The Joys and Drawbacks of Dog Ownership for the Harried Entrepreneur
People really and truly love their dogs. Some people even treat these little fur balls as though they are children. Recently, there’s been a debate in our house about whether to get a dog. There are many things to think about, especially being an entrepreneur and seemingly always on the go. However, many of my entrepreneur friends have dogs and have encouraged me to consider it.
Here are the pros and cons as I see them for being an entrepreneur and a dog owner:
Pros of dog ownership.
Dogs offer a good diversion from chronically focusing on work. This diversion can involve getting you up and away from your electronic devices to take them for a walk or enjoy a quick game of fetch. Stepping away from work provides a way to give your brain a break to recharge while you also get in some very necessary exercise. They remind you that play and even the one-off power nap is just as important as work.
Dogs are your biggest cheerleaders. A dogs enthusiasm, excitement and sheer glee are contagious. As an entrepreneur, enveloping yourself in those emotions reinforces that it is okay to be passionate and celebrate life and people along the way. Even better, treat or no treat, your dog is that cheerleader who is going to love you no matter what you can or cannot do with your startup at that moment.
Dogs intuitively know when you need comfort. Entrepreneurs have good days, bad days, and, well, really bad days. However, it’s been proven that petting a dog provides significant comfort that alleviates stress and tension. That's why dogs are so often used in hospitals and nursing homes. They are your shadow and know you, maybe more than you know yourself. While they may not be able to bring you a tissue (in one piece), they have been known to fetch a cold one from the refrigerator to help you after a long hard day of building your company.
Cons of dog ownership.
Dogs are high maintenance and require a significant amount of time. Entrepreneurs already wear a Dr. Seuss-worthy number of hats. Adding a dog to the stack of hats may be biting off more than you can chew at this point in your life. They need training, walking, feeding, grooming and lots of love. With your travel schedules and responsibilities, it may difficult to provide the level of maintenance and attention that a dog so deserves. However, with a little diligence and love, your dog can be trained quickly through strategies like crate training and a regular walking schedule which will dial down their energy long enough for you to get work done.
Dogs cannot be left alone. While cats can fend for themselves for a couple of days, unless a dog has someone there for them every day you may find your house in shambles. You’ll need to invest in a dog sitter or a dog hotel (and spa). If you are always traveling, your dog will get very lonely unless you can take them along or there is someone else at home to keep them.
Before investing in a dog you will need to consider what your daily life is like and whether it is conducive to taking your dog wherever you go. Some entrepreneur dog owners are lucky enough to have family and friends who don't really want a full-time dog, but don't mind babysitting one. Before getting a dog, ask around about who can be your back-up sitter for your dog. My business partner in Due.com has a dog and I know from his experiences that with all the travel we do it can be tough to find people to help look after his dog.
Dogs can get expensive. In addition to the doggy daycare and resort stay while you are away on a business trip, you also have to think about the food and grooming costs as well as toys, treats, bedding and - well a fashionista wardrobe if you decide on a handbag dog. There may also be some expensive vet bills along the way to consider. As an entrepreneur, you may be living (and working) on a tight budget so all of these additional costs may not fit into your budget and lifestyle. Now, when you make your first million, then it might not seem like such a bad idea. But, dogs seem to make life better, no matter the cost.
Dogs don’t live a long time. Nothing ever prepares you for the circle of life, especially when you get attached to that fuzzy member of your family. With all the joy comes a load of grief when their short life is over. However, you cannot focus on the sad part, but rather enjoy the many years of joy they bring you. These little fuzz balls (or big fuzz balls) give you so much unconditional love that you'll never get anywhere else - in so little time, that it is well worth any cost, time, or hassle.
Dogs actually do give you so much, and ask for so very little in return for that love, loyalty, and enthusiasm that they deliver. An entrepreneur can always use a sidekick who loves them no matter what. Your dog is always there to cheer on your successes and lick those wounds of failure. They are your best friend, and everyone could use one of those!
So, the answer is, woof! In all seriousness, though, the answer is individual and based on your budget, time and willingness to make some minor adjustments in your life while you work on building up your startup. From the observable "metrics" I've seen about dogs, the graph moves steadily upward in all areas of your business, what do you think?