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A dog as your house alarm?

I've had sketchy things happen in our 'hood, on occassion.  We get some unannounced knocks at our door.  Our car has been broken into in front of our house.  With my partner out late for work often and with our 100+ year old house getting creaky, I can get scared of dark corners.  I have thought about getting a dog to act as a sounding board, but - geez! - aren't three kids enough?  Well, an urbanMama recently emailed faced with a similar conundrum:

Hi Mamas, my husband and I are having a dog dilemma. He wants to get a dog to alert us of people on the property.  We have had someone in our unlocked shed and in our cars on the nights we forget to lock them.  I understand and support his need to protect his family.   My issues are that we have a three and a half year old and a one year old.  Our house is small but the yard is huge.  I am not wanting to take on the responsibility of an animal that needs real care.  We have two neglected cats who are outdoor only since my son was born.  I don't think it is fair to them to add another animal when they are getting very little attention.  The final concern is the cost of having a dog and taking proper care of him/her.  I know that I will have to cave at some time but would like to figure out what is the best plan for getting a dog that will be good with the kids and worth the bark.  We will not be getting a puppy.  I will go to the pound for a dog and have no plans on paying for something fancy. Your thoughts mamas?


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I think an alarm system is easier & probably not really anymore expensive, although I guess it won't alert you to anyone in your car. Choosing a dog as an alarm system is a crap shoot though. Some dogs are good at this, some are not. You could end up with a dog who has no protective inclinations and never barks or one who barks it's head off every time someone walks by on the sidewalk (like my neighbor's damn dog!). I have a dog who is a pretty good alarm system (she did wake me up when someone stole a wicker love seat off the porch, but I couldn't figure out what the problem was & they stole the item before I'd gotten up), but I would have a dog anyhow. I got her 7 years ago, before I had a kid, & her previous owners were getting rid of her because she was protective of the house & they were worried she would bite one of their kids' friends. So, a protective dog is not necessarily a good family dog. I'm lucky my dog has mellowed some over the years & is a pretty good family dog now that she is getting old. If you get an alarm system you know what you are getting & you don't have to worry about having another being to give love to.

How about a goose?? They're terrific alarms, and very territorial. Seriously good watch dogs. :)

I am not a dog person, but my husband insisted and it has ended up being a really good thing for us. We have a golden retriever. She is loyal and likes to please, which makes it easy to have her around. She is amazing with kids and my son (15 mo) and nephew (3 yrs) love her. I love that my children will know this relationship with an animal.

She spends a lot of time in the front yard and barks at people passing by. Neighbors say she is a great alarm, although it isn't why we got her. Goldens are generally gentle creatures, but we have seen her instincts kick in when needed to protect.

I think it is expensive... the food, the monthly flee meds and the skin cream every spring (she gets hives from allergies...)

And it is extra work... more vacuuming with dog hair, more dirt on the floor to clean up

But I don't regret it for a second.

A car and a house alarm are together cheaper than a typical dog through it's lifetime.

On the other hand, as a lifetime dog owner (a new puppy is arriving first week of April too!), I have a dog because the companionship is worth it all. Unfortunately, I think if you have small children, I would (personally) avoid getting an older dog. I plan on carefully socializing the dog with my boys to prevent any future issues (I like big dogs.) But as others have said, dog ownership presents not only work and expense, but also a commitment. Where would the dog go when you go on vacation? Camping? Many dogs who would scare off an intruder also require daily excersize as well.

If your husband is willing to mitigate all those issues, than he really just wants a dog, and thats the only condition whereby you should be willing to agree :)

I could've written this question! All the non-puppy dogs at the shelter say "not good with children". A puppy is essentially another child--a catch-22! I think I might seriously consider the goose!! :D

How about telling your husband to get an alarm system for your house instead? We have a young child and a large dog. We've raised our dog since he was a puppy and let me tell you it is not easy. Our dog goes out every morning to the park (rain or shine). Very hard to do sometimes. That being said, it doesn't sound like you guys want a dog in order to love and add to your family. You can't guarantee you would have a barker anyhow. Our loving dog is a barker and to be honest, it bothers me a lot. Especially during nap times and after she has gone down for the night. We also don't depend on him for use as an *alarm*. We purchased an alarm system for that reason. I would suggest thinking this through. It's a living animal not an object.

