Since graduating university, Paul has worked as a bookseller, librarian, and educator. Born in the UK, he now lives in Florida.
A Popular Pet With Downsides
Dogs are one of the most popular pets in the world. They are loyal to their owners, playful, and affectionate. They can also serve well as guards of people and property.
However, there are also some disadvantages to owning a canine companion. They need plenty of regular exercise. Dealing with the poop is unpleasant and time-consuming. Dogs can bring with them odors, hair, fleas, and chew marks, all of which are undesirable. Then there are also the vet bills, which can be astronomical if the pet is injured in an accident or falls seriously ill.
The 15 Main Disadvantages of Owning a Dog
- Veterinary Costs
- General Maintenance
- Food Expense
- Many Necessary Extras
- Going Away
- Allergies and Phobias
- Early Waking
I explore each of the disadvantages in more detail below.
When a man's best friend is his dog, that dog has a problem.
— Edward Abbey
Dogs poop—and they do it a lot. An entire section of your life will be taken up with cleaning up their mess. This state of affairs will last as long as you have the dog.
They require regular exercise to stay physically and mentally healthy. It sounds okay until you have to get up early every morning before work or school to take them for a walk, then take them out at the end of a long day. You also may have to interrupt or curtail social engagements for the sake of your dog.
Dogs are social, pack animals and they look to you for leadership and approval. That means they require lots of attention. They need petting and play on a regular basis. If you don't do this, the dog will be unhappy, and may even engage in destructive behavior such as chewing up your furniture and possessions.
4. Veterinary Costs
Veterinary costs can be huge. Your pet will need some basic shots and care in the early stage of life. If the dog has an accident, illness, or starts getting old, the costs of care can go up dramatically.
5. General Maintenance
The types of maintenance required may vary according to the breed of dog, but there is always work to be done. Whether it is brushing them, clipping their nails, giving them a bath, or dental treatment, a keeping a dog healthy requires dedication.
6. Food Expense
Dog food can work out to be expensive over time, especially for bigger breeds. You really can't skimp on the nutrition, you want your dog to stay healthy, so you cannot skimp in this area.
7. Many Necessary Extras
It's not just the food and vet bills, you also need to purchase all sorts of other stuff when you get a dog: toys, treats, collars, shampoo, flea drops... All the stuff costs money and has to fit into your house. You will be tripping over dog toys and half-chewed bones.
When you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas.
— Jean Harlow
Fleas love dogs. They irritate the dog and can cost lots of time and money to get rid of. It's not just the dog that needs to be treated, the eggs and fleas can live in your carpet and furniture too. Once you get rid of the fleas, you still have to spend time and money protecting your dog from future outbreaks.
9. Going Away
Dogs can't survive on their own, unlike a cats which are independent and can just be left with food and water for a couple of days if you go away for the weekend or a short work trip. You have to pay for a dog sitter or find alternative accommodation for your pet. It's expensive and can be stressful.
10. Allergies and Phobias
Like with any pet that you bring into your home, dogs can trigger allergies in people. They also frighten some people, which is good if they are a potential burglar, but not if it's a friend, relative, or the mailman.
Dogs love to dig. That can severely mess up your yard, or your lawn.
12. Early Waking
Dogs will wake you up early every morning, even if it is the weekend and you had planned to sleep in, or you didn't get to bed until 3 a.m. They can snooze at any time of day they want, of course, so they don't see it as any big deal.
Some dogs do it more than others, but pretty much all of them bark. That can cause a lot of irritation to you and your neighbors. Sometimes it just takes somebody riding past on a bicycle to set them off, other times it is a noise that they aren't used it. Maybe they just want attention? Whatever the cause, it can cause annoyance.
I mentioned pooping, but pee can also be an issue. Even after you have gone through the stress of house training them, they will pee wherever they want outside, right in front of house guests or children. They also have accidents which you have to clean up.
Dogs don't live that long. You build up a close attachment and then they die. It can be particularly distressing for children. Typically a dog's lifespan will be somewhere between seven and twelve years, depending on the breed.
I've seen a look in dogs' eyes, a quickly vanishing look of amazed contempt, and I am convinced that basically dogs think humans are nuts.
