Choosing a Dog

Many people often choose a dog simply based upon looks, which is a natural enough tendancy, but there is so much more to consider than physical appearance alone. Taking the time to understand these other points can save a lot of heartache and dogs becoming unwanted due to owners rushing in and selecting a dog they simply like the look of. This is important, especially with abandoned dog numbers reaching record highs and dog shelters becoming overrun with unwanted pets. And of course when choosing a dog for a family with young kids, it becomes even more important to choose carefully. Here we will run through some important considerations.

Mixed Breed, Crossbreed or Pedigree?

From its origins in the wolf, there are over 300 recognised dog breeds worldwide, with over 200 in the UK alone. Adding to these numbers are the countless mixed breeds and crossbreeds in existence, a number that is rising all the time.

Puppy or Adult?

We all love puppies and there may be nothing cuter in the world, but then we can also feel our heartstrings tug when we're faced with a sad-eyed stray sitting in an animal shelter.

Bear in mind that most dogs are fairly active as puppies and will become calmer with age.

Dog or bitch?

There are probably as many varied opinions here as there are breeds! Some owners insist that bitches are easier to train and offer more affection, whereas others say they can be are independent and aloof. Male dogs can often be more assertive (which neutering can rectify) but there are no hard and fast rules because all breeds are different and all dogs are individuals anyway. In either case, neutering of dogs and spaying of bitches can retify many problems, such as stopping males roaming in search of females in season, and phantom or unwanted pregnancies. Unless you intend to breed from your dog, then it doesn't really matter which you choose.

Large or Small Dog?

Selecting a dog by size is not as wise as choosing one by breed, but size will help indicate useful pointers such as expected energy levels, required living conditions, exercise needs and even possible health concerns. For example, large dogs may be more suited to larger, rural homes rather than small urban flats or apartments. In addition, larger dogs excrete more than smaller ones, which may have an effect of living conditions. Larger dogs tend to be more expensive to keep as they require more food, and more of medications such as tick and flea preventives.

What Temperament?

Although all dogs are individuals and personalities can vary, there is such a thing as breed personality. This will be greatly affected by the history of the breed, the tasks for which they were bred and the skills they acquired along the way. For example, dogs that were bred for herding or hunting may have very high energy levels, while those bred as lap dogs will not. Some dogs will be more tolerant and will get along with children and other pets, whereas others may need proper training and early socialisation. Ideally owners should strive to choose a dog with a temperament to match their own. Naturally quiet people will not be terribly well suited to hyperactive dogs that may bark excessively, and active people with a taste for the outdoors thay may want a hiking companion would not be wise in choosing a sedentary breed such as a Basset Hound.

Rescue Dogs?

Choosing a dog from a rescue centre or shelter can be a very rewarding experience for both a dog and an owner. However, it is possible that a dog in this situation may have had some poor experiences with their former families and perhaps also with children. In this case, breeds that are normally very good with families with kids may prove not to be the best choice. They may be scared or defensive in certain situations and around children, which could prove dangerous. Therefore it is important to ensure that you know all there is to know about the background of any dog that you are considering obtaining from a rescue shelter. It is also a good idea to tell the centre about your circumstances. After all, they should know their dogs and should be able to suggest one to fit your family.

Your Lifestyle?

Your particular lifestyle should be taken into account when choosing a dog. Choose a dog to suit your lifestyle. If you work long hours and may need to leave the dog alone for extended periods of time, then choose a breed that can handle this rather than those that were bred as companions. If you won't have time to walk it every day, choose one with low exercise requirements. Similarly if you want company on hikes, runs or bike rides, then go for a highly active breed.

Why do you want a dog?

This is a question that, surprisingly, many people don't stop to consider. Is there a specific reason why you want a dog other than for companionship? The simple reason there are so many breeds in existence is because they were bred to fill specific roles, from lap dogs to gun dogs to rescue dogs and so on. You may simply want a dog for protection. This doesn't necessarily mean you need a big dog because dogs can serve as watch dogs or guard dogs. A watch dog will bark and raise the alarm when a stranger gets too near your property, and many small breeds suit this role well. A guard dog needs to look the part and be intimidating and be able to protect its family if the situation arises.

Do you have time for a dog?

This is perhaps one of the most important questions to ask yourself when choosing a dog. You may really want one, but do you actually have time for a dog?

Our Choice of Family Dog

As you can see, there are many factors other than simply the look of a breed to consider when choosing a dog. It is a good idea to keep these in mind when rifling through the various dog breeds. And so you may be wondering what the dog we chose some years ago for our young and growing family was? Why it was the lovely Bichon Frise!