How Do I Turn Someone Away from Adopting a Dog?

I know this person. Let’s call her… Morgan. Yes, Morgan. Because it is not remotely similar to her real name. Morgan is older than I am and have never owned a pet in her whole life. It is something I have found tragic during the short period in which we have been acquaintances. Now that Morgan’s children are adults and fending for themselves, she finds herself a bit lost for company. Her husband has passed and she has never made time for hobbies. Morgan is a neat and organized sort of person who has her routines. While she spends the majority of her time at home, on rare occasions she does like to travel. She doesn’t like mess or nonsense but she does need a few more reasons to smile.

011Since I do not know Morgan all that well, I have been cautious in my interactions. Being a huge pet lover, it hasn’t been easy to hold back. From the instant I heard her story I wanted to jump up and down, telling her all about the awesomeness of cats and how a feline is the answer to her loneliness. Based on my experience, I knew this wasn’t the right approach. If I rammed cat ownership down her throat she was more likely to continue her lifelong pet celibacy than give in. No, I had to warm her up to the idea. I waited and hoped for the right moment, the perfect segue, the ideal lull where I could hint about how much I love my cat and how much he has brought to my life.

I have never been a genius at social cues and I guess I waited a bit too long. Morgan has definitely warmed up to the idea of bring home a furry companion. It just isn’t the one I would have recommended. Rather than a self-sufficient adult cat who loves to cuddle, she is now considering a puppy.


TC is confused. Why would anyone pass up a kitty for a drooly dog?*

I don’t think I need to outline why I think this is a bad idea for Morgan. The last thing I want to look like is a puppy-hater but there are some people who would be much happier if they remain dog-free. You know? Though I have had limited interactions with Morgan, I do believe she is one of these people. Dogs are dirty. They are needy. They require extra grooming, extra time, extra training, and nigh-constant maintenance. Even breeds I think are easier for first-time owners, require a large commitment. A commitment for which I don’t think Morgan – as lovely a woman as she is – is prepared. Dogs can be dangerous and destructive in the wrong hands. Not that I believe Morgan’s dog would be unruly or troublesome but it is something every dog owner needs to consider.

But how do I tell her, this strong woman whom I greatly, without causing injury? How does one nudge someone in a direction in which one thinks would be better for all parties? How do I, a dog lover to the max, turn someone away from adopting a dog?

Perhaps I am thinking of this the wrong way. Yes, I am firm in my beliefs that Morgan should adopt an older cat as her first pet. On the other hand, it isn’t my decision to make. Even if I envision disaster for Morgan and her new puppy, that doesn’t mean this is what will occur. She has raised children, after all. It is possible that I am wrong and she will thrive with a canine friend. I certainly did. Maybe instead of discouraging her thoughts, I should offer encouragement in the form of resources.


Ultimately, I am just afraid she will get a dog, the dog will do something wrong, she will return the dog, and then never consider pet ownership ever again. A situation that occurs every day. I want better for Morgan. I want her to get a cat she will love and who won’t demand nearly so much energy. Of course, it isn’t about me, is it? And that’s the trouble with it all.

How does one know when to step in and when to keep one’s mouth shut?

*No offence to those who drool, of course. Rescued Insanity officially recognizes a dog’s right to slobber.

17 thoughts on “How Do I Turn Someone Away from Adopting a Dog?

  1. Ugh, tough one. Have you considered inviting her to spend some time with Shiva and you? Walking in sub zero temperatures, trying to eat while dodging snacks, brushing, grooming, nails…

    Maybe you could suggest she try fostering? To get a feel for whether she wants a big dog or a small dog??

    Whatever you do…good luck!


  2. I know that feeling. I know many of those kinds of persons with different causes why they shouldn’t have a dog, and some who shouldn’t have any animals at all… And they are usually the most eager ones to have one. But what to say to them, that’s the most hard one. Usually I just end up looking from the side and thinking of “I was right, why didn’t I say something…?”. Luckily, there are also those who totally surprises you 🙂



  3. Suggesting that she foster first is a great idea! Especially if you can recommend a good, ethical rescue that gives its first-timers enough support, mentoring, and resources, it might be a great way to bridge the gap between “never had a pet before” and hardcore rescue/dog sport/breed fancy addict.

    The description you’ve given leads me to wonder if she might not be a great fit for a small-breed senior dog. Often those dogs thrive on routine and low-key environments where someone’s present almost all of the time — and they’re not always easy to find, since most foster homes have other pets, at least, if not a whole lot more going on.


