The key to choosing the right dog for you is getting the right pooch, at the right time, from the right source… and this is how you do it!
The very first question you must ask yourself when you decide to get a dog is ‘why?’. Are you looking for companionship? An exercise buddy? Do you want a family dog to enjoy with your children as they grow up? Because how you see your four-legged friend fitting into your chosen lifestyle is essential to ensure you get the right match.
Every home and every owner are different. When you think about where and how you live, do you have a large home or small? Is it noisy? Or is it quiet with few visitors? Do you live in town or somewhere more rural? Do you have neighbours? Are there green spaces you can walk to? Do you have a yard or a garden? Do you keep your house tidy, and would a muddy dog fill you with horror? Are you always at home or do you work long hours and expect to use a dog walker? Are you young or old? Married or single? Do you have children? And importantly, are these things likely to change?
Meet your match
Choosing the right dog for your lifestyle means making an honest appraisal of how you live now and how you want to live in five and even ten years time. Use the questions above to decide on the breed, type and age of dog you bring into your house and only look for pets that would be happy in such an environment.
For example, an older dog might not want to be in a noisy house with young children, while an energetic breed will thrive with an outdoorsy, fitness fanatic that can either take the dog to work or work from home. A large breed is unsuitable for a small apartment where it would struggle to navigate the space. Adopting a calm, older dog can be a perfect solution if you’d like to skip the chewy puppy phase which involves sleepless nights and toilet training!
When choosing your dog, put looks and trends aside until you’ve considered temperament, training and exercise requirements, grooming and other physical needs and costs. Some types of dog will require daily grooming, or need extra care for characteristics like face wrinkles (such as the Shar Pei), so make sure you are aware of any such commitments. A dog will live for ten to 15 years, so careful consideration now will future-proof your life with a pooch.
TOP TIP 🡪 The Kennel Club has a full list including characteristics for each breed recognized by the Kennel Club. But the best place to learn about all types of dogs is at the show called ‘Discover Dogs’. It’s run by the Kennel Club and the next one is Nov 2021. Click here for more details.
Fools rush in
It’s hard to resist the lure of puppy dog eyes and a waggy tail, or the face of a rescue dog seeking a second chance. Many people will have happy memories of their childhood dog and right now, everywhere you look, celebrities are enjoying the phenomenon of the ‘lockdown pup’. But bringing a dog into your home at a time of uncertainty can be a recipe for disaster. When you get a dog, you must ask yourself, ‘is right now really the right time?’
If you work long hours, if you enjoy foreign travel, if you’re planning on major life changes like marriage, children, moving house or job or entering retirement, now might not be the best time to bring a dog into your life.
It is, however, the right time to consider what kind of dog you’d like in the future, and begin to research the types or breeds you might be interested in. Remember, some breeds might have more complex needs that could result in costly medical bills – popular flat-faced types such as pugs and French bulldogs will likely fall into this category. Consider your financial planning now to include not only the initial price of a dog, but the lifelong costs, including vet care, insurance, training classes, grooming, dog walking and food bills. You should also bear other costs in mind, such as the extra expense of buying a larger car, or paying for kennels every time you want to go on holiday. It’s also a great time to learn more about training and dog ownership, local rescues or breeders.
And while you wait for your life to settle, you could consider volunteer dog walking with a charity like CareDogs or The Cinnamon Trust, or perhaps helping out at a local dog rescue centre. If you have the space, why not look into fostering dogs or socialising puppies that are in training to be service dogs? You might even consider joining a commercial dog walking company. Gaining diverse experiences will help you to decide which is the right type of dog for you, and when the time is right to have your own, you’ll know.
Dog breeding can be a lucrative business, and sadly, this means that some individuals are all about the cash. That’s why it’s so important that as a would-be dog owner, you do your research when buying or adopting a dog. Those that sell dogs purely to make money may not take into consideration the welfare of the parent dogs, the health of the puppies in the short or long term, or the suitability of new owners. This can result in animal abuse, infectious diseases, genetic deformities, huge vet bills, emotionally damaged dogs, and ultimately, puppies quickly dying or being rehomed. Make no mistake – puppy farming and irresponsible, unethical breeding is a dirty business.
To avoid funding the ‘greeders’, it’s essential that you take your time to research the provenance of your new pet. Ideally, you should visit where your potential pup has been born and raised and be ready with appropriate questions. You should ask to see the mother in the flesh, interacting with her puppies, and ask to see the whelping area too. This should be clean and hygienic, proving that the breeder cares about the welfare of any and all dogs they own. Ask about which health tests the parents have had – if you’re opting for a specific breed, read up on any known problems beforehand.
Don’t be fooled into meeting the breeder away from the breeding environment. Nor should you arrange to take immediate delivery of a pup to your house or collect it from an unusual location.
You should also expect a breeder to ask lots and lots of questions about you and your family. If the breeder is genuinely looking out for their puppies, they won’t worry about offending you. Expect to be asked to visit the pup several times and to bring your children along too so that the breeder can see how respectful they are. If you’re suitable, you may have to join a waiting list. This is because a responsible breeder will only breed a bitch a few times in her life, when she is neither too young nor too old. When you collect your new dog, you should be presented with a puppy contract and health test certificates, microchipping paperwork and, if applicable, a UK Kennel Club pedigree.
TOP TIP 🡪 The best way to find an accredited breeder is through the breed’s national club or society. Every breed has one and might even have more if it’s a popular breed. This club will have its own set of rules over and above those of the Kennel Club, and the people that run it are specialists in that breed, so they are up to date with all the latest health research and advisories. If you Google ‘national breed club’ and your chosen breed, the websites will usually come up. Alternatively, you can use the Kennel Club Assured Breeders Scheme.
Dog rescue centres
Although adopting a dog, young or old, is a different process, you should also expect to be home-checked and judged on your suitability. You will also be asked to sign a contract and be given microchip details when you adopt.
If the dog rescue centre you visit is happy to give you a dog without due diligence and the location itself looks crowded and unclean, with many stressed dogs in enclosures that are too small, you should walk away.
As well as the larger, reputable national dog rescue centres, there are many fantastic smaller local shelters, breed-specialist rescues and organisations that bring dogs to the UK from countries where they are struggling. Dog rescue centres offer an amazing choice of dogs, including puppies born in kennels, since pregnant bitches are often surrendered due to veterinary costs. Without a doubt, there is a suitable rescue dog for you and your home out there.
Vanessa Holburn is the author of ‘How To Pick A Puppy: An Ethical Guide To Choosing the Perfect Pet’. Available here.
Keep learning – To find out if you are ready for a dog, read the previous blog post – ‘Should I Get A Dog?’ Find Out If You’re Ready With These 6 Questions.