— John Steinbeck
© 2017 Paul Goodman
Carrie Lynn Sullivan on August 22, 2020:
I have fifteen reasons why dogs are awesome.
1.Dogs love you unconditionally
2.Dogs are loyal
3.Dogs protect you
4.When you drop something in the floor dogs will eat it saving you cleaning time.
5.Dogs are playmates for children.
6.Dogs are a good way to pickup dates.
7.Dogs lick us in the face so you don't have to buy an alarm clock.
8.Dogs get you out of traffic tickets.
9.Dogs take care of disabled people.
10.Dogs drank out of the toilet so you don't have to leave a water bowl laying around.
11.Dogs dig up moles in the yard.
12.Dogs make you go on a walk even when you don't want to.
13.Dogs are obedient and listen and cats ignore you.
14.Dogs bring you things like shoes.
15.Dogs are house broke and babies are not.
And that's all I have to say about that.
Bella Li on August 10, 2020:
Best article ever I can believe that dogs are good but this proves cats are better, and my cat brings more joy to me than any dog could in the world! Cats are so much better, and this article is the best thing I have read in my life you dog lovers!
Jorge Águilar on August 01, 2020:
I can believe I will never change for anything in this world my 5 Dog stupid coment. I hope humans with learn from Dog to give the love unconditionally to forgive I hope I can rescue more I don’t care
Nigel Steane on August 01, 2020:
Dogs can give u love companionship. Teach u responsibility . Give u a reason for walking. The above article was all negativity
Anne on July 30, 2020:
I put a $500 deposit down on a dog that cost $2700. I can afford a dog and I only work 8 hours a week. I know that dogs are a lot of work. I just travel too much and enjoy my freedom. I have decided not to get the dog and will refer back to this list every time I get sad that I didn't get him. Forfeiting the deposit is a small price to pay for my life and the dogs life to be happy.
Savage wasabi on July 30, 2020:
Just pick up the god damn toy
Astrid K.J. on July 28, 2020:
I good start to my family who love to have a dog.
Getagilo L. on July 28, 2020:
This is brilliant.
F.L. Jakob on July 27, 2020:
Now this is another great reason not to get a pet.
KH on July 24, 2020:
I'm so tired of "excuses" as to why people don't or shouldn't get a dog (or any pet for that matter) Do your homework!! This is a living breathing being! Read to see what's required and what you are willing and able to do before you get a pet. Sure, there are some reasons on your list that require thinking. Do pets a big favor - if you don't think of your dog as a family member don't get one. They are better off without you. Dogs deserve love and better care!
Alison palmer on July 23, 2020:
Why do people slwsys go on the attack,? This article doesn't say don't get a dog it just points out what you have to consider. Wind your necks in. I have a dog and i agree its a heads up
Duke on July 23, 2020:
So... you do not have kids because they poop a lot, vomit on your cloth, don’t let you sleep for years....
So... Yes, as I read in one of the comments, I think this guy is being sarcastic or he is just trying to make money with all the views and comments.
[email protected] on July 22, 2020:
This just confirms everything I've ever believed about dogs. They are, noisy, smelly, filthy, expensive, shit machines. I know I'm in the minority but, I'd love to take a walk in the park and just be able to walk on grass without fear of treading in dog crap, or some dog bounding up to you and jumping up with their smelly wet paws all over you, on your nice clean clothes. I just don't get the dog thing, why anyone would share their home with one of these whinging, whining, barking, turd factories is completely beyond me.
Val Orner on July 20, 2020:
This person should not have wasted his time on such a lousy article. A narcissistic view of the world. My dogs mean the world to me and for whatever efforts or expense I have put forth, they are more than worth it!
Lulu on July 17, 2020:
Worst article i ever read
Pk59 on July 17, 2020:
Worst article ever.. there are downsides to everything but don't spoil it for the many animal lovers out there. You absolute hotter of a human being
Mana on July 13, 2020:
You have forgotten about holidayas and restrictions around travelling with pets like hotels or flying
Joanie Steinmeyer on July 13, 2020:
Don’t have a kid if you think dogs are bad.
