Could You Handle a Pooch?

Is a lifetime committment worth having a best friend?

Yeah she's cute, but could you handle all the responsibility?

Occasionally on college campuses you will spot a student walkin’ a pooch, but those incidents are few and far between. Since college is mostly about studying hard and partying along the way, most students don’t want the responsibility of caring for someone other than themselves – especially a four legged friend. That will poop in their shoes.

My boyfriend recently adopted a mutt from the local pound. He knew he could give her (Shyla) a good home with his off-campus house, and since then the two of them have been on adventure. While part of the time (OK – most of the time) the antics brought on by Shyla seem like they were written straight out of Marley and Me, it is hard to deny the cute, active sweetness of an eighteen week puppy playing fetch and snuggling up next to your feet.

Just as anyone who has ever had a dog knows, pups are all-encompassing hard work. There is the whole process of getting the dog acclimated to living in a house: potty-training, keeping them out of the trash, getting them used to walking on a leash… Honestly, getting a dog to “sit” isn’t as easy as it seems, so patience and a little bit of loving care is important too.

Oh, and if house-breaking a puppy isn’t enough, there is also the importance of grooming and professional pet care. You thought getting a manicure and pedicure at the local nail salon was expensive, try $15 for a dog groomer to just cut your pet’s nails. When you’re not grooming your dog, it is crucial to its health (especially as a puppy) to have regular vet visits – costing up to $100 or more at a time. Having a dog takes a lot of focus away from yourself, which means a lot less money for the seasonal (or daily) shopping tips.

But even though it is expensive and trying at times, having a dog can be a rewarding experience. Yeah, even if it leaves a little puddle by your bed.

Not sure if a dog is for you, at least while you’re in college? Let’s weigh the pros and cons.

Good: You have a bed buddy every night, and you know for sure they don’t have STDs or Swine Flu! And they won’t sneak out before you get up in the morning and be there when you get u,p providing you undivided attention with a wagging tail.
That Tommy Hilfiger comforter you just bought is going to smell like dog, and if you don’t keep Fido’s nails short enough, it might suffer a rip and tear.

Good: You always have something to look forward to at home. Imagine having a crappy day on campus and coming home to a precious puppy excited to see you.
Dogs shouldn’t be left alone for more than four hours a time, so you will need to prioritize your schedule and social life around taking care of your new-found responsibility.

Good: Having a dog will make you more active. You will be going on more walks and once you get your little friend outside, it will be hard to bring them in, making you want to stay out as well. You can keep yourself more in-shape this way!
: Dogs can be too active sometimes, forcing you to constantly watch them. If they have a lot of pent up energy, they may get into things around the house. For example, Shyla likes to explore the house and with her extra puppy energy, it means she gets into everything she can, whether it is my boyfriend’s economics homework or the bathroom’s endless stash of toilet paper.

Good: Dogs make great introductions in a social setting. In a sorority? Bring your puppy with you for a low-key function. Everyone will dote over how cute your dog is, and you can play the proud, happy dog-loving parent as she gets passed around.
Taking a dog to a public function could cause problems. Some people aren’t dog-friendly, and others don’t take having a dog seriously. Think about it: How many frat boys are going to try to give your dog beer?

The bottom line is that dogs are a huge responsibility; in fact, they are a life-time commitment. Do you think you could handle one in college?



  1. kirsten says:

    My sophmore year my boyfriend and I adopted a daschund puppy from the pound. There hasn't been a second that I have regetted that decision. A year later we adopted a german shepard/borer collie mix. Now this dog definetly had some problems as a puppy (including chewing up the carpet at our apt!) Now that she is older she is the coolest dog ever. About a year after her my boyfriend brought his family dog up (she is already potty trained so she caused absolutly no trouble) and 2 months ago we got a cat… we live in a zoo! But I love it!

  2. Erin says:

    I got a cat my 3rd year. She's my baby. I suggest people hold off on getting dogs because they are much more needy and harder to maintain. Also you never once mentioned training, the most important part. Dogs need alot of training something any good dog owner can tell you, in college you won't have the time because you have school work, classes, and according to this site Greek function to attend. I'm begging people not to get animals if they cannot be committed. Any one who's been into a pet shelter recently can tell you that alot of young people get animals they can't handle and then give them away or drop them at shelters. This is a big step. Please don't get an animal if your not committed.

