitamin D for the day. Sitting, training and playing with him keeps an element of joy and fun in our lives. Taking him for his evening walk gets us outside again, providing a break from the computer screen or phone that’s always beneficial when you work from home. His daily grooming is our cue to start getting for bed ourselves. We’ve found that we keep to a better schedule with him in our lives.
4 / Daily reminder of what matters
Dogs are masters of the present moment.
When they’re tired, they nap. When they’re hungry, they eat or ask for food. They’ll play with their toy or bring you the ball when they’re feeling playful. When they’re on a walk, they’re fully there—immersed in the experience. They’re not thinking of where else they could be at the moment or worrying about something in the future or the past. Rocky likes to take his time on our walks, to experience what’s going on and to literally stop to smell the flowers.
Rocky has taught me the power of presence. The element of enjoying each moment for what it is. The importance of appreciating your loved ones every single day, of spending quality time with them. He’s a daily reminder of what truly matters.
5 / Little take, big give
In our case since Rocky came with what his previous family had bought him, we didn’t end up needing to buy a lot of stuff for him. On the flip side, we actually decluttered a lot of what he came with as we learned what we really needed and what we didn’t. Especially when puppies are teething, it’s good to have more toys and treats so they don’t get bored and start chewing on cables, shoes, or other things in the home. But once dogs get older, they really don’t need as much.
They don’t need much aside from a collar, harness, leash, some grooming stuff, occasional medications, poop bags, food, water, and maybe a toy or two. You can buy a lot more than that for them if you wish. There are hundreds of dog toys, treats and accessories for purchase. We opt for higher quality food to keep him healthy, but otherwise keep it simple on the treats, accessories and toys. Overall, the cost of taking care of Rocky is pretty small for the joy he brings into our lives.
Now for the cons on getting a dog.
1 / Adjustment period
The first couple months with Rocky were tough. Not because he was a difficult pup, but because he was how puppies are. They’re furry balls of energy—exploring and getting into things they shouldn’t, and likely to pee or poop at any given moment. Puppies require constant supervision and attention, the only relief during the brief periods they pass out from sheer exhaustion. I could barely get any work done during those days.
There were moments during the first couple months when I looked at Amy and thought, “What have we done?” We never would’ve abandoned Rocky now that we were his owners, but I found myself wondering if I would’ve scheduled that initial visit if I went back in time. It was in the third month when I realized that I would absolutely do it all over again.
It simply took about two months for Rocky and us to get used to each other and into a new routine. At first, the extra work of having an additional living creature to constantly watch, clean up after, walk, groom and feed was overwhelming. But it got easier with each month, and it’s especially easy now a year and a half later.
Even if you don’t get a puppy and get an older dog, there will still be an adjustment period. It’s a time when the dog is learning the rules of the new home, and when you’ll need to be on top of training and reinforcement to set expectations early on. The training and time we invested in the early months has been more than worthwhile. He’s such a good boy, and a seamless part of our lives now.
2 / Less day-to-day flexibility
One downside is there’s less flexibility when it comes to going anywhere outside the home.
Before we got him, we didn’t have to worry about how long it has been since we left the house. We’d go off to a coffee shop and not come home until the late evening. Since Rocky’s been in our lives we’ve left events or friends’ houses earlier than we would’ve liked to come back and take care of him. There’s definitely less flexibility in the daily schedule with Rocky in the picture.
3 / Less Travel
We used to travel a lot more before we got Rocky. We could book a flight, pack and leave for the airport without much more thought. Whenever we travel nowadays, we need to consider Rocky’s arrangements.
It’s not that we don’t have options. Rocky’s small enough to fly with us so we could take him if we wanted. But the cost of flying him back and forth is sometimes the cost of a third ticket. Finding dog-friendly accommodations is often more difficult and expensive. We have friends who could watch him and access to pet-sitting services if we don’t take him. But we simply don’t want to be away from the little guy for too long. We miss him and worry about him while we’re gone. And likely, no one else is going to take care of him like we do, as we brush his teeth and wash his face generally every day.
4 / Potential expenses
Another con is that having a dog can easily get expensive when it comes to any health issues or vet bills. With Rocky being young and healthy, there haven’t been any big expenses so far but we know that can change as he gets older. As he gets older, we may need to think about pet insurance, certain procedures and preventative treatments. If anything were to happen, we’d provide any medicare care he needed. Therefore, potential future expenses are definitely something to consider when you’re thinking of getting a dog.
Overall, getting a dog definitely impacted the flexibility and travel in our lifestyle, so that’s something important to consider. Despite that, we love our Rocky and can’t imagine our lives without the little guy. Hopefully these pros and cons from a minimalist, intentional living perspective will help you decide on whether a dog is right for you.
If you are planning on getting a dog, MyPetNeedsThat is a great online resource for everything dog related. Be sure to check it out.