Sadie lyn on July 08, 2020:
Hateful people who hate dogs belong on another planet they have no soul ....they have no human kindness they have no Integrity selfish self-centered..
No feeling ..... when we touch them they give us something that helps us physically get better they give more gifts so much better than humans... they love you unconditionally they forgive you sad article you know nothing about dogs!
Lacy Baynes on July 07, 2020:
Who would write an article like this. This person makes dog sound like they are the worst creature to ever be alive. How dare you write an article like this. I'm an animal activist and a rescuer. They make me happy just the way they are. They deserve love.
Janet on July 04, 2020:
Is this person for real....wow
Just do research on breeds....the cost...before purchasing a dog or any animal....
Kimi on June 23, 2020:
In reality all this is true, so you need to be committed to a child that never grows up, sort of speak. Yet the years of enjoyment go by to fast. I have a mix Terri-poo. A terrier’s traits are constant attention, basically a lab dog. If you don’t have the time, nor can take them with you wherever you go, it’s not the best breed for you. They are God sent and mine is a great champion. She has been trainable & easy, she’s like a little person & understands everything I say, the word “treat”, is her favorite lol
Kelly Corbin on June 22, 2020:
Who is this creep? Obviously hates dogs and not someone I would even want around my home or pets! I love dogs more than most people...they are more loyal and loving than people and I would spend my last dollar and dying breath on my furbabies! Delete this creep!
Lala on June 21, 2020:
Honestly it is not true. It's all depend where you put value. Some people spend thousands of $$ on things like clothes or video games and spend several hours shopping or watching tv (i don't say it is bad). So for some people having and spending time and money on a dog is not a big deal. Moreover it is not that expensive. So it all depend on were you want to put your money and time in.
Milll on June 21, 2020:
I have several pets including a dog and I must say that these 15 are not the worst. The worst one is to find an apartment. Many owner who rent apartment doesn't allow pet in their building. When pet are allowed, the price is way higher. So finding a place to leave with a pet (especially with a dog) is one of the most difficult things. Also, even if the owner accept dogs, it might don't like yours ...
oof on June 19, 2020:
i would say so
Terrie on June 12, 2020:
Who is this guy for trying to tell people how they should or should not get a pet. I think he has a serious problem
Yes, I have a dog and he is one spoiled pup
Donna on June 10, 2020:
My dog is 16.5 years
Steve on May 31, 2020:
Eveything he says is true but having a dog will make you more human. It is no coincidence what dog is spelled backwards.
This is bs on May 22, 2020:
Is this guy being sarcastic?
uwu on May 21, 2020:
I have had so many experiences with dogs and none of them liked digging
uni on May 14, 2020:
dudes if you don't like this then don't search it whoever made this you helped me with my essay and don't listen to them there the haters.
WWW on May 07, 2020:
Yep they carry fleas that’s true but the other is false.
Lucy Liu on April 20, 2020:
In my opinion I think songs are great pets but thank you for making this, since I needed to know the downsides of getting a dog before getting a Labrador!
uni on April 13, 2020:
dudes if you don't like this then don't search it whoever made this you helped me with my essay and don't listen to them there the haters.
GET A DOG on April 07, 2020:
Delete this junk dogs are awesome and thats final
Hater on March 29, 2020:
No this is not true and I hate the person who made these dogs are the best and I will own as much as I want and bro deletes this site it's REALLY BAD!!!!!!
Cyrill Jones on March 28, 2020:
All animals carry the coronvirus germ including dogs and cats , it has proved a killer in the past to mankind.
China is the source due to there culture of eating fresh meat on a daily basis they do not freeze food like the Western world. They kill domestic animals and wild animals in there poorly made buildings together .
The coronvirus originated there via bats feeding on the raw unprotected meats.
It only takes time for any animal to pass the coronvirus germ .
One proven case has been found in a domestic dog.
Be careful keep safe .
hhyhuj on February 10, 2020:
dogs are so messy
OverIt on January 06, 2020:
Picking up dog poop almost every day for 14 years sucks! Ready to be dog free! Anyone who disagrees is crazy. Kids can do this on their own by age 3 or less. No comparison
Paul Goodman (author) from Florida, USA on December 07, 2019:
Sadly, there are many people who don't take into account the amount of time and effort needed for exercise before getting a dog. The dog suffers as a result. The same goes for the costs involved. To care for a dog (or most other pets) involves time and money, if they are to have a happy and healthy life. That may seem obvious to some people, but be aware that many people don't realize that.
