Taking Care of a Pet while in Grad School

In summary: You'll also want to make sure you have a good relationship with your dog so it doesn't feel like a chore to take it out. Dogs typically do better when they have someone to take care of them.
  • #1
AJSayad
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Hi everyone,

This may (or may not) be a silly question to ask but I figured I would throw it up on here and see where it takes me. I'm a senior ME major and I am currently looking into and applying to MAE (ME/Aerospace) PhD programs and I was wondering if it would be possible/realistic to take care of my dog while being full time in a PhD program.

I understand that being full time in a PhD program is a huge commitment, as is taking care of a pet (although different in magnitude), but I feel as though these two are something that I would be able to handle together. Most people I ask in person seem to tell me that it is not realistic to really do both and while I see that point, part of me hopes it's not fully true. If anyone has experience or advice with this situation I would love to hear your input.

Thanks for the help, I feel kind of silly for posting this lol 😅
 
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  • #2
I had two dogs and a wife when I was in graduate school. By the end I had two kids too...
 
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  • #3
This depends on the dog's personality. Note that I didn't say breed, breed is strongly correlated with personality, but they are also individuals in this regard. It can work if you find a "low maintenance" dog, OTOH, I've known dogs that are difficult to take care of under any circumstances. How much experience you have raising dogs matters too. Be realistic about how much time you can spend with the dog. IMO, you owe it to the dog to provide it a good life. If it won't (or isn't) working out for the dog, you need to be willing to wait (or re-home it). Dogs are unique among common pets in that they are very social creatures, you really need to be involved in exercise, entertainment and training for a dog to have a good life. They typically don't do well if they are stuck in a human world and ignored.

I would make a realistic assessment of what you can and can't do and then talk with dog professionals in your area, like shelter workers or trainers. Way too many people don't call a trainer until after they have a problem. It is easier to make good choices to avoid behavior problems, than to fix them after they've been created.

If you do get a dog, be very selective. Get an idea (as much as possible) about the dog's behavioral needs and personality before you buy/adopt it.
 
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  • #4
As an undergrad I lived in a farmhouse on 100 acres with two dogs, one of whom was a grad student's. That worked out fine. I had a cat which I took on to grad school.
Are you in a city? Will you live alone? Do you know dogs? There are far too many variables for a blanket answer. It would seem foolish to get a new dog at the same time you are trying to settle into the new environs.
 
  • #5
AJSayad said:
I was wondering if it would be possible/realistic to take care of my dog while being full time in a PhD program.

I understand that being full time in a PhD program is a huge commitment, as is taking care of a pet (although different in magnitude), but I feel as though these two are something that I would be able to handle together.
So you already have the pet ("my dog")? What other options do you have for your dog during the next several years (stay with parents, stay with friends, others)? How long have you had your pet?

It's been a long time since I've had a dog as part of the family, but it seems like if you will be on your own during grad school, you will at least need to be living in a house with a doggy door so the dog can access outside while you are gone during the day. It seems like a bad idea to keep the dog in a closed apartment for most of the day until you get home. And even then, you would need to find an apartment building that allowed dogs/pets.

Edit/Add -- Also, are you a runner? If so, do you take your dog on your runs with you? That would be a good stress reliever for both you and your dog during your grad school years, IMO.
 
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  • #6
This is definitely do-able. Phd students tend to have a lot of flexibility in their schedule, so you can probably go home and walk your dog no problem. I think the most important thing would be living close enough to campus that you can actually do that (if it's an hour bus ride each way you're going to feel very sad about it). I don't know exactly what aerospace phds look like, if you're going to spend eight hours a day in a wind tunnel you might have less ability to do this kind of thing.

I think there's a chance you decide the two things are too much work together, but especially if you already have the dog I think it would be crazy to give it away before trying to keep it during grad school.
 
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  • #7
Dog's age? If under 1 year, and if you cannot give dog good enough time, rehoming is a possibility. If age over 1 year, then from dog's viewpoint, you are the chief pack member and (depending on personality of dog) dog is LOYAL to you.

From that second set of conditions, you need to know: Can you give the dog enough of your time, or can you not do so?

