Hi everyone! I have received a lot of questions about having a dog in PT school, so today’s post will be all about that. A common trend I’m hearing is that a lot of fellow dog moms and dads are concerned about having their pup with them at school. Is it difficult? Is it too time-consuming in such an intense program? Do I have extra time to spend with my dog? Do I recommend having them with you? This may or may not just be an excuse for me to show off some super cute pictures of my dog… no I’m kidding. Keep reading for the inside scoop!
I have a golden retriever named Dawson that will be turning three in November. He first blessed my life when he was nine weeks old in January of 2017. During this time, I was in my gap year and was working full-time as a PT tech in an outpatient clinic. The clinic was less than a mile away from my apartment, which was totally perfect for raising and training a puppy. I crate trained him and had him potty trained within three weeks of being home. I usually worked an 8-hour long day. But since I lived so close to my job, I was able to come home every day for my lunch break and spend that full hour with him.
Now in PT school, I live less than a ten-minute drive away from school. I typically don’t come home for my lunch break because sometimes classes may run long or I may need to work/study during that time. But if I do have some extra down time between classes or a class gets cancelled/lets out really early, I run home to let him out and spend a little extra time with him. He's really well-trained so I know that if I can't make it home between classes or I have to stay longer at school for whatever reason, he'll be fine until I get home.
I do most of my studying at home because it's what works best for me and I also enjoy having his company. So, we actually get to spend a lot of time together. Going on walks or to the dog park (I have one in my neighborhood too which is super convenient) are perfect little study breaks for me and a win-win for both of us. For the past two years, my roommate has been a fellow PT student in my program (we started out in the same class, but she’s a year ahead of me now). She just moved out because she’ll be starting her third and final year this fall. In our program, we only have didactic learning in our final fall semester and end our third year with a full-time clinical rotation in the spring and summer. Since most people travel for those last two clinicals, students typically find a short-term, 6-month long place to stay for the fall. She has a goldendoodle named Ginger. I’m so sad that our little family won’t be together anymore - Dawson and Ginger are besties. They would play and cuddle and keep each other busy when I was nose-deep in studying and couldn't necessarily give him a whole lot of attention. Since my roommate and I had different schedules, we were always able to help each other out with walking them, feeding them, or just hanging out with them.
My new roommate will not have a dog, but she is a fellow dog lover! I have a lot of friends that live in my neighborhood and close by that love Dawson and always offer to walk him, play with him, or dogsit him when I need it (even when I don’t need it and they just want to love on him haha).
On the Bright Side!
The Best Therapy!
Being loved on by a fluffy little nugget that thinks the world of you has got to be the best therapy out there. It’s crazy how much a difference just cuddling for a few seconds or getting a slobbery kiss can make in my mood and overall spirit. You know how around finals time, someone always comes to campus with a bunch of dogs for students to love on to help them feel better and not be so stressed? Yeah… if you have your dog with you, you have your own therapy. All of the time. Whenever you need it. My friends always come over to get hugs and kisses from Dawson when they need a pure, simple form of stress relief. Everyone wins.
The Perfect Study Buddy!
Studying at home may not be for everyone. Sure there are distractions like food… your TV… your big comfy bed calling your name. But I love to (and prefer to) study at home so I can have this little cutie accompany me. I try to eliminate outside distractions and be productive. I usually always start out my studying at home. When I need to change up the scenery or start feeling like I’m being distracted or unproductive, I will switch it up and head to the library or find a room at the health professions building. But the majority of my work and studying is done at home with this handsome study buddy.
Staying Active Together!
I’ll be the first to admit that my exercising game has been very, very pathetic since I started PT school. It’s really not that hard to set aside an hour or even 30 minutes a day to get in exercise… ugh. But with the hustle and bustle of classes and studying and outside activities and being tired, sometimes it’s just not a priority for me. However, I always get in my daily walks with Dawson. Sometimes they’re long, sometimes they’re short. But either way, I’m staying active with my best friend. It’s an opportunity for me to move and step away from the books and just enjoy time with him - the perfect little study break if you will. I especially loooove walks in the fall because the foliage where I live is just so beautiful - I’m getting really excited just thinking about it! Colorful leaves, crisp weather, an oversized hoodie, and strollin’ with my boy. Now that’s perfection.
