Information about dogs for potential dog owners

Information about dogs for potential dog owners

Dogs and man have a long history of living together happily side by side, which has led to dogs becoming the most popular pet in the UK and earning the well-deserved reputation of being “man’s best friend.” However, dogs are also one of the most high maintenance and potentially expensive pets to keep, in terms of both time and money. If you are considering getting a dog as a pet for you and your family, it is important that you thoroughly research what is involved in keeping a dog, and establish that you are both willing and able to provide for their needs. It may take you several weeks or even months to look into what buying and owning a dog entails, and to decide if a dog is a good choice of pet for you. The domestic dog or “Canis lupus familiaris” comes in many shapes and sizes, from the tiniest teacup toy dog up to the largest of the giant breeds. Short haired, longhaired, pedigree or mongrel, there really is no such thing as the ‘typical’ dog. Dogs commonly live for up to fifteen years (or slightly less for some giant breeds) although dogs can and do live into their twenties in good health and with a reasonable standard of living. So if you are considering buying a dog, it is important that you look to the future and are prepared to be in it for the long haul!If you are a total rookie when it comes to canines and are looking for a good place to start researching, read this article to learn about the basics of buying, owning and caring for a dog.

Is a dog a suitable pet for you?

As you will soon realise when you start to read and research getting a dog, dogs require an awful lot of care and attention, including personal interaction, ongoing training and keeping them stimulated. It is important to be sure that you have enough time to take care of their needs and that you are motivated to keep your dog active, healthy and entertained for the duration of their life, and that you understand that doing this can mean that a considerable chunk of your own life is devoted to it.It is of course important to make sure that your whole family and anyone else who your new dog will see a lot of is happy about your decision, but you should also think on a somewhat wider scale too. If you live in a rented property, you will need to ask for permission from your landlord to keep a dog, and owning a dog can make it more difficult to find further rental properties in the future if you needed to move. Ask yourself the following questions before you consider dog ownership:

  • Will your neighbours be disturbed or inconvenienced by the presence of your dog, particularly if you have any problems with your dog barking or howling?
  • Are you planning on expanding your family, or climbing the career ladder in your job? You might find that you have ample time on your hands now, but these things can greatly affect the amount of time you have in the future.
  • What would happen if you lost your job, split up from your partner or started a new relationship? How will these things affect your ability to care for your dog in the long term?
  • As your dog ages and their care needs change, will you still be willing and able to take care of them and make adjustments to accommodate for their changing life stages?

These are all things that you need to think about and consider before moving forwards!

How much does it cost to buy and keep a dog?

Dogs are reasonably readily available to buy or adopt from a breeder, private seller or rehoming shelter, and the initial outlay on the purchase price of a dog can go from free, up to several thousands of pounds for a show-quality pedigree dog. As a very broad guideline, expect to pay a donation of up to £200 to adopt a dog from a rehoming shelter, or £600-£1,000 for a non show-standard purebred dog with pedigree papers. The real “how much?” question where dogs are concerned, however, is not so much about the purchase price, but “how much does it cost to keep a dog?” and the answer to this question is “quite a lot!”When you first get your dog, as well as the purchase price, you may have to pay out for all of the following:

  • All of the equipment you will need for your dog, which can run to several hundred pounds.
  • Spaying or neutering, which can cost from £75-£300
  • Vaccinations and the initial health check at approximately £100
  • Microchipping at approximately £25
  • Training classes, £100 or more

Then, as well as the initial costs, each year you will also potentially need to pay for:

  • Booster vaccinations at around £60
  • Insurance, ranging from £250 to over £1,000 per year depending on the dog
  • Flea treatments and worming, around £200 per year
  • Feeding, which can vary greatly depending on the size and type of dog, from a few hundred pounds to well over £1,000
  • Any veterinary care that your dog needs; even if your dog is insured, don’t forget to budget for uninsured costs and your insurance excess
  • Toys and equipment as needed
  • Boarding kennels or pet sitters for times when you have to leave your dog alone

What kind of time commitment is needed to care for a dog?

