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Choosing which dog?

October 7, 2020

Dogs are one of the UK’s most popular pets, and PDSA estimates that 26% of British adults own a dog. There are thought to be 9.9 million dogs in the UK, both as pets and working animals. Because of the multiple benefits, they offer potential owners, dogs have highly sought after. However, choosing one can be a daunting process for the first-time owner. This does not need to be the case, though, which this blog will offer more information on.

The first question prospective dog owners should ask themselves is why do they want a dog? Whether the answer to this is for companionship or to support specific tasks (dogs have proven capable providers of security, pest control, and search work amongst much more), this decision must not be a rushed or impulsive one. Owning a dog is a serious and long-lasting commitment, and far too many impulsively purchased dogs are surrendered to sanctuaries or vets where they are unfairly destroyed. Before purchasing a dog consider why you want one, and whether or not this is a sensible decision.

The next question to ask is do you have the means to fairly and properly maintain a dog? Be it a companion or working animal, dogs are intelligent and social animals. Dogs have complex social needs and are prone to separation anxiety if kept alone for prolonged periods of time, and have a very real need for ongoing companionship. If your dog will likely be left home alone for the majority of the day each day, then it is probably unfair to purchase one. Similarly, unless you can provide your dog with adequate exercise and mental engagement, you should not purchase one. Financial considerations must also be taken into consideration; food, toys, and veterinary bills can be expensive.

Where to obtain your dog from is another very important consideration. It is easy to buy dogs off of the internet, be it through Facebook groups or forums such as Gumtree. This should be avoided at all costs. In most cases of online purchasing, there is no way for the buyer to perform basic due diligence or welfare checks. Puppy farms are common, and will happily sell inbred and sickly dogs without key socialisation, and potentially fatal conditions such as parvovirus. It is instead preferable to work with trusted breeders who can offer full documentation, proof of veterinary treatment, and show you the litter and mother together in a natural setting.

If you are seeking a dog for a specific task such as protection work, retrieval, or pest control, then it is worth considering working line and trained dogs. Working breeds possess certain characteristics that make them effective at their particular role, but this has often been diluted by selective breeding to increase suitability for the show ring, or is in need of refining. Training dogs for specific roles is often a huge amount of work, and it may be simpler and easier to spend more money on a trained animal than attempting to do so yourself.

On a final note, shelters and sanctuaries should also be considered. In addition to offering the opportunity of rescuing a deserving dog, shelters will often be able to give a very good overview of each dog’s characteristics and behaviours prior to adoption. When buying a dog through the internet is often a gamble with much being left to chance, a sanctuary’s staff will be able to give you a much fuller idea of what your future dog may be like.

There are few absolute rules in responsibly choosing a dog, but this decision can never be a rushed or impulsive one. Different dogs are best suited to different people, and while a trained working line gundog may be suitable for one of your friends, it may not be right for you.

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