Be quiet on December 04, 2019:
Why is exercise bad exactly? Humans don’t exercise enough these days and why can’t dogs excruciate I don’t get this, not all people have allergies to dogs too if they do just get allergy shots then easy like that! Not just dogs cost money for food every living pet’s food costs money! Omg.
Anon on October 18, 2019:
Dogs are hard work! Broken my relationship
Patrick on October 11, 2019:
Anyone who owns a dog or cat is crazy. As simple as that. Trouble, dirty, costly and time should be better spent on yourself and health.
no name- Jake Webber on September 08, 2019:
Ok dogs are great animals and these are great reasons not to get one but the last one is plain stupid, yes the dog will die but so do humans and kids need to learn that not all good things last forever
Bob the builder on June 08, 2019:
dogs are great animals and you should not speak so badly about them do you have a dog if you do then you can but if you don't have a dog and you have a cat then stop speaking so bad about dogs they are great animals.
Honest on June 03, 2019:
People are so damn weak that get angry or offended after reading this.
Bflores on May 31, 2019:
Everyone considering getting a dog should read this. I have been involved in Rescue for over 20 years. So many people are not prepared for the commitment it takes, and when they find out, too late, they simply dump the dog in a shelter, or worse, on the side of the road. Those people should never own a dog. But if you are committed to doing the work, (and he didn't even mention the expense and commitment of training classes) then the reward is worth it, for you and the dog.
Wow on May 30, 2019:
This is the worst article I've ever read clearly written by a cat owner. Maybe try owning a dog before you write some nonsense like this again.
Frankorlando on May 30, 2019:
what a pathetic article by a pathetic human being. You don't even understand what a dog is through you. Only human beings could be like dogs this would be a fantastic world, dogs are unconditional love greatest thing that God ever put on this Earth oh, that is the reason why a dog is God spelled backwards.
Belle on May 30, 2019:
So your saying that a dog is alive, good job. you must me so smart........ I don't think those are good reasons not to get a dog, if you think about it babys/kids need and do all the same things......duh
My dog is the best thing i own you didnt change my mind about them.
Kathy k on May 30, 2019:
I have had 12 dogs in my lifetime, 2 lived to 17, one 19 the others from 12 to 15 yrs. They ate a lot less then my sons, 6 of them never went to a vet until they were very old and were extremely healthy. Insurance over the past ten years covers my once in a blue moon vet bills. My dogs were trained by me and never caused a problem. They were members of our family and gave us all so much joy. Dogs who behave badly are not trained properly and just like humans, sometimes become ill. I can think of 50 reasons why owning a dog is a wonderful experience!
Stitch on May 30, 2019:
So if youre very selfish a dog is not for you.
Ali on May 30, 2019:
Lol this article is basically whining that a dog is a living creature that you have to care for. Which is good to know if you thought otherwise, I guess. If you don't want to commit to an animal's care, please stick to a pet rock.
G-lee on May 29, 2019:
Its true but if you look at your dog and love your dog. Its exactly like having a child and you will do what ever it takes to make sure your dog is loved and taken care for just like a child!
Cattown on May 28, 2019:
People have babies and they do and are just as much trouble or more than dogs!!
I'd take the dog and the cat household everytime!!
C on May 28, 2019:
I’d take a dog 10 times over and all it’s hard work then spend any amount of time with the author of this article. Can’t imagine the sod this one must be.
I can understand letting people know the downsides of owning any pet before getting one but there are far more joyous moments dogs can bring and most of these points are blanket statements.
Stay in your cold cave heartless human.
Nietzsche on May 24, 2019:
And people have babies,same thing applies,but
They live alot longer
Jeff on May 24, 2019:
This article is blatantly speciesist and is disgusting material. It makes bland assumptions that are irrelevant to most individuals and promotes many contempt-ridden ideas, shifting the blame from human irresponsibility to innocent animals that have been mistreated and taken advantage of by the speciesist society that this sort of article promotes. These problems are the result of human corruption, misinformation and error, not Canis lupus familiaris.