We got a dog three years ago for many of the same reasons. My husband was a dog person who worked nights and thought it would be great. I finally caved, when we moved to an area where I was waking up to every little noise under the assumption someone was in the house. My daughter was one at the time and we got our dog from the animal shelter. She was a golden mix and was a great size and was very comfortable with our daughter (and vice versa).

Cut to three years later. We now have two daughters (a 4 year old and a 1 1/2 year old). As is true with many shelter dogs, our dog's personality didn't really show for several weeks after we got her. She is still amazing with the kids, but very protective of our property (which I guess is what we wanted, but you need to be careful what you wish for), and it can be tough to have people over because she's very nervous and anxious. Also, she was clearly abused and gets very easily scared of my husband (still, 3 years later) and she's truly become my dog...which was definitely not in the plan. Three years later, she is still slowly getting less afraid and we love her in our family, but she, like any dog, requires a lot of attention.

In my experience, dogs will exhibit many negative behaviors when not getting the attention and exercise that they need/crave. And shelter dogs tend to come with a lot of baggage. If you already have two cats who are now outdoors and not getting attention, I would consider an alarm. They do not need nearly the care and attention that a dog needs.

I would never, ever get a pet (that will give you tons in love and affection but also cost much of your time, money, and attention over its lifespan -- which, in the case of one of my dogs, was 18 years) simply as a house alarm. I have dogs as members of my family, not as security systems, and I've seen really sad situations when people get dogs simply as protection (after my grandfather passed away, my grandmother, who lived alone in a rural area, got a border collie -- yeah, I know -- for that reason, and it was a terrible match. All the kids in the family loved the dog, but she wound up going to a sheep farm to do her thing, and was much happier there. The border collie -- not my grandma. :P)

Although, I will say, the added bonus of my dog's really big mouth can be a plus (he's scared off solicitors many a time). You'd never know it from the size of him -- he's a dachshund, for crying out loud -- but man, can that boy give some warnings. (I've also met Rotties who were quiet as can be, so you can't judge based on breed alone in terms of what will be a good protector.)

I have to go with those whose vote is for an electronic alarm - you should only get a dog if you really want to add another member to your family and all the responsibility that comes with it. We got a dog (before we had kids) as a house alarm....I was home alone most nights (hubby's a bartender) sketchy neighborhood, break ins, etc. And the dog has become the bain of my existence, especially since we had a baby. She is SO MUCH WORK to already frazzled, over worked mama. And I feel terriblt guilty because she gets so neglected. My husband works two jobs these days and has no time for her. She weighs lie 90 lbs (10 lbs less than me) and knocks me over, is impossible to walk because she sees something she wants to chase and pulls me off my feet! She's good and gentle with the baby and definitely a good "watch dog". But the constant shedding, mud tracked everywhere, just adds a level of filth that I find impossible to keep on top off while chasing a toddler, working and being pregnant with my second. DO NOT GET A DOG unless you have the time and can make the commitment. Plus the expense - we got her from the humane society and she was waaayyy sicker than they every said. We ended up spending a cool $2000 getting her healthy the first year. money I would have much rather put towards my son, the house, debt, etc.......

I will add to the list of folks who don't recommend getting a dog as an alarm. Only get an animal if you really want to love and care for it. We have a dog (two cats, and two kids - but we are crazy) and she's sweet and wonderful, but much more work than the cats. She needs to be walked or to go to the park every day and she needs love and companionship. We got her when my son was 4.5 and we thought we weren't going to be able to have a second child. Now that we have a baby, it can be tough to juggle everyone's needs. I'd go with a house alarm in your position.

I'm not sure if dogs are always reliable alarms. I would look at getting motion sensor lights installed. The lights themselves are pretty cheap and I hear they are an effective deterrent.

Put a really heavy chain and a couple of bowls on your porch. Nail up some signs that say "Beware of Dog." And get a security system. I love dogs, but even I have had a hard time coupling loving and responsible dog ownership with the demands of early childhood. If this is your first time to own a dog, I wouldn't pick this particular time in your life as a great time to start.

When people buy dogs to be security systems, it reminds me of cautionary tales like this:
Frankly, I don't think it matters what breed you have - every animal is unique. You don't know if you will be getting a decent watchdog. And you've got to be on top of your dog but even more you have to be on top of your kids, so they know it is absolutely NOT okay to poke, prod, hit, pull, overagitate or do anything but be gentle and loving with their pet.