In case the second part of this, you honestly can not give your dog the time it needs with you, then something like this could happen: You send dog to a relative or friend so they/he/she can take care of the dog for a few months at a time. The dog does not accept the change in conditions and so refuses to have a walk, often not pay attention to the substitute caretaker, urinates on the carpet regardless of presence of free-range in presence of doggy-door; and continues to pee in house, even if caretaker thinks that take dog to back lawn after meals or water drinks would make this stop.
 
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  • #8
AJSayad said:
Hi everyone,

This may (or may not) be a silly question to ask but I figured I would throw it up on here and see where it takes me. I'm a senior ME major and I am currently looking into and applying to MAE (ME/Aerospace) PhD programs and I was wondering if it would be possible/realistic to take care of my dog while being full time in a PhD program.

I understand that being full time in a PhD program is a huge commitment, as is taking care of a pet (although different in magnitude), but I feel as though these two are something that I would be able to handle together. Most people I ask in person seem to tell me that it is not realistic to really do both and while I see that point, part of me hopes it's not fully true. If anyone has experience or advice with this situation I would love to hear your input.

Thanks for the help, I feel kind of silly for posting this lol 😅
Cats are less needy than dogs, easier to train, and "neater".

Yes, it is doable to take care of pets as a student. However, it all depends how much time and effort you are willing to give a dog everyday. Experience also comes into play. Not to mention the added monthly cost/vet bills.

I own 3 Dogs, so it is time intensive...

Thats what Symbol is alluding to (I think). Symbol mentions a scenario were you may not have enough time to care for a dog, and may need to give it away or have someone care for it. Depending on the dog accepts its new owner or caretaker, it may live happily or be put to be sleep due to unruly or negative behavior.

The fact that you asked whether it is possible to have enough time for a pet as a student, may be indicative of not once owning a dog. Do you really want to learn two new things at once? Or have you had a dog, but it was not trained?
 
  • #9
Be careful getting dog training advice on a physics forum. Unfortunately there are a lot of really off-base, old fashioned animal behavior ideas out there. Like anything you have seen on most dog training TV shows. Victoria Stilwell and Ian Dunbar are the only two that come to mind that actually know what they are talking about, and both have said in interviews that you can't do dog training correctly on a TV show.

My opinion (as maybe the only person here that actually is a professional dog trainer, of sorts): Anytime you hear words like Dominance, Pack Leader, Alpha, etc. run away and find a trainer that understands modern animal behavior concepts.

https://m.iaabc.org/about/position-statements/dominance/
https://avsab.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/Dominance_Position_Statement_download-10-3-14.pdf
https://apdt.com/about/position-statements/
 
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  • #10
DaveE said:
Be careful getting dog training advice on a physics forum. Unfortunately there are a lot of really off-base, old fashioned animal behavior ideas out there. Like anything you have seen on most dog training TV shows. Victoria Stilwell and Ian Dunbar are the only two that come to mind that actually know what they are talking about, and both have said in interviews that you can't do dog training correctly on a TV show.
Direct hard experience gave me what I expressed about post #7. I did not make-up what I described, especially the "You send dog to a relative or friend so they/he/she can take,... " part .
 
  • #11
symbolipoint said:
Direct hard experience gave me what I expressed about post #7. I did not make-up what I described, especially the "You send dog to a relative or friend so they/he/she can take,... " part .
Reminds me of the joke: What are the most dangerous words in modern medical practice? "In my experience..."

Anyway, I never implied that you made up your observations. But... Did you have a control group, construct a counter-factual or null hypothesis, do blinded analysis, ethograms, compare alternate methods, etc.?

There are people that use the scientific method to study this stuff. They write peer reviewed papers that are published in scientific journals. There are people that get graduate degrees in this stuff. People with professional certifications. There are people who work in shelters that have seen more dogs that you, I, and everybody reading this combined. There are people who train dogs to do amazing things, like nearly every dog you see on a TV show or movie, like SAR and EDD dogs that save peoples lives. Dogs that can detect C-Diff in hospital rooms, alert before a person has an epileptic seizure, and find whale poop in Puget Sound. There is dog that could identify and retrieve over 1000 toys, by name.