Randall on May 24, 2019:
Some of these thoughts are exaggerated and there are common sense answers to them all. Owning and taking care of a canine friend is a process and requires attention and patience. Our Shi-Tsu is four years old and has been a blessing from the day we brought him home, a few weeks old. Anyone can write negative review/comments.
Sam on May 24, 2019:
True but totally worth it!!
Travis on April 26, 2019:
Who the f*** are you to tell me not to own a dog? why I shouldn't own a dog.... Sorry I don't think everybody shares your stupid miserable opinion about dogs dogs are freaking awesome I love my dog a lot and she doesn't give me any grief..... So you're just an a hole
Ethan on April 01, 2019:
WOW?! This is the most craziest website ever.
Ailurophile on March 04, 2019:
To those of you who are offended,please consider that this is just a list of the things about DOGS. Bad things with chickens,bad things with cats,here are the bad things with dogs. I love dogs,but a lot of these are true.
XxghostryderXx54 on January 09, 2019:
I like dogs but after I read this I think its all false because my dog doesn´t do any of these things especially when its was a puppy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
that dude on November 30, 2018:
most of what you said in this paper is untrue! Check your facts next time
bella on November 29, 2018:
this is all true
Sarah on November 04, 2018:
That stuff is common sense and yeah they pee and poo you do to like seriously think about all the love and affection you get from it and it can't answer back or argue with you and if you don't want to play or walk your dog you shouldn't get a dog. I look after my dog completely on my own and I love it yes the fleas and the medical stuff but hello get insurance for them it helps and they won't get fleas if you get treatment for them seriously no one should listen to this article if they don't have a dog. If you ask someone if they would tell you to get a dog and they say no and they have one they don't care for the dog right and have ruined there relationship with it but most people would say yes because its the best thing that ever happened to me getting three dogs
Sioux on November 04, 2018:
I have rescued 9 dogs in 28 years. I am done. I have 3 rescue cats and will only have cats from now on. I really miss having a dog but the vets bills, the making sure they went to the bathroom, the attention they needed ALL THE TIME was just too Labor intensive for me. Maybe when I am 70 years old I’ll rescue a very old senior knowing they only have a year or so left. But, dogs are an incredible amount of responsibility. most likely no more for me.
al on October 02, 2018:
james winter on May 03, 2018:
my english staffy is very good but can be bad at times
Dog Owner on April 18, 2018:
I've had a dog for over 10 years now; and my aunts and mother-in-law all had dogs. I have say This is the MOST HONEST and THOROUGH dog owning list I have ever read. The only dog owners who would disagree are owners who leave the dog duties to the other person (usually dumped on the wife/mother). Don't ask your friends. They will lie so not to be looked on as heartless. Ask a female stranger out with the dog and kids at the park. Then you'll get an honest answer; "Don't get a dog!"
anonymous on April 04, 2018:
That's the stupidest thing I ever heard. If you know anything about dogs you would know half of this stuff is false.
Oo7-2.o on September 03, 2017:
! That stuff is so true ¡
Good (and Bad) Reasons to Get a Dog
Is a dog a good choice for your family?
Here are some good and bad reasons for choosing a dog as a pet for you and your family:
Companionship – Dogs are social animals that thrive on companionship with their family. If you have the time to invest in a dog, the rewards are enormous. On the other hand, if your lifestyle means that most days your dog will be left alone for long periods of time, a dog may not be the best pet choice.
Impulse – Avoid the “doggie in the window” syndrome. Set yourself up for success by careful planning. Getting a dog is a life-changing decision which shouldn’t be taken lightly.
Socialization – Dogs can be a bridge to contact with other people. Dogs require exercise and walking, and the required activity gets people out and about. For people living alone, a dog can increase the contact with the outside world while providing meaning and structure to one’s life.
Intimidation of Neighbors or Strangers – Dogs should never be used to intimidate those around someone. Backyard dogs or chained dogs are not really family pets. A whole range of behavioral issues can arise including territorial aggression, fears, other forms of aggression, and destructiveness to name just a few.