On the Not-So-Bright Side…
Food, treats, toys, vitamins, medications, grooming appointments, vet visits - it all adds up. Once your dog is an adult, expenses aren’t too crazy. But one unexpected trip to the vet can cost you an arm and an leg. It can be stressful. We’re in grad school - we’re broke. Money is the last thing we want to be worrying about. So just keep in mind that having a dog will require some extra costs. Plan ahead and know what you can afford based on what you will have available from your job, loan, or savings.
It can be hard to find living arrangements that accommodate dogs. I live in a city where there are very few nice complexes to live that are dog-friendly. Some places that are dog-friendly can tend to be dumpy and kinda sketchy. Some places that are super nice and dog-friendly have outrageous monthly pet fees and hella strict restrictions on breeds they allow, weight limits that can’t be exceeded, etc. Also, having a dog may limit your ability to find a roommate or roommates. Some people may be allergic. Some people may not like dogs. Some people may have their own dog or other pet that doesn’t get along well with other animals. Some complexes allow only one animal per unit. These are all important things to take into consideration.
My dog is 2-years-old, so he is technically past the puppy stage and doesn’t require a whole lot of extra time (but he’s still a little wild at heart). Even though he’s pretty low maintenance for the most part, the extra minutes here and there can add up in PT school. I work as a volleyball official and often travel on the weekends for matches and tournaments. I know that my friends are just as busy as me, so I usually don’t ask them to watch him for a whole weekend. I normally will only work one day a weekend. But if I know I have a super busy multi-day weekend ahead, my family will help out and come get Dawson for the weekend. Usually they have him just for the weekend because I can’t stand to be away from him for too long. But one time last year, I was insanely busy and our schedules didn’t align right away, so they ended up keeping him for two weeks. I definitely noticed a difference in the time it took to do certain tasks - especially my morning routine. It was obviously a lot quicker because it was just me and not the two of us I had to take care of. I didn’t have to make extra trips home in the day or be worried that I was gone studying too long and needed to go home to let him outside and spend time with him. But even when he’s not around, I still do most of my work at home. I’d choose having him with me and sacrificing some extra time here and there ANY DAY! Consider how much time you’ll be be able to spend with your dog and remember that they get lonely just like we do. I felt so lonely sometimes when Dawson was staying with my family, but I knew that he had a big yard to run around in whenever he wanted to and was having a blast playing with my family’s little puppy. If you have family nearby, having them help you out sometimes can be a life saver.
If you have a dog and are contemplating whether or not you want to bring them to school with you - I say go for it! I personally think the postitives far outweigh the negatives. Now, do I recommend getting a puppy or a new dog while you’re in school? No, I don’t. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but raising and training a puppy is just like doing it with an actual human baby. They need attention and consistency and lots of time. Your sleep schedule will be all wacky from needing to wake up every few hours to get them successfully potty trained. As for new dogs i.e. rescued dogs, they will need time to adjust to you and their new environment and will also need attention and consistency. One of my good friends wanted to get a puppy during our spring semester this year and although I’m THE biggest dog lover in the world and of course would love to be an auntie to a new puppy, I advised that it wouldn’t be the smartest decision to make while we were knee-deep in one of the toughest semesters of our program. In these types of scenarios, I think that waiting until after school to get a new puppy or dog is the most ideal and realistic decision to make.
My tips for finding a happy balance:
- Live with a roommate who loves dogs (or even has one) so they can help you out if you need it.
- Try to live as close to campus as possible to save time on trips home.
- Study at home so you can get to spend that extra time in each other's company.
- Develop a consistent morning routine and wake up early to get in quality time and lengthy walks.
- Consider doggy daycare or a dog-walking app if you are a commuter or cannot make it home often during the day.
- Make friends with people at your local dog park or find a Facebook group with fellow dog parents in your area that can lend you a hand when you need it. I’ve dog-sat for many friends that I met at the dog park. I’m protective over Dawson and would never trust someone completely random with him. So, get to know these people and see if you would feel comfortable with them taking care of your own fur baby.
As long as you optimize your time and get into a good rhythm with school and everything, then having your dog at school with you shouldn't be too hard! Dawson is my best friend and he keeps me sane when it starts feeling like this is all too much to handle. The good… the bad… the ugly… he’ll be right my side to help me get through it all. I couldn’t imagine going through this journey without him!
Thanks so much for reading - I hope you found this post helpful! You can see more pictures of Dawson by following my #mygoldenboydawson hashtag on Instagram! :)
Do you have your dog at school with you? If so, what has your experience been like so far?
Do you have any specific tips or stories you’d like to share? If so, please leave them in a comment below!