  4. I think Jodi’s definitely got the right idea–really play up fostering. How it’s a great trial period, because you can’t always tell a lot about a dog in a shelter. How even if you don’t gel with a particular dog, you’re still giving the dog a break from the shelter. Etc. Downplay puppies. Puppies pee. Puppies chew. Puppies don’t sleep through the night. You can’t really tell that much about their personalities, unless you really know what to look for. You need to take them to all kinds of classes. (Not that an adult dog can’t benefit from that, too, but you know.)


  5. Yikes… how do you tell someone not to have a pet when you yourself are truly madly deeply pet-lover?

    1. you invite them to your house where they can see first-hand how much work it means to have a pet. and ask them to share some work with you 🙂
    2. you share some nightmarish stories about the doggies and then laugh about them.
    3. you ask them how do they like the idea of fostering and play it up saying it has lesser commitments than actually getting one home permanently.

    I hope that helps… 🙂



  6. I think that’s a hard one. How close a friend is she? Could you invite her round to spend more time with you and Shiva so that she can see a little of what it’s like to take on a dog? Or perhaps encourage her to donate some time to a local rescue where she could walk and groom the dogs there – while looking to find the one to adopt? it could be she wants the dog as it will help her get out of the house more – something that a cat wouldn’t give. Another option is if you think that a cat is the right choice could she pet sit your cats for you? Could she pet sit Shiva for you one night while you go out to a restaurant or something?

    If I was in your situation I may not push the adopt a cat idea, but instead encourage her to think more about finding the right dog. Has she thought about Kennel costs?

    Sorry no advice, just more things to think about – oops!


  7. Maybe you could just say to her that you are worried that she would find a puppy to demanding. Outline the reasons and then suggest an adult cat and state the reasons why you think that would be so much better.

    Here no rescue would let a an older person have a puppy, bu if they go and buy one, then that’s down to them.


  8. I’ve been in this situation before, but my friend actually went and got a puppy then had to give it away after a few months because it wasn’t a perfectly behaved dog (at 4 months old :/). I’m glad because that puppy spent a LOT of time in crates and was more of an after thought. There are some wonderful suggestions above, so I won’t repeat, but I think it’s important that she understands just how much hard work a dog can be. Let alone a puppy! Keep the stories of scooping poop, damaged furniture, constant attention seeking and vacuuming up hair coming! 🙂


  9. Wow. That’s a tough one. I would ask Morgan if she understands that a puppy is like a small child. Cats are independent creatures for the most part, but dogs are dependent. I would try my best to help her out with links and material on dogs.


  10. Why don’t you try a pros and cons list? Don’t make it about dogs in general– maybe combine these suggestions, say, comparing an English bulldog to a husky. That might be a subtle way to show her that not all dogs are the same, and you need to choose wisely.

    Or you can do a dog/cat pro/con list. 🙂 But I’ve met many people who love dogs and loathe cats. I know, hard to imagine, right? 😉


  11. Hi Kristine, experience teaches many things. Could you invite her to come along with you for a walk with Shiva. Shiva does normal dog things so that’ll help show her what it’s really like. Ah…best to let her pick up the poo. That’s always a good ice breaker 🙂


  12. Boy that’s tough. I am horrible at keeping my mouth shut, especially on stuff like this, so I am a bad person to ask. Maybe you could tell her some stories of friends with puppies and what a tough job it is to raise them to be wonderful dogs. Time involved and all that.


  13. That is a delicate one, and I’m not very good a delicate. Perhaps flattery is the way to go, like “Wow, a puppy?! You’re so brave. You’re way more courageous than me! All those middle-of-the-night trips outside, the chewed shoes and furniture, the constant attention, not to mention the hours and hours of training. I just don’t think I could do it.” Perhaps you can at least move her in the direction of an adult dog if you can’t get her all the way to a cat. Good luck!


  14. I really like Amy’s suggestion.

    Do you know this person well enough to take a field trip with her? Our local shelter is lovely. But it’s still a chance to have puppies jump all over your leg, chew on your purse, and of course, there’s that little decorative turd in the corner because the dog attendants haven’t stopped over yet with their paper towels and Nature’s Miracle.

    If you know of an appropriate place (probably not a crazy city shelter with lots of stressed out dogs and cats) where she could get a real sense of both puppies and cats, she could make her own conclusion.

    On the other hand, I was a terrible prospect to have a dog when I adopted Agatha and Christie. Maybe she’ll surprise you and grow into a dog fanatic.

    Thanks for caring. I hope your acquaintance makes a choice that brings her much joy.


  15. I’ve read many books by people who got their first dogs late in life and the dog turned out to be a life changing experience and they now can’t imagine life without a dog.

    If someone is prepared for the fact that they are high maintenance, roll in disgusting things on the ground and eat their own vomit, they might be ready for the challenge.


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