Listen to what those people say. They are more qualified than both you or I, I think.

Dominance theory in dog training has been thoroughly debunked in academic studies repeatedly. It should have a similar status as perpetual motion machines in physics. Unfortunately, it is more similar to anti-vax'ers that think the MMR vaccine causes autism.

I can provide references to specific areas if you want to study any of this stuff. But I don't think I'll continue to engage with theories based on anecdotal stories. I've heard enough of them, and, like lots of pseudo-academic stuff, they tend to be built on shaky foundations. "I tried this several times and it did or didn't work" isn't the basis for good animal behavior knowledge, even if you have a TV show. Neither is "I learn it this way from a master trainer with lots of experience, and it always works."
 
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  • #12
Sorry for the diversion into dog training and behavior. While I'm passionate about it, it is only peripherally related to the OP's question. I suspect the answer is more about grad school than dogs.
 
  • #13
DaveE said:
Anyway, I never implied that you made up your observations. But... Did you have a control group, construct a counter-factual or null hypothesis, do blinded analysis, ethograms, compare alternate methods, etc.?
No. It was real life. The only authoritative source I could choose now would be to consult with a dog behaviorist.
 
  • #14
DaveE said:
I can provide references to specific areas if you want to study any of this stuff. But I don't think I'll continue to engage with theories based on anecdotal stories. I've heard enough of them, and, like lots of pseudo-academic stuff, they tend to be built on shaky foundations. "I tried this several times and it did or didn't work" isn't the basis for good animal behavior knowledge, even if you have a TV show. Neither is "I learn it this way from a master trainer with lots of experience, and it always works."
Advice the o.p. asked was not for getting an academically studied answer. What he can best use is any input based on peoples' experiences. Otherwise, his dog will tell (or actually SHOW) what he thinks of whatever situation he is put into.
 
  • #15
AJSayad said:
Hi everyone,

This may (or may not) be a silly question to ask but I figured I would throw it up on here and see where it takes me. I'm a senior ME major and I am currently looking into and applying to MAE (ME/Aerospace) PhD programs and I was wondering if it would be possible/realistic to take care of my dog while being full time in a PhD program.

I understand that being full time in a PhD program is a huge commitment, as is taking care of a pet (although different in magnitude), but I feel as though these two are something that I would be able to handle together. Most people I ask in person seem to tell me that it is not realistic to really do both and while I see that point, part of me hopes it's not fully true. If anyone has experience or advice with this situation I would love to hear your input.

Thanks for the help, I feel kind of silly for posting this lol 😅
I think it's a bit of a risk. Look at all those kids whose homework was eaten by the family dog. What if the dog ate your thesis?
 
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  • #16
How does taking care of your dog fit in with your current situation as an undergraduate? Are you living with your parents or in your own apartment, and commuting to campus? How far? Or are you living with it in a dorm, on a pet-friendly campus?
 
  • #17
Yes, you can take care of a dog while in graduate school. However, like any other major commitment in life it will require planning and effort.

If you don't already have a dog, you might consider waiting until you have a couple of semesters or graduate school under your belt. By then you'll know your routine, office hours, what the place is like where you live, etc. And you'll have made some friends who might be able to help out occasionally by letting the dog out if you have to work late.
 
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  • #18
Dr Transport said:
I had two dogs and a wife when I was in graduate school. By the end I had two kids too...
Sounds like a handful! haha
 
  • #19
berkeman said:
So you already have the pet ("my dog")? What other options do you have for your dog during the next several years (stay with parents, stay with friends, others)? How long have you had your pet?

It's been a long time since I've had a dog as part of the family, but it seems like if you will be on your own during grad school, you will at least need to be living in a house with a doggy door so the dog can access outside while you are gone during the day. It seems like a bad idea to keep the dog in a closed apartment for most of the day until you get home. And even then, you would need to find an apartment building that allowed dogs/pets.

Edit/Add -- Also, are you a runner? If so, do you take your dog on your runs with you? That would be a good stress reliever for both you and your dog during your grad school years, IMO.
I've had my dog for about three years now. If I have to I could leave him with my parents and they could keep an eye on him while I'm in school. I'm also not sure if I'll need to commute yet or if I'll be living in an apartment. It's tough to say as most of it relies on which programs I get accepted into. Thanks for the advice!
 
