A dog can be the most rewarding of pets, but also one of the most demanding. Before you acquire a dog please think first. Is there really time for a dog in your life and your home, and can you commit to your dog for at least 15 years, possibly more?
Before you start, consider the following when choosing a dog
Dogs of all ages are appealing, so it is easy to get carried away with the idea of taking a dog home without thinking of the consequences. Your dog may be with you for 15 years or more, so consider the time, effort and money required. Your dog’s health and happiness will be your responsibility, so if you do not think you can provide care for the rest of the dog’s life, please do not get one.
Remember, you will be responsible for behaviour – your dog must be taught good manners and be well socialised. Should unforeseen circumstances arise and you can no longer care for the pet, a dog with bad manners might face an uncertain future.
Which dog should I choose?
When choosing a dog, consider what type suits you best. For example, a terrier will have a different temperament from a herding breed, and a guarding breed will be different from a toy breed. There are many books and magazines devoted to giving information on breed differences, so conduct your research carefully and in depth before committing. There are also breed rescue societies, dedicated to particular breeds, and websites giving good information on dogs.
In the case of choosing a crossbred dog, remember it is more difficult to judge what the predominant behaviour trait might be, so get as much information about the individual dog as you can. However, many crossbreeds carry the best traits of both parents, and make wonderful companions.
If you are considering a puppy, see please read Caring for your puppy.
Taking on an adult dog
An adult dog may be a better option than a puppy, because the dog will probably be house trained and more settled. Your dog will probably have passed the chewing and destructive stage of life, and habits – both good and bad will have been formed! However, do remember that an adult dog will reflect previous upbringing, so there may be some problems to try to overcome.
If you choose an adult dog, the chances are it will be a rescue dog from one of three sources: a charity such as Blue Cross, a private home where the owners are unable to look after the dog any longer, or a breed rescue club.
If you go to a charity centre, be guided by the staff. They know the animals in their care, and have a lot of experience in matching dogs with the right homes. The aim of any rescue centre is to find loving, long-term homes for dogs that have been the unfortunate victims of circumstance. Please remember these dogs may have had a bad start in life, most frequently through no fault of their own.
Do not be swayed by the appearance of the dog – a dog’s temperament and previous history are the important factors. For example, a rescue dog may not like cats, or may not be able to live with children. If the dog has behaviour problems (for example it cannot be left alone for long), the staff at the shelter should be able to give advice and assistance in order to overcome the problem.
Taking a dog from a private home is more problematic. The person you are getting the dog from may not be the first owner, and the dog may have had several homes, so you will not get a lot of information about background. Also, if any problems arise, it is unlikely you will be able to return the dog or get ongoing help and advice.
For pure breeds, a breed rescue club will be able to give you advice about the specific breed, and about any individual dogs they are trying to find new homes for.
Choosing your dog
Having done your research, and spoken to the staff at the kennels (or to the previous owner if you are getting a dog from a private home), answer the following.
If yours is a rescue dog, make sure you find out as much information as you can. If you are rehoming from a charity or a breed rescue club, check if a pet insurance cover note is available to cover any early, unforeseen veterinary costs.
Other points to remember
If you research carefully and make sure you are prepared and able to spend the time, money and energy on your new companion, you will reap the rewards. If, however, you have problems or need advice, organisations such as Blue Cross, or the Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors may be able to help.