I came upon a conversation on Twitter. Someone asked the internet if she should have a dog. She mentioned she lived in Montreal and that she recently changed jobs and was within walking distance to her apartment. She would be able to walk her dog during lunch.
She also mentioned that her apartment building had a no-pet policy but that “everyone had pets” and that she really wanted a dog.
I don’t know her so I didn’t want to weigh in. I did panic though. I couldn’t believe how little consideration we give to the idea of having a dog.
Disclaimer: I do not want to discourage people from adopting a pup but I want to discourage getting a dog for the wrong reasons and without being aware of the real requirements a dog has. If we fail to make sure we are ready, the dog will wind up in a less ideal situation.
Montreal has particular challenges when having a dog.
1. Number one and the most important of all: Winter.
The Montreal winter of 2019 will go down in history as possibly one of the worst. It was a case of icy sidewalks for months. Not even snow but sheer ice, a lot of rain and temperature fluctuations that gave us a block of ice of about 10cm.
Walking Boris was a nightmare. We walk him three times a day because he’s an active little fellow and no matter the weather we make sure he gets his three walks. Some are short, for example when temperatures drop to -30c we open the backyard and he runs out, does his business and comes straight back in.
Dogs, as humans need to do their business early morning. So if you want to sleep in, you had a night out, it’s deadly cold, dark and wet, you still have to get up and take the dog out. If you don’t, you’re just an inconsiderate owner.
Are you willing, capable and available to walk your dog 365 days a year for 12+ years rain, snow, ice or shine?
2. How flexible is your schedule?
I live near an apartment complex where a guy had a dog who was left alone for fifteen hours a day, even after dark you could see the silhouette of the pup, sad on the floor beside the window. It broke my heart. I almost went and asked him if I could walk his dog for free.
Living nearby does not mean you will automatically go walk your dog during lunch from Monday to Friday. There will be days where you might not be able to.
- Will you get a dog walker on those days?
- Can you bring your dog to work?
- Do you have a neighbor or a friend that can check up on him?
A dog is not made for being alone for long stretches of time. 10 to 12 hours is simply too much.
Which brings me to:
3. Montreal is not a dog friendly city
At least not as dog friendly as cities in Europe where dogs of all sizes are welcome everywhere including restaurants, cafés, shops, public transportation and if my memory serves me well, even cinemas. In the United States some dogs are even welcome in libraries.
In Montreal you can’t bring a dog into most establishments or on the Public Transport system unless they are small and in a closed carrier. If you need to commute with your dog you’ll need a car or taxi or Uber.
“No dogs allowed” signs are pretty common in parks (some that are not even in use).
This means that sometimes you need to dash to the grocery store but you don’t want to walk the dog, take him back to the house and then run out again to the grocery. This makes people leave their dogs tied up during the winter at freezing temperatures or under the sun when it’s extremely hot. In these instances, it’s just animal abuse. I’ve seen dogs crying out because they are literally freezing while their owners are buying cigarettes.
That being said, it’s pretty much up to the businesses to accept dogs or not. Little by little we see some cafés and restaurants allowing dogs as long as they are silent and well behaved.
4. You will have to invest in dog training.
We paid for a course with De Main de Maître and though we got Boris when he was already potty trained, we needed help in getting him to listen to us when walking and when being around other dogs.
Dogs that go crazy are usually blamed for the doggy unfriendliness of Montreal and Quebec. (Just ask Pit Bull owners) but as we know, it’s not the dog’s fault – say it with me: it’s the owner who fails to pay for dog training and do the work.
There are some excellent trainers in Montreal, just make sure they are ethical and do not use violence or fear in their techniques.
5. Do you have the budget?
The last time I did my numbers for my 5kg dog my doggy expenses were around $1400 Canadian Dollars a year.
If you have a bigger dog add it up.
My expenses are basically:
- His food which is good quality, not the top of the top but among the top tier.
- His boarding. When we travel I can only leave him in a designated place. No compromise on that one and we leave for a minimum of two weeks each time. It adds up.
- Every year he gets his tic treatment which is around $200
- Toys, vet visits, etc.
- Compostable doggy bags which cost a little more than plastic ones.
- You might need some sort of winter attire if your dog suffers from the cold. I had to invest in booties which cost about $60 bucks and he lost one. How is it possible that they are not individually sold?
- Groomer: You might need to bring your dog for a trim now and then. A complete grooming service for a small dog is around $46 CAD
6. Are you planning to have a baby?
This question pops up in the questionnaire of pet adoption associations and for good measure. You might think you will just expand your family but a baby will take up so much of your time and energy that something will have to give and sadly usually it’s the dog. If you plan on having children and you have little support or do not have family nearby it might be better to think twice about getting a dog (or having a baby!).
7. Did you thoroughly research the breed you want?
Of course, it’s always better to adopt but if you have found an ethical, registered breeder you might be considering a pure breed. Just a little rundown:
- Beagles are stubborn
- Pugs and French Bulldogs have delicate eyes
- Daschunds have delicate spines
- Border Collies require enormous amounts of exercise.
The decision should be considered.
Whatever you do, make sure you can have a dog. Especially if you rent. People have no control over their landlord’s whims and the saddest part is to see year after year a parade of abandoned pets fill the SPCA.
When in doubt, better to not act on a momentary desire. A dog is a long-term commitment.
All illustrations by me! Feel free to share them but please give credit to Luisa Nino or Portraits by Luisa