There are many reasons why you might be tempted to get a dog as an expat living in China. You’ve found a wonderful partner and you want to take your first step on the way towards a family. You had a dog in your home country and you miss having one around. You saw a dog in desperate need of adoption and you want to help out. All these motivations are understandable, and even commendable in some cases. But before you commit, here are eight reasons why you shouldn’t get a dog as an expat living in China.
While pets are becoming increasingly popular in China, there are still many locals who are afraid of dogs, particularly the older generation. This partly stems from the fact that when they were younger they would only encounter aggressive guard dogs or dirty strays, but also because thousands of people used to die from rabies every year here and China is still not completely free of the horrible and 100% fatal virus.
As such, you will find a lot of your neighbors react adversely to your dog. They will refuse to share a lift with you if you have your dog with you, and jump out of the way and scream when encountering you on the street. Young kids will either do the same or chase and shout at your dog like it’s some sort of wild animal.
All of this will likely just scare your dog and makes it more jumpy, which in turn can make it seem more unpredictable and aggressive. What should be a nice relaxing walk with your dog can sometimes turn into a stressful event.
Unless your dog is a small breed or you are fortunate enough to live in a villa, your accommodation in China is probably not ideal for a dog. Most expats in China live in one-bedroom apartments with no private garden.
Especially when your dog is likely to spend most of its time in the apartment alone – more on that below – the size of your accommodation is critically important. There are few things sadder than a bored Golden Retriever pacing around a tiny apartment all day.
We all work hard in China and the hours are typically long. Many of us have to leave extra early to make our commutes and it’s not unusual to work overtime late into the evening or to get roped into lengthy business dinners. If we’re lucky, we get our weekends off, but it’s not unheard of to have to put in some hours on a Saturday either. Those in certain sectors may even work the dreaded 996.
Meanwhile, your dog is sat at home alone for 12 hours a day or more, staring at the front door waiting for you to return. By the time you do get home, you’re probably too tired to give your dog a long walk or play with it for a decent amount of time. You’ll also feel guilty if you then want to go out and socialize or go to the gym. It’s not fair on you and it’s not fair on the dog.
For much of China, summertime means brutal temperatures and horrific humidity. In Guangdong, for example, temperatures can reach 37°C and humidity shoots up to more than 8o%. It can get so bad that the moment you step outside, your clothes are drenched with sweat.
Now imagine walking in that heat in a giant fur coat, because that’s what it feels like for a dog. It’s always concerning to see a giant fluffy Husky panting heavily and moving slowly as it’s walked on a scorching summer’s day. There’s a reason why these dogs aren’t native to China, but even for other breeds the summer temperatures can be debilitating.
One of the great joys of having a dog is being able to go on long walks together, exploring the great outdoors in national parks or going to the beach for a swim. Even when just taking them with you to the local bar, it’s that sense of companionship that makes having a dog so special.
The problem in China is that there’s an ever-increasing lack of dog-friendly public spaces. Most major cities have banned dogs from parks, and while there may be one or two officially designated “dog parks”, dogs must usually be kept on a leash at all times. The vast majority of China’s beaches and national parks also do not allow dogs.
Basically, you find yourself in the situation where you can only walk your dog in the concrete streets around your neighborhood and never let them off their leash to run around and play freely without breaking local laws. That’s no kind of life for a dog.
People say having a dog is a big commitment, and they’re right. But in China, it’s a legal liability, too. There are strict dog laws in most cities that must be followed if you don’t want to expose yourself to being sued or worse.
Firstly, you’re legally required to register your dog with the local authorities in most of China’s big cities. This involves vaccinating and registering your dog to an address every year in order to receive a permit. This will not only cost you money each year, but you will only be able to register one dog per household and in some cities size and breed restrictions will be enforced. If you fail or are unable to register your dog and you are stopped by the police, they can take your pet away and even have it destroyed.
Secondly, there are unfortunately people out there who will look to exploit your dog for financial gain. They may fake injuries, say that your dog attacked them and demand money for hospital fees and loss of income. This could be someone delivering a package at your door or someone just walking past you in the street. Finally, there are rare cases of criminals stealing pet dogs in order to draw a reward/ransom from their owners or even sell them for meat. Owning a dog has never been so stressful and potentially costly.
Travel is usually a big part of expat life here in China. Whether you’re working in education and have long holidays in the winter and summer or you work in manufacturing and have to take frequent business trips, it all adds up to a lot of time away from your dog. Even if you’re willing to accept leaving your dog so often, making arrangements for them while you travel can be a real headache.
You may be tempted to ask a friend to help, but this can be a very messy solution. With the legal liabilities outlined above, it’s a big ask for your friend and also a risk for you. The only really feasible option is to find a kennel, but many of these businesses are just pet shops that will keep your dog in a small cage all day and only take them out to walk once or twice. All this is likely to stress your dog out and create long-term behavioral issues.
There are good kennels available in most of China’s big cities, those that have big spaces for dogs to sleep and secure fields for them to run around in a few times a day. The problem with these places is that they tend to be very expensive, with one day costing almost the same as a night at a budget hotel. Ask yourself if you want to pay out several thousand RMB more for every holiday you take.
It may be a couple of years, it may be five, but the odds are that no matter how long you stay in China, you will eventually leave. Moving your entire life is hard enough at the best of times, but it gets that much more complicated and stressful when you have to factor in a dog as well.
Moving a dog between countries is a long and complicated process. Vaccinations need to be done, chips need to be inserted, cargo spots on flights need to be booked, and there is sometimes a lengthy quarantine period at the end of it. It takes a minimum of three months prep time to take a dog out of China and it’s also very expensive.
Unfortunately, some expats find themselves having to leave China on very short notice or under exceptional circumstances, which means they can’t take their dogs with them. Finding a new home for a dog is heartbreaking for both the owner and the animal. Having a dog can be a wonderful experience, but expats living in China need to think long and hard before they take the plunge.
Do you have a dog in China? Tell us about your experience below.
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Keywords: Expat Living in China
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We have 2 dogs and a cat. If we need to travel we make a plan for the animals to looked after. Either by friends or our nanny. If you want to stay in China short term I would not suggest getting any pets. Or if you live in a shoe box apartment.
Dec 03, 2020 09:29 Report Abuse
I have lived in China over 11 years, I have a golden retreiver, now 8 years old, love him to bits, he brings so much joy to my life every day I get home, only annoying thing is he loves AC and likes sleeping on my bed if I am too slow to shut the bedroom door but its a small price to pay for love he shows me. As for holidays, true it restricts your plans but yet again I do not want to put him in a kennel, only understands english commands, so, holidays are difficult but its an easy choice, my dog means more.
Sep 12, 2020 20:44 Report Abuse
The article should be titled "3 Reasons You Shouldn't Get a Dog"... The following  reasons are just padding to make the article longer! 1. Many locals are scared of dogs 3. Workings hours are long 4. Summers are hot 5. Lack of dog-friendly spaces 6. Dogs are legal liabilities
Sep 12, 2020 13:44 Report Abuse