Owning a dog comes with great responsibility, time and cost. When deciding to get a dog, there needs to be careful consideration as to whether you are able to provide the pup with the best life possible.
If you’re like me and have a full-time job that means you’re out from 7am and not back until after 5pm, you may know the pain of not being able to have a dog of your own. It’s sad because dogs can bring so much joy to your life but ultimately, the dog’s needs must come before your own.
This year I joined a community in the UK which allows me to get to know dogs and their owners.
Dog owners join this community for many reasons including:
- They’re unable to give their dog as much love and attention as they’d like
- They’re unable to give their dog as much exercise as they’d like
- They have a change in circumstances such as a job change
- Family demands or a new addition to the family
- They simply want their dog to meet new people
- They’re going on holiday and need doggy care
Borrowing dogs has proven to provide so many benefits. The main way this community works is that you contact people within reachable distance to you, meet them with their pup and then work out whether you’re a good match.
If you are and both you, the dog and the dog’s owner is happy with the first meeting, it’s up to all of you to decide what comes next. For me, that’s been a range of agreements. I currently see three dogs on a regular basis, all of which I will mention throughout this article to make sure I share as much of my experience as possible. Borrowing a dog is incredibly rewarding and has genuinely changed my day-to-day happiness levels.
The dogs I look after include:
- Teddy, the Miniature Labradoodle who needs walks during the week
- Charlie, the Westie that needs company and exercise when his owners are away
- Oz, the 7-month old Cocker Spaniel who needs occasional company at weekends and sometimes during the week
I’m going to share with you the 8 benefits of borrowing a dog and why it is such a rewarding experience.
1. Better quality of life for the dog
Whether you’re looking to have a dog of your own or borrow one, you must already have a love of pups. Naturally, we are people who want dogs to be the happiest they can be and you can do that by borrowing a dog rather than owning one. It provides the dog with a better quality of life.
The dog’s owner may need a loving borrower for a range of reasons. One of which could be that their circumstances have changed since getting the dog. One of these reasons could be that they are not able to give them the time they want to anymore due to work commitments. This is quite common because life around us changes all the time. Knowing that a loving borrower could be there every so often during the day gives the owner peace of mind. This is because they know that their dog is not lonely.
Not only that but it’s possible that the dog’s owner is unable to provide them with the amount of exercise they need. Active and lively dogs need a lot of exercise which, if you’re working a lot or are unable to walk for long periods of time, can be difficult. Borrowing a dog and taking them for walks is rewarding because the pup is able to roam around outside, rather than being stuck indoors. Not to mention that if they do not get the right amount of exercise, they could suffer from other health problems such as obesity. So really, you’re doing them a huge favour by getting them out and about!
A lovely dog can be a nice addition to a family. However, having children is obviously quite demanding, particularly when they’re at a young age. The owners may not have enough time to spend with their pooch, meaning their dog could suffer as they are not getting the attention they need to stay happy. Although dogs and children can build a harmonious relationship, they are two different demands. Some dogs may get along with children but could also benefit from time away from them, where they are able to be the centre of attention.
I’ve met some dog owners who actually just want other people to experience the love and affection their dog can give. It provides happiness to those who are unable to have a dog of their own and means that the pooch can build new relationships and be around new smells. Humans like to explore different locations and so do dogs! New walks and new smells can be exciting for dogs.
Lastly, some dogs suffer from anxiety. I’ve met one cute little Dachshund who actually benefits from meeting new people because, if he doesn’t, it can make his anxiety worse. Helping a dog overcome something is an incredibly proud feeling.
Oz is always super happy to be around his human friends.
2. Better quality of life for you
According to the Mental Health Foundation, dogs have a calming effect on those around them. This includes spending any time with a dog whether it’s walking them or just stroking them on the sofa.
In fact, I’ve suffered from anxiety and spending time around dogs has certainly helped me to feel more at ease. They somehow make you feel happy and relaxed when you did not think it would be possible. They have a natural happiness about them.
Although you may not be in a position to own a dog, borrowing one still fills that hole that’s missing. It can improve your day to day outlook on life and knowing that you’ll be caring for a dog soon can have a positive effect on your mood. Dogs seem to be able to pick up on emotions which means that when you’re feeling low, they know! My Cockapoo, Nelly, could always see when something was wrong and would be the first one to cheer me up.
3. There’s flexibility
Having a dog is like having a child, you cannot just give up when you feel like it. You have to commit to caring for them throughout their life. However, as discussed sometimes things do change. Dog owners do not always need someone to look after their dog all of the time. This is when you come in.
You can discuss with the owner how often they need company for their dog and it could easily work around your time. This means that whether you have a spare hour free or a weekend, you could potentially find someone who needs support from someone like you.
I look after three dogs, all with different levels of need. Teddy, the Miniature Labradoodle I look after, mostly needs walks. I have a fairly casual agreement with his owner that I can come and walk him any time they’re there to open the door for me. This means that Teddy gets new company and a consistent borrower. Each time we see him now, he seems excited and happy to be coming out with us.
Teddy, the (not so) Miniature Labradoodle, enjoys walks around the gardens.
Ultimately, building a good relationship with the dog first and foremost is the foundation for a happy owner. If the owner can see that their pup is happy after spending time with you, you’re likely to build a better relationship with them too. Once this has been established, you might find that people are quite flexible with how and when you have their dog, as long as they know they’re in safe hands!
Remember that every owner and their dog is different, so this can depend on their circumstances and what they’re comfortable with.
Generally, what I’ve learnt works well to get to know dogs includes:
- Being gentle
- Letting the dog come to you
- Changing the pitch of your voice to a sound appropriate for the dog e.g. an anxious dog might prefer a softer tone
- Giving them treats that they like (with the owner’s permission)
Make sure that you have read up on doggy body language so that you can understand their behaviour.
