The coronavirus pandemic has left many of us more time in our own four walls and has prompted some households to change their lifestyles, such as making a four-legged friend.
According to the Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association (PFMA), 3.2 million households in the UK have bought or adopted a pet since the pandemic started, and the country now has 12 million pet dogs.
Adopting a dog is, of course, a lifelong commitment that deserves much careful consideration. There are already stories of new owners struggling to keep up with a pet’s demands, and Battersea Dogs & Cats Home predicts that up to 27% more dogs will be abandoned or left stray over the next five years.
When considering getting a dog, it is important to thoroughly research the right breed for your family and lifestyle to keep you and your pooch happy. Here we describe the most important things to consider when choosing a dog breed.
Where should I start?
There are many factors to consider when choosing a dog. For example, would you like a puppy or an older dog? Would you like a rescue dog or one from a breeder? Would you like a pedigree or a cross? And what breed or cross do you want?
A good place to start thinking about these questions is to talk to friends and family who own dogs for tips and advice. You can also go to dog shows if restrictions allow, research breeds online, seek advice from rescue centers or breeders, or buy trade magazines or books.
Some charities like the PDSA and companies like IAMS also offer online tools that can help you with breed suggestions, while the Kennel Club has a handy Breeds A-Z if you’re looking for a pedigree.
However, before deciding on a breed, here are some things to consider to make your decision easier.
Where do you live – and who is at home?
When researching dog breeds, keep your home environment in mind so that you can find a dog that will thrive in your household.
Some important questions to ask yourself are:
- How much space does a dog have in your house and, if you have one, in your yard?
- Is Your Garden Safe? For example, some dogs can escape over low walls.
- How easily can you access open space to take your dog for a walk?
- Does everyone in your household want a dog and do you share the caring responsibilities?
- Are you renting – does your landlord allow pets?
If you have a small house and garden, researching dog breeds that are happy in this environment might be a good place to start.
Breeds that are suitable for smaller homes and gardens, according to the Kennel Club, include the Rough Collie, Miniature Bull Terrier, Beagle, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Welsh Terrier, Cocker Spaniel, and Dachshund.
Do you have young children
If you have school-age children or younger, it pays to carefully study the temperaments of different breeds of dogs so that you can find a four-legged friend that will fit your family.
It is advisable to find calm dogs with an affectionate nature that respond well to training. BorrowMyDoggy, a website that connects owners with locals who enjoy walking their dogs, suggests Labrador, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Newfoundland, Golden Retriever, and Boxer as the top five family-friendly dog breeds.
You should also research how to introduce a dog into your family and learn about child safety with dogs before your new pet arrives.
How much exercise can you give a dog?
Think about how much exercise you can give your dog when you are working from home and need to return to the office. Or, if you are at home all day, how much exercise is realistic for you to attend to a dog along with your other chores.
Note that some dogs may be afraid of being separated from pets if they have not been left alone for an extended period of time. Here are some tips on how to deal with the situation if it gets in your way.
While all dogs require exercise, some breeds require a lot more than others. Just like humans, dogs can become overweight or develop behavior problems if they don’t exercise enough or aren’t stimulated enough.
As a starting point to help you narrow down the breed for you, the PDSA provides a rough guide to the minimum number of exercises different dog breeds will need per day, and is also included in the Kennel Club’s AZ breed.
Research breed temperaments
It can be tempting to choose a dog based on looks alone, but this can result in you having a pet that doesn’t fit your household well.
Instead, think about what is important to you in terms of your personality. Do you want a sociable dog? Or a dog that is easy to train? Would you like a dog that loves to sleep on your knee in the evenings or one that will keep walking with you?
While each dog has its own personality, many were bred for a variety of reasons to highlight certain traits – some for their looks and others for specific jobs. Take this into account too.
If you are considering a crossbreed, figuring out her temperament can be more difficult. It is therefore worth talking to the breeder or the rescue center about the individual dog and its personality.
Research diseases and illnesses
Some dogs are more likely to get sick or are prone to certain health conditions because of their breed. Hence, you should take this into account in your research. In addition to being bothersome, your dog could cost vet bills too.
For example, The Kennel Club classifies pugs as a “Category 3 Breed,” meaning they are more prone to developing certain health conditions associated with “Exaggerated Conformation” (how they are bred).
Conditions can include breathing problems, skin problems, and eye problems.
Think about hair
For some pet owners, dog hair is a nuisance that can be sucked up, while for others, it’s something they can’t stand. Some breeds shed more hair than others. If this is important to you, look for low hair loss dog breeds.
These include a cairn terrier, a dachshund, a greyhound, a poodle, and more.
Also, think about grooming your potential dog’s hair as some breeds require regular grooming and a professional to cut them, which is an added expense.
What breeds can you afford?
According to the PDSA, you should expect a dog to cost you at least £ 4,500 to £ 13,000 throughout its lifetime. Small dog breeds cost between £ 4,600 and £ 8,900, medium dog breeds cost between £ 7,000 and £ 11,000 and large dog breeds cost between £ 5,700 and £ 13,000.
This is the minimum cost and will vary based on the breed, size, and lifespan of your dog. It includes the cost of pet insurance, the first kit you need for a dog, ongoing items like booster vaccinations and food – but not the cost of buying the dog itself or other services like training or day care.
Think seriously about what you can afford among all of your other expenses, taking into account additional factors for unexpected circumstances. Dogs can live to around 15 years of age, according to the RSPCA, with the average purebred dog being up to 11.9 years old.
Find a good dog breeder
Once you’ve done your research and decided on the breed of dog you want, and whether you want a puppy or an older dog, it is important to identify the best breeders or rescue centers that can support your dog.