How to choose a dog for you
Buying a puppy is often a decision made with the heart, not the head, but it’s important to remember that a pet is for life, not just for those first few weeks and all puppies grow up. Researching the variety of breeds and types of dogs available is an important first step when deciding to bring a puppy into your life. This will ensure that the puppy add to your family will be well suited to your lifestyle and needs.
There are many wonderful dog breeds to choose from and it’s important to be honest about your family, lifestyle and home environment before you select your pup. There are online questionnaires available that can help you with your choice by asking questions about your situation and preferences, which in turn will guide you to select from a number of compatible breeds. Here are some of the things to consider before bringing your new puppy home:
Environment and temperament
Some dogs need a lot of exercise, especially in the first couple of years. Puppies can be active! If you are keen on an active breed, make sure you have an appropriately sized backyard and are able to commit to daily walks. Make sure your yard is secure – dogs can be amazing escape artists and can jump, climb or dig quite easily.
Consider also how long your puppy will be left at home alone. Some breeds crave regular interaction and activity and are more susceptible to separation anxiety. Therefore, if you are away from home during the day for long periods, you might need to consider a breed which is more docile, or organise a dog walker/carer on a regular basis.
The amount of activity with which a dog will require is variable between individuals. However, there are differences between breeds in the nature of the average individual. Below are some examples of breeds with varying levels of energy and exercise requirements.
Higher energy dogs (daily walks and regular off-leash spells):
- Australian cattle dogs
- Border collies
- Siberian huskies
- English springer spaniel
- German Shepherds
Lower energy dogs (content with occasional walks and a smaller backyard):
Other pets at home
Some dogs will be ideal companions for other animals such as cats, but there are a number of breeds – particularly sighthounds and those with a heightened prey instinct – that may not cohabit well with other furry friends. If you have other pets, do your research about your favoured dog breed to ensure that the species can coexist in the same household without too many issues. How a dog reacts to other animals will vary between individuals, so while breed generalisations are helpful in making your decision they cannot guarantee your dog will behave in a certain way. When introducing a puppy to other family pets, take it slow and never leave them alone together until you are sure it’s all smooth sailing for both parties involved.
The initial purchase price of a dog will vary greatly depending on their breed. Regardless of the initial purchase price, all dogs will come at a financial cost throughout their lives. Some are more expensive to own than others – especially larger dogs (who have equally larger appetites). More information on the cost of owning a pet can be found here.
Make sure you buy your pet from a trusted source, such as a registered breeder, to minimise the risk any prior health issues or breeding issues.
Particular breeds can be more prone to specific health concerns which can be financially costly and have long term consequences on your pet’s quality of life. Discussing which breed you wish to purchase with your veterinarian is a great way to ensure you are aware of all aspects of their future health risks. Breeds with exaggerated physical features such as brachycephaly, short limbs and excessive skin wrinkling can cause problems as your puppy grows and matures. The AVA in conjunction with the RSPCA have created a joint initiative known as ‘Love is Blind’ to raise awareness of animal welfare problems associated with exaggerated traits. More information on this can be found here.
If you have young children (or are planning a family), choosing a dog that is suitable for children is an important consideration. It is essential that your new puppy is thoroughly socialised and trained once joining the household, to ensure they are able to interact with children in an appropriate way. Regardless of breed, not all dogs will be comfortable when around children. Seeking advice from your veterinarian is essential if you have any concerns about your dog and children. Safety for both child and dog should always be a top priority. No child under 10 years of age should be left alone with a dog – even a trusted family pet.
Consider how much time (or money) you have to spend on grooming your dog. Long-haired breeds (e.g. Maltese) or thick coat breeds (e.g Siberian Huskies) are high maintenance and will require regular brushing and maintenance of their fur, while short-haired dogs (e.g greyhounds), are low maintenance and may only need a weekly brush. Generally, dogs that don’t shed (e.g poodles or their associated cross-breeds) will need regular trims at a groomer, but as they tend to be non-shedding are more allergy-friendly.
Bringing your puppy home is an exciting experience and can bring much joy to the family. But if you decide that all the energy and work that comes with raising a puppy may not be the right match for you or our situation, then there are always adult dogs in shelters waiting for adoption which may be perfect for you. More information on adoption can be found here.