Choosing the right dog for you
You may have your heart set on a certain breed, whether you have seen a particularly pretty puppy or have fallen in love with a breed because of its looks; before going any further you will need to consider every aspect carefully to ensure that the dog you have chosen, is the correct dog for you, your family and your lifestyle. The dog you bring home may well live to 15 years, sometimes even longer, and it is important beforehand to do as much research possible to avoid any difficulties and disappointments further down the road.
Here are some questions to help you choose which dog is for you…
· Is your dog to be part of your family?
If so, do you have children, other dogs or pets? Does everyone in the family want to take on a dog? Maybe picking a larger breed or more energetic breed may not be the best option if you have smaller children or an older person that may be more easily knocked over, or a breed with a high prey drive if you have other smaller pets.
· Can you give your dog at least it’s minimum exercise requirements?
How much exercise will you realistically give to your dog? Once the novelty of a new pet has worn off, will you still be willing to exercise your dog, day or night and whatever the weather? Do you have an active lifestyle and are looking for a new running buddy? It is a misconception that small breeds don’t need as much exercise as larger breeds. Some small breeds such as terriers have a seemingly unlimited supply of energy. Exercise is essential to your dog’s wellbeing, and a daily walk, with preferably off-lead activity, is the required minimum for most dogs.
· Can you supply enough mental stimulation for your dog?
The training of your dog shouldn’t ever stop; you can teach old dogs new tricks, and bringing your dog to training classes is a wonderful way to keep your dog happy. You should research how much mental stimulation your chosen breed needs. If you are working a 9-5 job, 5 days a week, what will you do to stimulate your dog whilst you are gone? Dogs need company and will get lonely just like people, so making suitable arrangements and having someone check in on them and supplying mental stimulation while they are on their own will reduce the risk of them developing unwanted behaviours or destroying your house. If the dog is to be on their own all week then maybe a dog is not a suitable pet anyway.
· On top of exercising are you willing to invest time to train and socialise your dog correctly?
When you take on a dog, you are legally responsible for its behaviour; will you have enough time on top of other commitments to train and socialise it correctly throughout its life?
· How much maintenance are you willing to put into their grooming?
All dogs have a varying degree of grooming upkeep. Whilst some long-haired breeds can look beautiful, have you thought about the daily maintenance needed to keep their coats tidy and tangle free? Other breeds may have coats that are easier to care for in maintenance terms, however may still need regular trimming. You should also consider the likely cost of having your dog professionally groomed and how many visits to the groomer they’ll be making annually.
· Can you financially support a dog?
The cost of a dog will always be much greater than the original purchase price or adoption fees. There will always be further expenses you need to plan for. You will need to pay for your dog’s food, have you checked how much a fully-grown dog of your chosen breed will cost to feed a proper diet? Can you afford the vet bills for annual check-ups, vaccinations, worming and other treatments? Can you afford the vet bills if there is an emergency? Have you checked insurance prices? What about other expenses such as toys and training classes? Where will your dog go if you go away with business or on holiday? The cost of boarding kennels will have to also be looked at if your dog cannot accompany you when you’re away.
· Where do you live?
Are you in a city apartment, a country-side home or somewhere in-between? A very large breed will not be a suitable choice if you have a small accommodation; and even a smaller dog with higher energy levels may seem to take up just as much room. If you have a garden, is it secure? If you don’t have a garden, do you have access to somewhere your dog can safely let off some steam or go to the toilet? How house proud are you? Dogs come with the privilege of cleaning up slobber and dirty footprints, as well as the infamous wet dog smell. Keeping your home tidy will be more work with a dog around. Will the home you provide be safe and secure for the entirety of the dog’s life?
· Is the dog a pedigree, a cross-breed or a mongrel?
While every dog is individual, have you researched what predominant behaviours your dog will portray? When it comes to choosing a cross-breed or mongrel, it will be harder to judge what behavioural traits your dog will exhibit, and it is important that you get as much information about the dog and/or its parents beforehand. However, cross-breeds and mongrels will often carry the best traits of both parents and there is no reason why they will not make the perfect companion.
· Are you taking on a puppy or an adult dog?
Taking on an adult dog will come with advantages and problems just as it would a puppy. An adult dog may already be toilet-trained and have gone through its destructive puppy phase. You will also be matched with the best dog possible for you, if you are taking the dog on from a charity or rescue club. If you are taking on an adult dog from a private home it may however prove more challenging; if you are not the first to rehome the dog, how many homes has it had previously and how much of the dog’s history can you get information on. Sometimes the dog is being rehomed through no fault of its own, and taking the challenge on could be very rewarding for you both.
Will your new dog be a puppy? If so are you using a reputable breeder? You will want to get as much information about your puppy and its parents beforehand. Can you meet your puppy before you bring them home? Can you meet the parents? Will your puppy be well socialised and up to date with its vaccinations when it comes to you? By law, it should be micro-chipped by 8 weeks of age. What age will you bring your puppy home? No less than 8 weeks but ideally 12 weeks. The more questions you ask will help you to choose the best of the litter or choose to look elsewhere.
Owning a dog is a full-time commitment in both practical and financial terms; by researching now and being prepared to invest the time, energy and finance required, you will reap the benefits in time. You will make it a pleasure to own a dog by choosing a breed that is as near as possible, the perfect dog for you.