Regular Exercise – Walking, running, and bicycling are more fun with a buddy. A dog needs daily exercise. Along the way you can both stay fit!
A Fashion Statement – Selecting a dog for personal reasons such as being able to dress it up, carry it around like a toy, and treating it like an accessory are not good reasons to get a dog. Toy, miniature and teacup breeds are dogs, not accessories. Likewise, large and impressive breeds of dogs should not be acquired for macho statements either.
Children – Children can learn great life skills such as compassion, responsibility, negotiation and patience by helping to care for a pet. Realistic expectations will require parents to supervise the interactions of a dog and their children, but parents can set an example for their children. It is important to remember that parents are ultimately responsible for the care of the dog, but age appropriate tasks can be assigned.
Marital or Family Difficulties – A dog will not solve interpersonal problems among family members. The dog is more likely to become an element of stress in such a household.
Companion for Your Existing Dog – Dogs are social creatures, and many dogs appreciate the presence of a companion dog. Sometimes two dogs can be easier and more fun than one. But, each dog is an individual, and if you are not sure your dog would like another canine, consult a professional for advice.
Nagging Children – Adding a dog to the family is a major commitment of time and resources. Giving in to your children against your better judgment will be a mistake. Try getting your children involved in animal-themed activities instead, such as volunteering at a local shelter, so they can learn about the responsibilities of owning a dog.
Empty Home/Empty Heart – Your last dog has passed away. Without a canine companion, your house doesn’t feel like a home.
A Surprise Gift – The commitment to care for a dog should never be made for someone else. No matter how kind your intentions, give someone a dog only after frank and thorough discussion with the proposed recipient to be sure that the gift will be welcome and that they are involved in the selection process 100%.
With this in mind, is a beagle a good first dog?
Because of their intellect, ease of training and happiness around people, Beagles make wonderful first-time dogs. But there’s a proviso. As owners, you have to understand what you’re getting into and understand the intricacies of the breed.
Expect to go through a lot of training to get your dog to a point where it obeys you regularly, and even then you can’t let them off their leash. Expect them to be permanently inquisitive and playful with anything and anyone you come across. (I see this as a plus. Others might not.) Expect them to want to run off and investigate the entire world, as soon as you leave your front door. And expect them to want to spend all their free time with you.
The Real Reasons You Shouldn’t Clone Your Dog
Three years ago, CheMyong Jay Ko received a call from a distraught older man. Ko, a professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s College of Veterinary Medicine, listened as the caller told him that his dog had just rushed into traffic and been struck by a truck, killing it immediately. He had called Ko with a simple but urgent question: Would it be possible to clone his beloved pet?
For Ko, the call wasn’t as peculiar as you might think. After all, he has studied genetics and cloning for genetics and physiology for more than 20 years. So he had a ready answer: yes, cloning was possible.
Naturally, there was a catch. Cloning requires cells that contain enough intact DNA. But animal tissue begins to degrade soon after death as bacteria start to gnaw away at newly defenseless cells. Ko knew that they had to act quickly if they were going to have a chance to preserve the animal’s genetic material. He and two of his students piled into a van and drove an hour to the man’s home, where they took skin cells from the recently deceased pup.
Back in the lab, he and his team revived and cultured some of the cells from their samples. Theoretically, they now had the material to create a genetic double of the dead dog. In practice, of course, things were about to get a lot more complicated.
Streisand has said that she has had trouble finding a curly-haired Coton de Tulear like her dog Samantha, one of the reasons she decided to clone her deceased pet. (iStock)
Scientists have known that mammal cloning was feasible since 1996, when Dolly the sheep was born. Since then, they quickly moved on to trying to other animals: mice, cattle, pigs, goats, rabbits, cats. But due to differences in the canine reproductive process, dogs proved a trickier challenge.
After several failed attempts, the first successful experiment in dog cloning took place in 2005, when a South Korean team managed to produce a pair of Afghan hound puppies from the ear-skin of a dog named Tai. One of the newborns died soon after, of pneumonia. But the second cloned dog, which the team named Snuppy, lived for an impressive 10 years. Snuppy was deemed a “revolutionary breakthrough in dog cloning” and one of the most amazing “inventions” of the year by Time magazine. Ko was an adviser on the South Korean team.