Finding a dog that matches your lifestyle and surroundings in terms of size, energy levels and grooming and maintenance is important, but it is also vital to understand that no matter how large or small your dog is, all dogs require a significant amount of care, training and stimulation.Dogs should not be left alone and unsupervised for more than four hours at a time, and you will have to train your dog gradually to get used to being left at all. Dogs require a lot of one to one time with their owners, and plenty of stimulation, training and entertainment, both when they are young and throughout the entire duration of their lives. They also require a significant amount of exercise; at least an hour a day spent walking and playing outside with you is considered the norm, and for some of the more energetic breeds, considerably longer will be required!If you work all day and there is no one else at home to care for and spend time with your dog, you will have to arrange for a pet sitter or dog walker to come in and take care of your dog, which can soon prove expensive. Don’t underestimate the time commitment involved in owning and caring for a dog; dogs are a high maintenance pet, and there is no way to cut corners with their care!

What do dogs eat?

Dogs require a complete and balanced diet designed specifically to fulfil their needs; feeding your dog on table scraps and treats is not sufficient! There are various ways in which you can meet your dog’s dietary requirements, and various special diets that can be fed according to your preferences, such as the BARF diet (more information on the BARF Diet here), a vegetarian or vegan diet (more information on this here) or meals that you prepare from scratch at home. Most dog owners, however, find it much more convenient to feed a pre-prepared complete dog food, and this is certainly the simplest way to ensure that your dog’s dietary requirements are met. There are many different types of dog food available on the market, broadly divided into the categories of wet food and dry food. Wet food consists of tinned meat and other variants, whereas dry food consists of bagged kibble pellets. There is some debate over whether wet or dry food is best for dogs, and both have their merits and limitations. This largely comes down to a matter of personal choice; many dog owners feed a combination of both wet and dry food. More information on feeding a balanced diet can be found here.Dog food is readily available to buy in many places, and all supermarkets and pet shops will stock a range of different options, often including food specifically tailored for different sizes of dogs, and different life stages. Premium dog foods that are generally considered to be of a higher quality than supermarket brands can be bought online or direct from your veterinary surgery, and these of course come with a premium price tag attached! Regardless of where you choose to buy your dog’s food and what style of food you choose to feed them, make sure that any food that you buy is labelled as a ‘complete’ food and not a supplementary or complimentary food. Supplementary or complimentary foods are not designed to meet all of your dog’s nutritional needs, and should not form the main basis of their diet.Unlike cats, dogs should not have food left out for them at all times to graze on; this will lead to obesity and related health problems in short order! Dogs should be fed two or possibly three set meals a day, at a regular time, and you should measure out your dog’s rations carefully to make sure that you are not feeding too much or too little to meet their needs.

Health and wellness

Dogs need to be fed a balanced diet and exercised regularly in order to stay fit and healthy; they must have water freely available to them at all times, and it is important to learn about the basics of keeping your dog healthy and how to spot any symptoms of ill health.Your dog’s nose should be cool and slightly moist, their eyes should be clear and alert. Their coat should be shiny and clean, and regularly groomed. Your dog’s ears should be clean and free from wax build up or other debris, and their back end should also be clean and not mucky. The legs should be free from lumps and bumps, and your dog should have an even gait without favouring any leg or limping when walking or running.It is often assumed by non-dog owners that it is normal for dogs to be a bit pongy; but bad breath and a smelly coat should not be considered normal for your dog! If your dog smells, or you find that your hands smell after patting them, it is time for them to have a bath! Similarly, dogs need to have a healthy mouth and teeth, and if your dog’s breath smells bad, they may require a veterinary dental procedure and possible extractions. Keeping your dog’s teeth strong and healthy is important, and you can do this by offering dental chews and preferably, actually brushing their teeth with a dog-specific toothbrush and paste!Unlike more exotic and unusual pets, getting veterinary treatment for dogs is relatively straightforward, and you should register your dog with a local vet and take them along for a health check as soon as possible after you bring them home. Your dog should also receive a general health check and assessment on an annual basis, along with their vaccination booster shots. Veterinary treatment for dogs can prove expensive, with the cost of treating an illness or injury often running to several thousand pounds. It is important to ensure that you can pay for any treatment your dog might need in the future before you buy your dog, and a good way of offsetting the potential cost of unforeseen treatments is by getting your dog insured. More information on insurance for dogs and where to buy it can be found here.

What equipment will I need to keep a dog?