If you find it difficult to get out and about and talk to people, spending time with a dog is ideal. You might find that while you’re out on walks with your borrowed pup, people want to talk to you about them. They might ask about their breed and age.
If you’re lucky, you might meet fellow dog walkers in the park who are happy to roam around with you while the dogs play chase. Sometimes it’s difficult during a busy day to try and socialise, but having those interactions with people you do not necessarily know can really boost your conversation starters.
5. They get you active
I’ll be honest, I’ve got a little lazy recently because I’ve changed jobs. A few months ago I was a teacher and was used to being constantly active. Now I’ve changed my career and I am sitting down at a desk all day. It’s not a nice feeling being lazy and the thought of doing regular exercise does not always appeal to me!
However, when going to see a dog, exercise does not seem so hard. They’re always happy to be out on a walk and their happiness spreads onto you. Dogs distract you from anything else, so it’s an easy win if you’re looking to be more active.
As I have mentioned, there are a few different dogs that I borrow on a regular basis. Teddy is one that I now walk once a week. Although I do not do any strenuous exercise with him, it does get me walking which is more than I do in my day to day job. The fact that he has a lovely temperament means that I want to walk him for longer, just so that I can spend more time with him.
Due to having to work full time, being able to borrow dogs is great for me. I get to see different dogs, all of which get me active in a different way. Whether that’s a run in the park, a peaceful stroll or playing tug-of-war.
Charlie is an independent dog that likes to sniff around at his own pace.
6. There’s less commitment
Obviously, getting a dog is a big commitment. They live for years and you need to be prepared to take care of them, pay for all of their needs, walk them and be responsible for training them. That’s quite a big task when you think about it…
However, if you’re just not sure that you are able to commit to having a dog 100%, borrowing one is a much safer option. I know that if I owned a dog, I’d be constantly worrying about whether they were okay at home while I was at work. I just know that I could not give them the life they’d need.
Being able to borrow dogs in your spare time means that you do not have those worries as much. You commit what time you are able to and the dog owner’s are always grateful!
With less commitment comes less cost. I do still buy dog treats and have bought dog toys but this is not necessarily a must. Borrowing a dog means you do not have to pay for their food, vet bills, hair cuts or other costs. Instead, you simply provide them with what you can and agree the rest with the owners. The main thing I pay now to visit my doggy friends is petrol but all are within 20 minutes drive. Quite often the borrowers are also willing to drop off or pick up their pooch, so it works out!
You still have some responsibility though. This is only when you are looking after the dog but as long as you have taken the time to get to know the dog’s temperament, what he is like with other dogs, humans and children, things can go well.
For those of you who are worried about looking after someone else’s dog, make sure you ask the following questions to put your mind at ease:
- What type of breed is the dog?
- How old is he?
- What’s he like with other dogs?
- Can he be let off a leash?
- Is he allowed any treats?
- How often does he need exercise?
- Is there anything he does not like or tends to react to?
- Does he respond well to children?
- What command words do you use?
- Is he well socialised?
- Are there any rules that you have enforced that I need to follow?
Learn as much as you can about your borrowed pooch so that you feel comfortable and confident when spending time together!
7. You make a friend for life
There are several relationships that could come from borrowing a dog.
- A friend in the dog
- Potentially a friend in the owner
- Future dog walking friends
Of course, the reason you’d be borrowing a dog is to spend quality time with one (or more!). If you and the dog get along, then you can count on the fact that you’ve made a friend for life. Dogs have an associative memory, so they remember you if you treat them right. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of a pooch being excited by your return. Having a bond with a dog that you do not see every day makes it very special because you know you must have had a positive effect on them too.
As well as making a friend in the dog, it’s possible that you become good friends with the owner. This can only make the whole situation more comfortable for everyone involved. To add to that, when you are in a position to get your own dog, it’s possible that all of you could meet up for doggy walks and play time.
Nelly would always be happy to snuggle up with me after a long walk.
8. You get to spend quality time with a range of breeds
Before I started spending time with different breeds to what I had been used to, I thought I was set on what type of dog I wanted in future. However, now I feel that it will be a more difficult decision for me.
Having the opportunity to spend time with lots of different breeds means that when the time comes for me to have a dog of my own, I will have a much clearer idea of what type of dog will fit into my lifestyle. Not only that, but it gives me more experience with dogs so that my own confidence can grow along with the dog’s.
Each dog that I have met has a different temperament. Charlie, the Westie, is independent but can be a little cuddly. Teddy, the Miniature Labradoodle, is incredibly cuddly and strong but very gentle. Oz, the Cocker Spaniel, is so active and playful – he never stops moving!
Although I see all of these dogs regularly, I would decide what is best to do with each dog. For example, I would not take Charlie on a walk for miles and miles because he’s older. Oz or Teddy however, are much more active which means I would. It just depends on what they like to do and how well they deal with situations.
If I wanted a relaxed evening, I certainly would not pick Oz. This is simply because he is constantly active as he is still a puppy. He does not stop learning and finding new ways to be a little rebellious. If I wanted a dog to play with however, Oz would be the one!
Dogs are naturally calming.
Borrowing a dog and owning a dog are two completely different commitments.
The main benefits of borrowing a dog are:
- It’s flexible for you
- You’re not owning a dog that you do not have time for
- You get to meet lots of doggy friends
- You build relationships
- They help improve your mental health
- There’s no solid commitment
I think borrowing a dog is fantastic for those who are not able to own their own dog but still want that interaction. My experience so far has been lovely. Meeting lots of dogs and their owners has genuinely improved my mental health because dogs make you happy. They’re just brilliant!