At the time, researchers were debating whether cloning produces animals that age faster or have higher risks of disease compared to their cell donor. Dolly died at 6, around half the age of the average sheep, from lung disease and arthritis Snuppy died of the same cancer that had killed Tai at age 12. In 2017, The South Korean team explored this issue in a paper in Nature on their attempt to produce clones from Snuppy’s own stem cells. Their ongoing research hopes to “study the health and longevity of cloned animals compared with their cell donors.”
The science of dog cloning has advanced considerably since the researchers first presented Snuppy to the world. Today, there are a handful of commercial companies and institutions, many of them located in South Korea, committed to bringing cloning to ordinary pet owners—for a price. One of them, the United States-based Viagen, charges $50,000 before taxes, paid in two installments, to clone your dog. (In case you were wondering, they also clone cats, for $25,000).
Ultimately, Ko’s anguished septuagenarian didn’t end up cloning his dog after all. According to Ko, it was the price that turned him off. (For now, his dog’s cells are still sitting in a freezer, unused but theoretically still useable, should he change his mind.)
But many wealthy pet owners are willing to shill out for these rarefied services. No doubt the most famous is Barbara Streisand. Last month, the singer and filmmaker shocked the Internet when she told Variety that two of her three dogs, Miss Violet and Miss Scarlet, had been cloned from cells taken from the mouth and stomach of her fluffy, white, recently deceased Coton de Tulear, Samantha. Samantha, or Sammie, had passed away the previous May.
As Streisand wrote a few days later, in an op-ed in the New York Times:
I was so devastated by the loss of my dear Samantha, after 14 years together, that I just wanted to keep her with me in some way. It was easier to let Sammie go if I knew I could keep some part of her alive, something that came from her DNA. A friend had cloned his beloved dog, and I was very impressed with that dog.
If you spend enough time reading about pet cloning, you’ll see that adjective come up over and over again: beloved. When people clone their animals, they do so because they love them—and because they can’t stand the prospect of losing them forever. The average American dog lives between 7 and 15 years. With that perspective, the price may seem more reasonable. What is $50,000, if it saves you the immeasurable pain of saying goodbye to a beloved family member?
Talk to experts about what cloning actually entails, however, and you’ll begin to realize that the costs are steeper than most realize—and go far beyond money.
“I understand the impulse behind trying to keep your dog in perpetuity,” says Alexandra Horowitz, head of Columbia University’s Canine Cognition Lab and author of the 2010 book Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know. “One of the great sadnesses about living with dogs is that the time we live with them is so short. Unfortunately, you have to overlook a huge amount about the process—to say nothing about what cloning actually is—to be satisfied with the results.”
The process of cloning is simple enough. It begins with cultured cells, like those Ko retrieved from his bereaved caller’s former companion. Next, scientists extract unfertilized eggs from another, unrelated dog, removing them from its fallopian tubes. That animal generally isn’t harmed, though the procedure is invasive.
“We take the eggs out and bring them into the laboratory. There we manually remove their nucleus,” Ko says. “We can use a fine pipette needle to remove [them] and suck the nucleus out.” (Think of sucking a boba pearl out of milk tea with a straw.) This process strips the eggs of the genetic material that they contain, making the egg cell essentially a blank slate for scientists to fill with DNA of their choosing. Scientists can also achieve a similar effect with a targeted blast of ultraviolet light, which destroys the genetic material.
Scientists then take one of the cultured somatic cells from the animal that they’re seeking to clone and carefully insert it into the egg with a needle. In a Frankensteinian twist, they hit the composite egg with an electric burst that “fuses” the two together.
“Through that, the nucleus from the donor cell will become part of the egg,” says Ko. “Now the nucleus from the donor cell will behave like the nucleus of the egg.” There’s one critical difference. Unlike an unfertilized egg, which has half of the necessary genetic information to make a new life—the other half is in the sperm cell—you already have a full set of genetic information, just as you would in a viable embryo.
The electrical burst also jumpstarts cell division. After a few days, assuming that the process successfully takes hold, the lab can then surgically implant the cells into yet another animal: a surrogate dog mother. Treated with hormones, and sometimes made to “mate” with vasectomized male dogs, these surrogates can, under ideal circumstances, carry the pregnancies to term. Often, surrogates then go on to carry other cloned pregnancies.
