There are over 400 breeds of dogs in the world today and the Kennel Club recognises some 200 breeds. That doesn’t even take into account all of the great crossbred dogs available. Should you get a purebred dog? Should you adopt from a shelter? Finding the right dog for your lifestyle can be challenging. There are many things to consider before getting a dog.
First off, no one should get a dog impulsively. That can lead to a dog being turned in to a shelter if he doesn’t turn out to be a good “fit” with your lifestyle. Instead, do your homework before you get a dog and consider what’s important in your life. Different people will have different priorities but, in general most people need to consider the following points:
Size — How big do you want your dog to be when he grows up? Don’t be fooled by an adorable puppy. Try to remember that all puppies are (relatively) small. Even a Great Dane Puppy starts out small! You need to know or try to picture how big the puppy will be when he’s an adult. Many people have a preference for either a large or small dog. Some people like a happy medium. Maybe you want to be surprised. Just be sure that you can handle how big your puppy will turn out to be. Some people are surprised, unpleasantly so. They aren’t prepared when a small pup turns into a giant dog and the dog ends up in the shelter. Large dogs eat more and their vet care usually costs more. They usually require more room to exercise. Small dogs have their own issues such as teeth problems in many breeds, luxating patellas in many breeds, and occasionally some temperament issues. So, no matter what size dog you prefer, just make sure that you are prepared before you get the dog. Or, you could consider getting an adult dog. That way you would know from the start how large the dog is.
Temperament — Another important consideration, perhaps the most important, is the dog’s temperament. Choose a dog who is a good match for you. Are you looking for a very affectionate dog? One who is aloof and dignified? Do you want a dog who is reserved with strangers or one who is friendly with everyone? Whether you are interested in a specific breed of dog or a crossbred, try to find out as much as possible about the dog’s temperament before you bring him home. This will help you choose the right dog.
Children — If you have children you will need to take special care in choosing a dog. Some breeds are known for being good with kids while other dogs are less so. Size can be a consideration if you have children. A very large dog, even if he loves children, may knock over children if he’s very playful and energetic. Some children may injure small dogs if they play too roughly with them. And some dogs just don’t do well with children. If you have children make sure you get a dog who gets along very well with them. You should also supervise all interaction between a dog and small children for the sake of the children and the dog. Even when you have a great dog, accidents can happen. And do not ever leave a dog alone with a baby. Two of the best breeds for families with children are Golden Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers.
Living Conditions & Exercise — Do you have a house with a fenced garden? Do you live in a flat and plan on taking your dog for walks? Do you live in the country? Try to consider your living conditions when you decide what kind of dog to get. Many people think that they must get a small dog if they live in a flat, but the truth is that many medium and large dogs are quite happy living in a flat if you provide them with enough exercise. Retired Greyhounds, for instance, make excellent pets for people living in flats as long as you can take them for a regular run. They are happy to lounge around as couch potatoes and rest most of the day. The same is true for many large dogs. So don’t automatically toss out all large dogs from consideration.
Many people believe that if they have a fenced garden that their dogs will self-exercise but this isn’t always true. Your terrier may exercise himself digging holes in your flowerbeds, but many dogs will simply spend the day outside napping. Even if you have a fenced garden you may need to take your dog for walks or a good run.
Activity Level — How active would you like your dog to be? Do you want a dog who sleeps all day? Or would you prefer a dog who wants to go jogging and hiking with you? There are plenty of active, energetic dogs. Try one of the sporting breeds if you’re looking for a dog who loves the outdoors. There are lots of dogs who will be happy to stay indoors with you while you scrapbook or clean house. Consider a small terrier or toy dog. But do try to choose a dog whose activity level matches your own.
Care — How much time are you willing to spend on grooming? Some dogs require quite extensive grooming. The beautiful Afghan Hound or the Maltese, for instance, need to be brushed daily to keep their long, flowing coats looking their best. Some breeds need particular clips from a dog groomer to look correct, such as the Poodle, the Portuguese Water Dog and the Lowchen. Many terrier breeds need to be plucked and stripped. Of course, you can have one of these dogs and opt for a pet clip but that still requires a professional groomer in most cases. All dogs need to be brushed, need to have their nails trimmed and their ears cleaned regularly.
You will also need to provide food and regular exercise for your dog, as well as regular veterinary care. Good food and vet care aren’t cheap. Please make sure that you can afford to take care of a dog before you get one.
Training — All puppies need to be properly socialised from a young age to build confidence and teach them how to interact with people and other animals. It’s also a good idea for puppies and dogs to learn some basic obedience training. Some dogs are harder to train than others, but with positive reinforcement training (praise, rewards), virtually all dogs can be trained and they will enjoy the training too. Before you get a dog you should make sure that you have the time to spend on socialising and training your dog.
Purebred or crossbred? That’s really a personal decision. Many people prefer purebreds for the reason that they know what they’re getting. If they get an Irish Setter puppy they know how big the puppy will be when he grows up; they know what his temperament will be like; they know his activity level; what kind of care he will require, etc. He’s a known quantity. If you get a crossbred dog, he may be a wonderful dog! There are many great reasons to get a crossbred. You are probably saving a life. However, he’s also a question mark. You are taking a chance. You won’t know how big he’ll get, or what his temperament will be like, or his activity level, and so on. He may work out fine for you, but he may not, since you don’t know anything about his past or his ancestry. So, it’s up to you what kind of dog you get.
Some people like to split the difference and go with a rescue purebred dog. You may not be able to find a puppy in this case, but you would be getting a purebred dog, so you would know what the dog would be like in terms of size, temperament, activity level, care, etc. And you would also be helping a dog who needs a home.
You may be thinking that dogs are a lot of work. Well, yes they are. But most of the things discussed here are things you need to think about *before* you get a dog. Once you have the right dog, things can start being fun. There are plenty of places you can check online for more information about dogs. Check for information about breeds and dogs. Find out which dogs appeal to you. Maybe you like the kind of dog a friend has? You can always ask them where they got their dog. Go to a dog show and talk to breeders such as Crufts or Discover Dogs. They should be happy to talk to you about their breeds if you wait until after they show their dogs (when they’re not so nervous). Britain is a country full of dog crazy people, so it shouldn’t be hard to find people to give you more information about their dogs!