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  • #20
MidgetDwarf said:
Cats are less needy than dogs, easier to train, and "neater".

Yes, it is doable to take care of pets as a student. However, it all depends how much time and effort you are willing to give a dog everyday. Experience also comes into play. Not to mention the added monthly cost/vet bills.

I own 3 Dogs, so it is time intensive...

Thats what Symbol is alluding to (I think). Symbol mentions a scenario were you may not have enough time to care for a dog, and may need to give it away or have someone care for it. Depending on the dog accepts its new owner or caretaker, it may live happily or be put to be sleep due to unruly or negative behavior.

The fact that you asked whether it is possible to have enough time for a pet as a student, may be indicative of not once owning a dog. Do you really want to learn two new things at once? Or have you had a dog, but it was not trained?
I've had my dog for about three years now, I should have mentioned earlier in the thread that he's very well trained and behaved. I've had family pets before so I have an idea of the amount of work and attention they need. That's a very good point about needing someone to take care of him for a little bit. I suppose I could try it out and see how it goes and if it ends up being too much to handle I could have my parents look after him for a while. Thanks for the input!
 
  • #21
PeroK said:
I think it's a bit of a risk. Look at all those kids whose homework was eaten by the family dog. What if the dog ate your thesis?
You're right, the natural dog instinct to eat homework is a tough one to break haha
 
  • #22
DaveE said:
This depends on the dog's personality. Note that I didn't say breed, breed is strongly correlated with personality, but they are also individuals in this regard. It can work if you find a "low maintenance" dog, OTOH, I've known dogs that are difficult to take care of under any circumstances. How much experience you have raising dogs matters too. Be realistic about how much time you can spend with the dog. IMO, you owe it to the dog to provide it a good life. If it won't (or isn't) working out for the dog, you need to be willing to wait (or re-home it). Dogs are unique among common pets in that they are very social creatures, you really need to be involved in exercise, entertainment and training for a dog to have a good life. They typically don't do well if they are stuck in a human world and ignored.

I would make a realistic assessment of what you can and can't do and then talk with dog professionals in your area, like shelter workers or trainers. Way too many people don't call a trainer until after they have a problem. It is easier to make good choices to avoid behavior problems, than to fix them after they've been created.

If you do get a dog, be very selective. Get an idea (as much as possible) about the dog's behavioral needs and personality before you buy/adopt it.
Thanks for the advice, that's a really good point to talk to trainers.
 
  • #23
Office_Shredder said:
This is definitely do-able. Phd students tend to have a lot of flexibility in their schedule, so you can probably go home and walk your dog no problem. I think the most important thing would be living close enough to campus that you can actually do that (if it's an hour bus ride each way you're going to feel very sad about it). I don't know exactly what aerospace phds look like, if you're going to spend eight hours a day in a wind tunnel you might have less ability to do this kind of thing.

I think there's a chance you decide the two things are too much work together, but especially if you already have the dog I think it would be crazy to give it away before trying to keep it during grad school.
That's a great point thank you. I think I'm going to try to take care of him during it and then if it becomes too much to handle I could have my parents take over for me until I finish school thankfully.
 
  • #24
jtbell said:
How does taking care of your dog fit in with your current situation as an undergraduate? Are you living with your parents or in your own apartment, and commuting to campus? How far? Or are you living with it in a dorm, on a pet-friendly campus?
Currently I'm living at home with my parents, I have about a 30 minute commute during the week to get to campus and I have time to take care of him and bring him on walks and stuff. So I suppose if grad school is similar (obviously might be busier but a similar schedule maybe) then I should be able to pull it off. These were great questions to bring up, they helped really think into it more realistically, thanks.
 
  • #25
This is less about the dog and more about the schedule in grad school. One important point I haven't seen yet is what the expectations of your advisor will be. This is probably something you ask his/her current grad students once you know where you are going (or before if having the dog is a deciding factor). Some people won't care when you do things as long as they get done, but some will want to be able to walk by the lab anytime between 9am-6pm (just an example) and see you there.
 