If you were ever considering cloning your dog, this process may already have you hesitating. But things are about to get even more questionable, morally.
Even not counting the original egg donor and surrogate, the cloning process still requires numerous dogs to produce a single clone. Consider: Many cloned pregnancies don’t take hold in the uterus or die shortly after birth, as was the case with Snuppy’s twin. Snuppy and his twin were two of only three pregnancies that resulted from more than 1,000 embryos implanted into 123 surrogates.
“You need a good number of dogs to do this type of cloning,” Ko acknowledges, though he adds that the success rate has gone up in the intervening years. “I would say it’s about 20 percent. Very high.”
As Ko and his co-authors note, there may be legitimate reasons to clone animals. For instance, you might want to make many of the same dogs for research, replicate service dogs with rare and desirable abilities, or clone endangered species for conservation. Yet many animal advocates and ethicists still raise strong objections. “The process of cloning basically creates an industry of what I think of as farmed dogs,” Horowitz tells me.
Bioethicist Jessica Pierce has also argued against the practice, writing in the New York Times that the cloning industry has produced “a whole canine underclass that remains largely invisible to us but whose bodies serve as a biological substrate.”
Even if one is willing to overlook the suffering of animals harvested for their eggs and co-opted into pregnancy, questions still arise. Key among them may be what pet owners think they’re getting when they clone a “beloved” animal.
Centuries of selective breeding have left many with the misconception that a dog’s genetic makeup determines its personality. “In a way, cloning companies are preying on this ignorance, if you will, about what’s actually going on scientifically,” Pierce tells me over the phone. “And that’s unfortunate. Unethical.” Genetic preservation companies feature names like "PerPETuate, Inc." which would seem to imply the indefinite continuance of the cloned animal.
Horowitz agrees. “There might be some breed tendencies, and there certainly are tendencies that a genome will avail that makes a cloned dog maybe likelier than some other non-genetically similar dog to do a kind of thing,” she says. “But everything that matters to us about the personality of a dog is not in those genes. Everything is in the interaction of that genome with the environment, starting from the time they’re in utero—just as with humans.”
For those who love the dogs they’ve lived with, this should be a critical point. You adore this animal—not because of its genetics, but because it became the creature that it is through time spent with you. While a clone may perfectly replicate its genome, it won’t be the same dog because it won’t have the same life, a life that it lived in your company. In almost every way that matters, then, they’re different dogs.
Even Streisand implicitly admits as much, telling Variety that her two cloned pups “have different personalities” than Samantha—and, presumably, each other. “Each puppy is unique and has her own personality,” she writes in the Times. “You can clone the look of a dog, but you can’t clone the soul.” The jury is out on the ethics of what she did with her dogs, but on this point, she’s right.
The Pros of a Pet-Friendly Property
Since we constantly hear about all of the problems animals cause for landlords, you may not be as familiar with the benefits of allowing your tenants to have pets.
Here are seven good reasons to allow pets on your property:
- Larger Prospective Tenant Pool: Firepaw.org states that almost 50% of renters own a pet. Therefore, if you make your property pet-friendly tenant as you will have a larger group to choose from.
- Pet Owners Make More Money: According to Practical Apartment Management, by Edward N Kelly, 65% of pet owners earn over $50,000 a year. You should run a credit check to help determine if this money will go toward paying the rent.
- Longer Tenancy: Pet owners typically stay in a rental longer because it can be harder for them to find other pet-friendly options.
- Responsible Pet Owners Are Responsible Tenants: If someone is mature enough to take good care of an animal, there is a good chance they will treat your property with the same respect.
- Charge Higher Rent: Look around your area. If there are not a lot of pet-friendly properties, tenants will have fewer options, and you may be able to charge slightly higher rents if you allow pets due to the increased demand.
- Happier Tenants: Animals can help reduce stress. Having a pet around can make your property feel more like a home for the tenant.
- Sneaking In Pets: If you allow pets, it will decrease the chances of tenants trying to sneak in pets that you have not approved.