Dog time budget – how much do they need?

Dogs are amazingly accepting beings. They’ll be happy with whatever time you can spare for them. But in reality, what’s a realistic dog time budget? How much of your day is devoted to your dog?

Essential needs

Picture of three hourglasses with pictures of dog faces in each to illustrate dog time budget

There are the everyday essentials that all dog owners deal with: feeding and potty breaks. Depending on what you feed your dog, it can be as simple as scooping kibble in a bowl, or as complex as cooking “cheesy eggs” as we know a couple people do. Most people seem to feed their dogs twice a day, so let’s call it 15 minutes a day.

The potty breaks can range from letting dogs out in a fenced yard, to long walks that double as opportunities for exercise. Not to mention how frequently those breaks need to happen. If you have a puppy or a senior dog, there are more of them. On average, say four times a day, about 10 minutes each. 40 minutes total.

Then there are things that may not be daily, depending on your dog. We know some people bathe their dogs every couple of weeks. Others, rarely. But some type of grooming is necessary every week – tooth-brushing, fur brushing, nail trimming, ear cleaning, face-washing (especially if you have a dog with a beard!), dispensing medication (including heartworm prevention and, for most, flea/tick prevention. For the sake of argument, let’s call it about an hour a week.

Now for the fun stuff

Those are all things that dog owners have to do. Then there are all the things that made you want a dog in the first place; the play, the companionship, the relationship, the unconditional love, the fun of having a dog.

The play part is important for both of you. As Playwright George Bernard Shaw said: “We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” Having a dog reminds us to have some fun every single day. Whether you find joy in seeing how much your dog can achieve through training games, or smile when you watch your dog gleefully chasing a ball, dogs bring happiness every day. Just 15 minutes a day can make every day better. For that time, you don’t have to think about anything but having some fun with your dog. The budget for play is two hours a week.

The most precious part of having a dog may be the time that’s spent together off-budget. You’re just hanging out with your dog next to you. We love relaxing in the evening, watching TV with our dogs napping near us. Some prefer the couch. Others the dog beds on the floor. And it always makes us smile and look up to hear little dreaming “woofs!”

Knowing somebody else is home is comforting. You’re never alone when you have a dog. Nobody thinks you’re crazy if you talk to your dog. You have a great excuse for a bit of disorganization when you have a dog. 

Total it up

If we added up the figures right, we come up with about 9.5 hours a week spent on having a dog. A little more than a work day. Is a dog worth the time? Absolutely! Do you have the time? That’s something only you can answer.

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