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Would I be a suitable dog owner?(16 Posts)
I'm hopefully moving house soon to a place with a garden. My 15 year old autistic son loves dogs, his dad has a rescue who DS worships. I'm disabled, at home all day & would love a dog for company, I've been looking at Shih tzu's, I'm in touch with a Shih Tzu rescue as I wouldn't want a puppy. I don't want anything any bigger due to my mobility issues, I walk badly & don't want anything that could pull me over. DS would walk the dog before school in a morning, I could manage to put the dog in the car & take him to the park for a 15 minute walk & a coffee at the cafe & DS would walk him in the evening. Money isn't a problem, I can afford food, insurance, equipment & toys etc & I would pay for a one to one dog trainer to teach me at home. Am I right in thinking that Shih tzu's don't need much exercise & would be happy to mooch around at home with me most of the day? I'm not looking to get a dog before I move out of the flat I'm in at the moment.
Your son is 15 - what will happen if in 5 years he no longer lives at home?
Would be absolutely fine OP. Sounds a lovely home for a small pooch.
I know my son is 15, he is planning on going to college for his A levels then having a year out to work & build up some cash before going to university, he is a boy who prefers to be at home & up to now is aiming for one of the two local universities so he can carry on living at home, due to his ASD I don't think he would cope with living away from home. I want to get a dog partly for company for me & partly because as well as ASD, he suffers from anxiety & depression. He is a very young 15 in a lot of ways, probably socially more like a 10-12 year old but academically much older.
Shih Tsu's need a lot of grooming both routinely at home, then regular trims with a groomer. Without grooming their hair - they have hair not fur - mats and becomes restrictive and can cause skin sores/hot spots - extremely painful and can be expensive to treat. In addition they need regular bathing about once a week. They can also be prone to skin problems/infections, ear infections and dental problems. Lots of treatments can be very expensive. Also some prone to developing allergies usually kick in around 2, again can cause sores and infections, would require special diet, regular meds. Personally think they are very labour-intensive dogs. In addition they vary a lot in temperament, if as many do, they find grooming stressful can become aggressive, know a few owners who've ended up paying for them to be groomed/trimmed under anesthetic by a vet. You would be better off with a small, smooth-haired dog.
They also need regular walks, being small doesn't stop them being active and they will become destructive if not exercised. If you want a mooching dog, a greyhound is a better bed.
Also need to clean their faces and eyes every day as prone to eye infections/Blephritis; and wipe bottoms as faecal matter sticks to the hair and can cause them to become impacted.
I am you. I have mobility issues and needed a smaller sized dog. I have two Shih Tzu (ages 1 and 8). They "exercise" each other in the house and use a doggie door (cat flap?) to go into the fenced backyard for elimination and exercise.
If you keep them in a short puppy cut the grooming required is about twice a week and the fecal matter does not stick. A warm moist cloth once a day for face washing. A vet-recommended diet with no "people food treats" will keep them healthy and fit. I do not find them "labor-intensive" but I do find them snuggly and loving companions.
I regularly see two shih tzu's on my walks. Both are gorgeous and both quite young (1 and 3). They are very energetic, more so than my puppy!
My only concern is that most of the walking will fall to your DS. We have a DS who is slightly older than yours who whole heartily agreed to help care for pup. When it comes down to it though 99.9% of care is myself or DH. Teens eventually have work/social life that takes up most of their time and makes them unreliable.
My major concerns are:
Relying on a 15 year old to exercise a dog regularly. Dogs, especially young ones and puppies, need regular daily exercise. What are you going to do for walks if DS is working or has to stay late? Or oversleeps and doesn't have time? What about when he gets older and his routine changes? As the adult you need to take full responsibility for the dog - can you afford a dog walker if your DS can no longer commit to walks?
Grooming. Can you afford regular visits to the groomer and can you manage to keep up washing, trimming etc. at home? I don't know the limitations of your condition but will you and DS be able to get the dog bathed etc.?
I'll start by saying that good dog owners can make most circumstances work; bad dog owners will mess up almost any set of circumstances.
I'll focus on the walking - a couple of points
- what will you do about walking in the depths of winter when it's dark when your son leaves for school and dark by the time he comes back? Those are the times that even I struggle with as frankly it's just a bit grim, and you may make a perfectly justified decision that it's not safe for a 15 yo to be walking around the park after dark.
- will you really be able to get a 15 year old boy out of bed early enough every morning to walk a dog? 15yo me wouldn't have managed it...
- could you get a mobility scooter for walking the dog? I know someone who would be housebound without hers but lives a fairly active life with it. The dog could, with a bit of training, sit on your lap on the way to the park and be off lead once you get there. If nothing else, it will provide a back up option if DS sprains is ankle or goes away on a school trip, for instance.
- how much time does your DS spend with his dad, and what are your plans for those times?
- would you be happy to consider an older rescue dog? Most breeds in the first flushes of youth still need a good deal of exercise. By contrast, years ago we had a pomeranian who, from the age of about 10 onwards, considered "long" walks to be against her human rights and would stage sit down protests in the park. She would have loved someone to take her home on a mobility scooter! It wouldn't necessarily need to be a dog that's that old, just not one under, perhaps, 2-3.
- your son sounds quite high functioning. Just to check - will he be able to cope with things like owner small talk while dogs are playing? Could he cope with an unexpected emergency?
It sounds like you've got a good set up for a dog, it's just about making sure you've thought everything through!
I'd consider widening your search; all you really need is a small breed with no serious behaviour problems and limited exercise requirements. I wonder if contacting the Cinnamon Trust when you're ready to adopt might be an idea. They do short and long term (permanent) fostering and adoption for the elderly and terminally ill who go into hospital or a care home. If the dog has been doing well in a home with an elderly or long term ill owner with mobility problems it will probably be a good fit for your household.
It will be fine , although if I were you I’d get a mobility scooter so that you can do all the walking . Lots of people near me walk their dogs off scooters .
“will he be able to cope with things like owner small talk while dogs are playing? Could he cope with an unexpected emergency?”
I’d worry about that side of it tbh... how would he cope if he’s walking the dog and a fight breaks out?
Is it safe for him to be walking in the dark in winter? Will he be able to recognise if it is or isn’t?
I can manage a 10-15 minute walk in the park myself as long as there is a bench to have a rest on the way, I've got a car so can get to & from the park myself. The only time I won't be able to go out is if it is sheet ice or snow, I drop my son off at school most days so would be able to manage a short walk on the way home & pick him up 2-3 times a week after school, he isn't a social boy, he prefers to be on his own & only goes out probably twice a week with one friend, he often will go & collect his dad's dog for them to walk while they are out. We are hopefully moving across the road from the park, I'm prepared to use a dog walker if I need to but would see how things went before I employed one.
10-15 minutes really isn't enough exercise unless it's a very elderly dog. Young dogs need a good hour a day as an absolute minimum - small breeds don't want or need any less exercise than bigger ones
My aunt has a shih-tzu and he needs a lot of exercise. He might be small but they're out with him 2-3 times a day. They're older so they do regular short walks rather than one long one - which is absolutely fine but it's a big commitment as they have to obviously be around to do it.
I think its workable but you do need to think of all scenarios and think about what you'll do if your DS isn't available or can't walk the dog. Don't get a dog based on the idea that a teenager will be around to walk it!