We are spoiled for choice with regard to dog breeds, small dogs, big dogs, hairless dog, hairy dogs, non-shedding dogs, and this is just with respect to how a dog looks. Personality characteristics also vary, from extremely outgoing to cat-like reserved. Then there are all of the mixes of breeds, combining looks and temperament to create a kind of hybrid of two dog breeds. Given the amount of responsibility owning a dog is these days, making the correct breed choice is vital.
If you are familiar with the breed of dog you wish to adopt you will be able to measure your expectations much better. The reason people find themselves in trouble with their dog is because they have underestimated the work involved in keeping a dog, or they have chosen the wrong breed. The following questions should help you think about where your expectations are in relation to dog ownership and/or breed choice.
How much experience do you have with dogs?
Experience equals confidence, and with confidence you can work with dogs much more effectively. Some breeds of dog require a large amount of dog savvy, not only for training but for socialisation. Working dogs tend to be very sensitive and need experienced handling to turn them in to confident happy adults. Other dogs such as Labradors and Golden Retrievers tend to recover quickly from mistakes made during socialisation. All dogs need formal training so enrol your dog in to a dog club (not just puppy school) so you can receive professional help with training and socialisation during the first three years of your dogs life.
How much time can you devote to walking?
This is not about the size of your garden, owning a dog is about getting out of the home and walking them. When you get out and walk your dog you will be training and socialising them, staying at home and throwing the ball around instead does them no favours. All dogs, no matter how small, must be walked every day. The more active breeds require at least one hour off lead each day. If you work full time you might find that you need to walk your dog twice each day, a short walk in the morning and a longer one at night.
How ‘precious’ are you about the state of your home?
Dogs dig, bark, sometimes smell and regularly bring dirt in to the home. Your dog should be inside with you so be prepared for extra wear and tear around the home, inside and outside. When I do not have a dog with me I really do notice the house stays cleaner for longer. If you love your furniture, have beautiful carpet or rugs you may find the more active breeds more frustrating to own. At least with small dogs you can minimise the wear and tear.
How much time are you willing to devote to training?
All dogs, particularly the more active breeds, must be trained and socialised for the first three years of their lives. This means devoting time each day for years to the development of your dogs’ social skills. If you cannot do this then please do not expect a dog that is capable in all situations. Find a good dog trainer/club and attend sessions as much as possible for at least the first three years of having your dog. After all, we would not expect our children to have all their social graces after Kinder so why do we expect it of our dogs?
What sort of shape are you in physically?
If you are elderly or have a chronic injury this is going to limit the kind of dog you should have. Take a good look at your physical capabilities and decide honestly if you can handle a young dog or a more active breed. The risk of being pulled over or knocked is much higher if you have a dog that is stronger than you. If you have your heart set on a young dog or more active breed you will need to enlist the help of family, friends, dog walkers and invest a huge amount of time in training. The alternative is adopting an older dog, in particular an ex racing Greyhound through GAP.
Socialising, training and living with a dog is a lot of work, make it easier by choosing the right breed.