  3. Mal says:

    Yeah, i agree with having to train it. My roommate last year had a husky (a very high energy dog) and she kind of neglected it and didnt train it. It would have been a really cool dog but my roommate ruined it. It was really sad. I appreciate this article for saying how much of a commitment a dog/puppy is. You need to have the time to spend with them! But if you do, they can be tons of fun!

  4. Samantha - UC Santa says:

    My parents told me that they would stop paying my tuition if I got a dog at school, so now when I'm missing my four legged baby I come home to play with my nine-year old puppy scout, or I volunteer at the local animal shelter. It's a good compromise!

  5. Brittney says:

    I got a pet Betta. I think he's still a very fun pet to have even if you can't pet him or take him for walks. Betta fish are pretty low maintenance too. I can not feed him for four days and he's okay!

  6. T says:

    I have a rabbit right now, and once I move into my next apartment I'm going to get a cat. I definitely don't think just anyone should get a pet though, it's a lifetime commitment. (well it should be at least- hearing about people taking pets back to the pound because they didn't think it through pains my heart) But if someone has the means and desire to have a pet, I think it's great; even more so if you rescue one.

    Fyi: Nail trimmings are usually free at the Vet's office, so that's pretty convenient when you're already there. Otherwise, it's not too hard to trim their nails on your own, plus it saves you a few bucks you could spend on some toys for them.

  7. Casey says:

    My boyfriend and I have a cat and he's a little hellion! (We named him Monster, so that tells you something right there) But even though he's a hassle we love him to death and he's so much fun.

    But I would never get a dog in college, even though Monster thinks he's a big bad dog (he even plays fetch!) cat's are a lot less work and more independent animals. If anyone can keep up with their commitments in college AND be committed to raising a pup, well kudos to you, I certainly wouldn't be able to do it.

  8. Jenny says:

    I have 6 birds, and they are expensive AND high maintenance. They start singing at 7 AM, and they make a huge mess from flinging seeds/pellets/poop all over the cage. I've spent tons of money buying them safe toys, perches, and a massive cage. Plus, you really have to spend a lot of time with them to learn about their personalities and watch for signs of illness. It is a lot of work to take care of them, but I love them dearly.

    I also have a cat, who is a lot less hard to take care of. :) He's a total sweetheart. <3

    I can't wait to own a dog one day. I've always grown up with dogs around, and I miss my family dog, Buddy, so much since I've moved out. But I know that an apartment as small as mine is no place for a big dog(or really, whatever dog I fall in love with at the shelter), and I really don't want to own one until I can offer it the best quality of care.

  9. annessa says:

    I have a little Cavalier King Charles Spaniel which my boyfriend got for me this summer. She's very sweet and I love her to death, but it is challenging being home to take her out every few hours. Vet bills are also absolutly ridiculous. She still needs to be spayed and the vet estimated around $700 for the surgery. Little too much for me. She is very happy though.

  10. Katrina says:


    There is a webstite,

    They offer discounts on spaying and neutering…It might only be 60 or 70 dollars off…but it's still something, and sometimes they offer more. you just enter your zip code, and it will tell you the vet's offices near you that accept them.

  11. R says:

    I think you can make it easier by adopting just the right dog. I volunteer at the local animal shelter and there are a lot of dogs there that are already house trained and trained to walk on a leash. Also, if you get a older dog (2-3 years) you won't have to deal with the high energy or a puppy. Plus an older dog will already have its shots and all dogs are spayed/neutered before they can leave the shelter.

  12. Ace says:

    I've had a dog and a cat(now 2 cats) since I was a freshman. For me it was a way to keep me grounded, I also have always had an off campus apartment. It's expensive, so I've always had to have a job and it's meant I don't get to go out and party for 3 days straight, but I'm glad to have my little loves to come home to and I feel like it's made me a more responsible person. I absolutely wouldn't recommend pets in college to everyone, or really anyone, but for me I can't imagine my life without them.

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  17. Turgut says:

    Anonymous – great pics Taryn! your friend is very poeohgtnic and that dog is absolutly gorgeous. makes me want to do a photoshoot with my ‘boopsie’! ill have to give you a call when im back in canada next year. keep up the good work! Jessica ThiessenMarch 9, 2011 5:29 pm

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