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Getting a new dog is a very exciting time, but it is very important that it is a well considered decision, both in terms of timing and what sort of dog you should get. Many dogs have to be re-homed every year due to behavioural problems, either because their new owners have not had time to socialise and train them properly, or because they simply did not realise how demanding in time or money having a dog can be. However, having a dog can be great fun and very beneficial for your health and wellbeing – the increase in exercise during dog walks benefits the owner as well as the dog, and the reduction in stress of pet owners is well documented, as are the benefits to the social development of children in dog-owning households.
The following highlights some of things to consider when getting a dog – if this exciting, important, long term relationship is entered into thoughtfully, it will almost certainly prove to be more rewarding for the owner and better for the welfare of the dog.
Should I get a dog?
Firstly, do you have time for a new dog? Puppies are certainly labour-intensive in the first year or so, and all dogs, not just puppies, need to have time spent with them for training, exercising and keeping them company. You may have time now, but what if things change in the future? New homes, jobs, changes in relationships and having children can all eat into the time that can be spent with a pet dog.
Is your home suitable for a dog? Do you have access to a secure garden and pleasant dog walks? Is your home big enough? If you rent, does your landlord definitely allow pets?
What about the cost of keeping a dog? The price of having a dog is not limited to the money you hand over to the breeder – the running costs are on-going. For example, there is the cost of food to consider, and we recommend feeding the best quality complete food that you can afford. Should your pet be injured or become ill, veterinary facilities such as Willows are able to offer advanced high quality care, but unfortunately the costs for such unforeseen treatment need to be met. We recommend pet insurance to cover these costs, so it is worth researching likely cost of insurance in advance – be aware that premiums and excesses tend to increase with the age of the pet, and the better the cover offered by an insurance policy (and good insurance cover becomes important when you suddenly need it most), the more costly the policy is likely to be. Routine veterinary procedures such as vaccinations, worming, flea treatments, neutering and dental costs are often not covered by insurance, so must also be considered in your ‘running costs’.
What are you going to do about holidays? Options are: UK dog friendly holidays; consider a pet passport; put the dog in kennels; leave the dog with friends or relations, or get a house-sitter in. The costs and feasibility of these choices need to be considered.
Lastly, what about the mess? Starting with the chewing (and occasionally messy!) puppy, through to general dog hair and muddy paws, and onwards to the geriatric old dear who may not quite smell like the proverbial daisy anymore – can you and your soft furnishings cope with it all?
What type of dog should I get?
Having made the momentous decision that you are going to share your home and life with a dog, you need to think about what type of dog to get.
Do you want a puppy? It is lovely to have a puppy but that early time can be very hard work. There may well be puddles and poops and chewing! You will be responsible for all the puppy’s training and socialisation, which has the advantage that if you put the work in you should have the reward of a strong bond with a well behaved and social dog. However, rescuing an adult dog can also be really rewarding. Potentially, they may come with either medical or behavioural issues, but a good rescue centre or breed rescue society should inform you about any known issues in advance. The advantage is that you miss some of the potential puppy problems.
Do you want a crossbreed or a pedigree dog? Due to closer breeding, pedigrees are more prone to inherited illnesses and conditions. The cost of insurance premiums for certain breeds will reflect this. When considering what breed is right for you, it is sensible to look at what the breed was ‘designed’ for. For example, Border Collies are working dogs and were created to run for hours on the fells – a quick half hour walk around the block once a day for such a breed of dog isn’t really sufficient. And is it a good idea to get a large ‘fighting’ or ‘guarding’ breed if you are inexperienced or have a young family?
If you are struggling with this decision, by all means speak to one of our primary clinic veterinary team about whether a specific breed would be right for you – we are happy to help you.
Where should I get my puppy from?
If you are getting a puppy, it is important to be very careful about where you get it from. Sadly, the internet has led to a rise in irresponsible breeding and illegal importation of popular breeds. Always insist on seeing the puppy with its mother and get specific information about the father. Puppies bred in a clean home environment are most likely to be healthier and better socialised, and the importance of early socialisation cannot be over-emphasised. Never buy a puppy from a shop, or worse, the back of a van! The Kennel Club runs assurance schemes for registered breeders who adhere to certain strict guidelines regarding how they breed their dogs, under what conditions and how to do their best to make sure that they are healthy. See The Kennel Club website for more details.
It is a good idea to visit puppies for the first time before they are ready to take away. This will reduce the temptation to purchase a puppy because you feel sorry for it. We not uncommonly see new puppies brought for examination at Willows who have been taken on because the new owners could not bear to leave them in an unpleasant environment, or they were the small, poorly looking one - unfortunately this often leads to big bills or heartache for the new owners. It is much better to go for the bigger, stronger, more playful pups – they are less likely to come with pre-existing problems.
Finally, the vets in the primary clinic team here at Willows are always happy to discuss potential puppy or adult dog purchases. You can find plenty of general puppy and adult dog health care advice on our website. The Kennel Club, PDSA and The Dogs Trust all have useful websites too.