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  • #26
Some top scientists recommend taking a walk in a park every day.
 
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  • #27
AJSayad said:
the natural dog instinct to eat homework is a tough one to break haha
That's what makes a "Service Dog". :wink:
 
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  • #28
That's a great point, I'm hoping to get into a lab where I can come and go as I please as long as I get my work done and attend meetings. Once I find out the main schools I'll apply to I'll reach out to some of the students there and see what they say. Thanks!
 
  • #29
Keith_McClary said:
That's what makes a "Service Dog". :wink:
That's why my truck has a sticker, "who rescued who"
 
  • #30
I think it's likely you'll have at least some flexibility in your daily schedule, just like when you're an undergraduate. If your experience turns out like mine (in physics, 40-45 years ago), the first year or two you'll be somewhat tied by your class schedule, both the classes that you're taking and the classes/labs that you're teaching as a teaching assistant. After you shift to mainly doing research, it will be up to your supervisor, as others have noted. I (and most of the other grad students I knew) was able to keep a very fluid schedule: popping out of the office or lab for errands, lunch or dinner; arriving late in the morning and leaving late in the evening; shifting some work to weekends as necessary.

And in a small enough city, you should be able to live fairly close to your office. I was in Ann Arbor MI (U of Michigan), and lived about a 20-25 minute walk from my office. I usually rode my bike, which cut the trip to 10 minutes.

Can your dog live in an apartment, or does it need the space and yard of a house?

Also, you'll probably be renting a place, and unless you have a lot of money at your disposal (which most grad students don't :wink: ), you'll probably be sharing it. Would your dog get along with a possibly changing cast of roommates or housemates? And having to put up with your dog might limit your choice of candidates for roommates/housemates. It might even limit your choice of housing, depending on landlords' pet policies.
 
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  • #31
Thanks for the response, these are all great questions that you brought up and stuff that I haven't even thought about due to lack of experience. I'll definitely take them into account!
 
  • #32
To the OP:

As others have noted in this thread, one of the main hurdles about taking care of a pet while in grad school will involve your housing situation.

If you are enrolled in grad school, you will likely be renting (often with roommates), either in housing provided by the university, or in off-campus housing (e.g. rented house, apartment, condos, etc.). And different housing may have different rules in terms of allowing pets. I know many landlords have a strict "no pet" rule, which may preclude having your dog with you.
 
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  • #33
Yeah that's a great point, I've never rented an apartment before so that's definitely something that I'll have to figure out in the future, thanks!
 

What are the benefits of having a pet while in grad school?

Having a pet while in grad school can provide numerous benefits, such as reducing stress and anxiety, increasing social support and companionship, and promoting a healthier lifestyle through regular exercise and routine. Pets can also serve as a source of motivation and comfort during the challenging and often isolating experience of grad school.

What are some challenges of taking care of a pet while in grad school?

One of the main challenges of taking care of a pet while in grad school is finding the time and energy to properly care for them. Grad school can be demanding and time-consuming, leaving little room for pet care responsibilities. Financial constraints can also be a challenge, as grad students often have limited budgets and unexpected pet-related expenses can arise.

How can I balance my responsibilities as a grad student and a pet owner?

To balance your responsibilities as a grad student and a pet owner, it is important to establish a routine and schedule for both yourself and your pet. This can include setting aside specific times for studying and spending time with your pet. It may also be helpful to enlist the help of friends, family, or pet sitters to assist with pet care duties when needed.

What type of pet is best for a grad student?

The best type of pet for a grad student will depend on individual preferences and circumstances. Some grad students may prefer low-maintenance pets, such as fish or small rodents, while others may enjoy the companionship of a dog or cat. It is important to consider factors such as time, space, and budget when choosing a pet as a grad student.

How can I ensure my pet's well-being while in grad school?

To ensure your pet's well-being while in grad school, it is important to prioritize their basic needs, such as food, water, and exercise. Regular veterinary check-ups and vaccinations are also crucial for maintaining your pet's health. Additionally, providing mental stimulation and socialization for your pet can help prevent boredom and behavioral issues.

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