In general, I'd say kids won't grow up treating animals with love unless they see parents treating animals with love. (As an aside, all those people who let their kids run around chasing and kicking pigeons at the farmers market - what is up with them? Is empathy for other creatures just not on their parenting menu? Are they trying to raise bullies? They deserve what falls from the sky.)

Someone broke into our neighbor's house and we were trying to determine if a dog or an alarm system would make more sense. I think, we'll stick w/ the alarm - does anyone have any recommendations?

We have Brinks (now called Broadview) and we looked at ADT, as well. I have heard pros/cons for both--we went with Brinks because it was hard wired (ADT had battery operated devices that I heard caused a lot of false alarms.) It was $99 for two alarm pads and two doors--we paid extra to have a third door and three windows done. It's $30 a month (plus an additional $30 for us because you need a land line...) You also need to pay $25-50 a year to the city for alarm permits.
When we were having the alarm installed, the company sent a guy to do a security plan that I honestly think was way more important than the actual alarm. He said basically that robbers will pass a house if it has things that make it difficult for them. He suggested:
Motion sensor lights on the side of the house and anything you can do to make the areas well lit; Cutting back any brush that hides windows or access, making it visible to the street; Putting bars on basement or hidden side windows (an easy way he suggested was copper pipe painted white and put across the window with decking screws--these have a different head than regular screws so they are tougher for robber); putting a gravel path along side the house by a hidden window as this is noisy. Really anything you can do to make it harder for someone to break in and more visible to be seen by someone if they are trying--they won't spend the time and look for an easier target.
I am realizing now that we've spent over $4,000 dollars this past 6 years in our house for the alarm, and we've never even had a false one...I'm thinking that the suggested things, along with some of those wireless battery operated alarm sensors for the windows/doors (I think they are around $5-10 dollars each at Home Depot) would be better for us...

We have a huge dog who slept right through someone on our roof trying to get in through the skylight. Even if you could count on a dog to alert you to an intruder every time, you can't be certain that a dog barking will scare your intruder off, and who knows what could happen next. You're better off with an ADT alarm that will call 911 for you in the event that you can't get to the phone. You also won't need a petsitter when you go on trips!

Dogs and alarm systems are both high maintenance! We disconnected our alarm after 2 fire trucks came roaring to my "rescue" while I was broiling a steak. Embarassing. And we had a lot of false alarm issues-it was a total hassle. My personal favorite security device: motion flood lights!! Brighter the better! Although I love the "beware of dog" sign idea. :)

A dog is a family member....it has feelings. please get yourself an alarm system or a heavy baseball bat.

We're not dog people - but I'll weigh in as the neighbor of a dog owner. Our neighbors dogs drive us crazy with their loud and aggressive barking. They (well, one in particular really) bark at anything that walks by. Our houses are very close together and in order to get to our backyard, we have to walk right by the dog. Cue the aggressive barking even though the dog knows us. Our neighbors have tried many things but the dog just keeps barking at us.

They justify the big dog in a small back yard by saying it will help with security. Not only is the barking obnoxious and often wakes our kid up, I'm not sure it even helps with security - as we've had someone break into our garage having gone right by the dog.

Growing up we had a golden. He barked all day at people walking up and down the public stairs by my house. He was an effective deterrent except at night when someone broke into the house while we were all sleeping. We really had to petition my dad, who was not a dog person, to keep him after that. My parents from then on always turned on the alarm at night, which had only been used on vacations.

There is no guarantee that the dog will perform as intended. Plus there is the mess and the expense. And as much as I loved our recently deceased pound puppy I will never get another person's problem. I just can not deal with another dog who is terrified for years, most dogs go to the pound for a reason. I vote alarm.

I'd like to put a word in for the pound. Every dog I've ever owned came from the pound, except the last one, who was a rescue. All have turned out to be great family dogs and companions (although the purebred rescue dog isn't that intelligent compared to the pound mutts). Which is not to say they don't have some problems, but who doesn't? And that includes dogs from breeders. The neighbors got a trendy breed of puppy from a breeder about two years ago. He's adorable, but he's also chewed up most of their house (like any puppy), playbites (like many puppies) and seems to be something of a featherhead. But I still don't think the OP's family is ready for any dog.

