It is very important to choose a dog that closely matches your lifestyle, as they can be very demanding and expensive to keep. You will therefore need to take a number of things into consideration before acquiring a dog, such as the ages and needs of other members of your household and the amount of space you have available.
1. Puppy or adult dog?
The majority of people prefer to get a puppy, rather than an adult dog, because they are generally more adaptable and easier to train. Puppies are also very cute, playful and friendly, and this obviously adds to their attraction. Unfortunately, though, puppies can be very mischievous and will require lots of attention during the first few months of their lives.
Adult dogs are generally easier to care for, as they should be fairly well trained to start with and shouldn’t require housebreaking. An older dog is also a good option because it will be a lot calmer than a puppy and more straightforward as far as feeding is concerned. It may also have been spayed/castrated and given all the necessary vaccinations, which will enable you to begin introducing it to other dogs straightaway. An adult dog will still take time to settle into a new home, and it may have acquired one or two bad habits that need changing.
2. Male or female?
Choosing between a male and a female dog is really a matter of personal preference. Both sexes do, however, have some differences and knowing what some of them are may help you to come to the right decision. Female dogs, for example, are considered to be more independent, stubborn and even moody, whereas male dogs are generally more affectionate, outgoing, attentive and aggressive. If you already have another dog in the house, you will also need to consider the impact a new dog will have on it.
It is also important to consider castrating or spaying your pet if you do not wish to breed from it, as this can help to calm your animal down, prolong its life and avoid any unwanted puppies.
3. Pedigree or mixed breed?
Deciding whether to acquire a pedigree or a mixed breed is once again down to personal preference. If you do decide to purchase a pedigree, however, you will at least be able to gauge the eventual size and temperament of the dog. Some breeds are particularly suitable as family pets and therefore great for young children. Other breeds shed little or no hair at all and are perfect for those who suffer from allergies. Always buy pedigrees from reputable breeders, though, as many pedigree dogs sold in pet stores come from puppy mills.
Mixed breeds can make ideal pets too, but it is much harder to establish the eventual size, coat length and temperament of the dog. Mixed breeds can be prone to wandering, but they are thought to have a stronger resistance to disease because they are not exposed to inbreeding.
Don’t dismiss animal shelters in your search for the perfect dog, as these places are literally overflowing with unwanted animals.
4. How much spare time do you have?
All dogs obviously require a certain amount of attention every day, but some require more than others. It is not just a simple case of walking your dog, as there are other things to consider like affection, training, feeding, grooming, trips to the vets, etc. If your spare time is limited, then you would be very unwise to consider a large longhaired dog that requires lots of daily exercise.
5. What are your expectations?
It is important to decide what you expect from a dog in your life. Are you an extrovert character who loves the outdoors and wants a dog that enjoys long walks, or are you more of a couch potato who would rather curl up with a small docile dog? You need to do plenty of research on different dog breeds to find out which ones will suit you the best. Some breeds are also easier to train than others and this could be another important factor to consider.
6. Where do you live?
Provided you are prepared to exercise your dog regularly it shouldn’t really matter where you live, but you do need to consider the size of the dog if space is limited. There are obviously more places to walk your dog if you live in the countryside, but even some cities have dog parks where your companion can have a good run off the lead. If you live in rented accommodation, then you will need to check whether your landlord allows you to keep dogs.
Keeping a dog can obviously be very costly and therefore requires you to work out a few figures before making a final decision. Once you have bought all the initial accessories, you will still have to think about food, vet bills, pet insurance, grooming, occasional professional grooming, kennel costs, etc. Small toy dogs will obviously be cheaper to keep than larger breeds, but they are more fragile and can easily suffer injuries.
When you do eventually acquire your new companion, you must always remember to be a responsible dog owner. If you have young children, it is your duty to ensure that they understand how to treat their pet properly. Make sure that you know who will look after your pet in the event of you being too ill to care for it, on holiday, or away on business. Owning a dog is a big commitment that could easily span 15 years or more.
Article submitted by Jane Grimshaw and photo by shorty_nz_2000