Dog's are usually protective because they have a deep bond with their owner. If you don't have time to nurture that bond, your dog most likely won't be what you're looking for.

Thank you all for your thoughts. I should have posted that we are not looking to spend money on an alarm. I would rather spend money on a dog that would be a part of the family. My husband parks his work van next to the house, behind a fence. We do not have a garage for the van. Being a carpenter, his van is his lively hood and he is hoping to have another pair of ears more than a barker. He grew up with dogs and would love to share that experience with our two kids. I did not have dogs as a child though I like most dogs. I am more worried about the cost, the space (our house is under 1000 sq ft) and the added work.

I do love the goose idea though! We have four chickens which is enough fowl for one household.

Dogs are absolutely awesome. But with an awesome animal comes awesome responsibility.

When my daughter, Mila, was born we had a wonderful, loyal older dog - Diva. Who had been my buddy long before I got married.

She traveled to Mexico and Canada with me and, later, all over the west with Jen and I and finally with my little family.

Well, it turns out that despite our affection for Diva, we can't create time. And the amount of care and attention that we were able to give to our loyal Diva dropped after Mila was born.

Needless to say, I am very glad that Diva was in her waning years when Mila was born rather than an active puppy or younger dog since the amount of exercise time was greatly reduced and she was not in need of any training support.

Diva passed on when Mila was two (BTW - having to put a dog down is an absolutely heart-wrenching experience). She was awesome and I miss her.

Needless to say, there is a part of me that yearns to have a dog in my life again but facts are facts. And the truth is that the practical, emotional, and physical responsibility of dog ownership and my life are not a match right now.

So that's my story plain jane.

I think it is great that you are giving this decision the thought that it deserves. It is clear that you realize that dogs are much more expensive than an alarm, and more importantly, to provide a dog what it needs to thrive is huge in terms of your time and emotion.

Since you have never had a dog, why not offer to care for a friend's dog in your home (at your expense) for a month to see how it goes? At a minimum it will give you a sense of what to expect from the day-to-day.

Good luck with your decision. Peace.

It's disappointing to hear someone who already gave their 2 feline family members the boot, now inquire whether to get another furry friend. The decision to have animals should not be taken lightly - you commit yourself to care for the animal for their entire life. Domesticated animals are dependent on us, period.

If your child has allergies to the cats - bathe the kitties instead of kicking them out. If your child is allergic to cats, he will probably be allergic to dogs too, fyi. And, putting the pets outside where they risk getting loose/lost/stolen/killed is not a responsible solution.

Please reconsider.

Don't get a dog. To properly care for a dog, you will spend more than on an alarm system. They are a lot of work (two walks a day, feeding, picking up poop all the time, attention needs, behavioral problems, and vet visits), and it doesn't sound like you are up for it right now.

"We have two neglected cats who are outdoor only since my son was born."

If you chuck a pair of cats outside when the baby arrives and freely admit they're "neglected" without displaying an ounce of guilt in the matter, please install an alarm system instead of taking on another pet.

I agree with those who recommend an alarm system. We have both a dog and an alarm system (ADT). We got the dog before kids. He is great, really. He is a huge (100 lbs) black lab. We got him from a lab rescue, from another family who had two kids and didn't have the time or money to properly take care of him. Now we have three kids, and I say with much regret that our dog most definitely is neglected. He does live inside with us, and has free range of the house. He gets two walks a day and gets food/water...but he is more often in the way than anything else. I resent the time it takes to take care of him, honestly. Not just the walking, but the poop cleaning, the bum cleaning (because he always has poop smears on his butt), the floor cleaning after he tracks things in the house or going into a trash can, etc. I take care of him because I made that commitment to do so, but I'll be honest and say that when he goes (he is aging), we will not be getting another dog.

On the positive side, my three small kids LOVE the dog, and he loves them. He also is a deterrent. He barks when there is a need to bark, and his giant black head with big white teeth scare away most people.

The alarm system on the other hand is easy. Sure it's a monthly fee, but it keeps the house secure, and we've only had one false alarm in the 6 years we've had the alarm.

If you are not ready for all of the money and time to care for a dog, do not get one.

DON'T get a dog for an alarm. I have a two year old and a one year old and a ten year old pit bull. He is a great dog & at 100 plus pounds he is a terrible alarm. It is so hard to have quality time with each kid and my husband...let alone the dog! Get an alarm system. Much cheaper in the long run!

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