Before going out and buying a dog and bringing them home, it is important to make sure that you are prepared to receive your dog and that you have everything that you need. This will involve dog proofing your house to make it safe for your dog, and possibly paying some attention to the maintenance and fencing of your garden. It is also important to establish that you live in an area that is safe to keep dogs, that you have enough room to keep a dog, and that you have identified some safe places to take them walking and where they can play.Once you have got that far, it’s time to go shopping! What any individual dog will require in terms of equipment will vary from case to case, and the seller, breeder or rehoming centre that provides your dog should be able to advise you in detail. However, here is a good basic checklist of equipment you will need for your first dog:

  • Food and water bowls
  • Suitable food
  • Collars and leads (two of each)
  • A wide range of toys and games, such as balls and chew toys
  • A crate
  • Beds and bedding
  • Brushes and other grooming equipment
  • Some old towels or sheets for when your dog gets in a mess
  • Flea and worming treatments
  • Dog waste bags
  • Treats

You may also need a range of additional equipment, such as a harness, muzzle, kennel, and fittings for your car to restrain your dog safely on journeys.

Where to buy a dog

Where to look for your potential future dog will depend on a variety of factors; whether you want a puppy or an adult dog, whether you want a pedigree or a non-pedigree dog, and the type of dog that you would like to own. Private sellers and breeders, pet shops and rehoming shelters are all potential places where your new forever friend may be waiting for you, and they all come with their various pros and cons.

  • Generally, buying a dog or puppy from a pet shop is not recommended, as this is not really the ideal environment in which to keep a dog, plus you can never be sure of the history or provenance of the dog that you choose.
  • Rehoming a dog in need from one of the UK’s numerous pet shelters and animal charities can be a great way to find your future dog and also do something positive for the fate of dogs in need within the UK. Again, however, when choosing a dog from a rehoming shelter you cannot be sure of their history, temperament or prior training. That being said, rehoming shelters put a lot of time and effort into ensuring that the dogs that they rehome are thoroughly assessed and suitable for ownership, so you should by no means rule this option out.
  • If you have your heart set on owning a pedigree puppy, then buying from a specialist breeder is often the best way to go about this. By buying from a professional breeder you will be able to see the puppy with their dam and littermates, talk to the breeder in depth about the care requirements and health of that particular breed, and generally, get plenty of follow-on support and advice after the sale, if needed. However, buying from a breeder means that you may be somewhat limited in terms of the selection of puppies available to you, and you may have to visit several litters and wait for some time for the right dog for you to present itself.
  • Buying a dog or puppy privately from a non-business seller or private owner is an alternative, and many dog owners choose to produce one litter from their dog before spaying. Also, you may be able to find the perfect adult dog either of a pedigree or non pedigree breed from a private seller if their current owner finds themselves unable to care for their dog any more. This can be somewhat limiting, however, as you will only have the seller’s word that the dog in question is as described, and you may not be able to identify any problems or faults with the dog until after you have taken ownership.
  • Finally, it should go without saying but it is worth mentioning nevertheless; never buy a dog from a stranger in the street or in the pub, or if you are unsure of the seller or put on the spot and forced to make a decision in the moment. The only good decision to make in these circumstances is not to buy!

You can find potential dogs for sale from breeders and private sellers here on Pets4Homes, and many dogs available for adoption in this section. You can also find dogs advertised for sale in veterinary surgeries, in shop windows, in specialist dog magazines and in many other places!

How to buy a dog

The first rule to follow when seeking to make your purchase, is never to rush into anything. This includes your initial decision to buy a dog, as well as the actual buying process itself. Once you have been to see a dog or puppy, however much you think you want it, come away and at least sleep on it before telling the seller that you would like to buy it. You may also find that as well as your assessment of the seller and the dog in question, the seller will be equally keen to assess you, and decide if you are a person that they will be happy selling a dog or puppy to!Once you have decided in principle that you would like to buy any specific dog or puppy, find out from the seller how they wish to proceed. With private sales it may be as simple as making a deposit or full payment and taking the dog away; however, don’t be surprised if re-homing centres wish to inspect your home and your suitability before allowing you to take home one of their dogs. Also, remember that if you are viewing a puppy owned by a breeder, you may have to reserve your puppy and then wait a few weeks until they are old enough to leave their dam before you can collect them.It is important to do everything that you can to protect yourself during the buying process, by means of establishing that the seller is the legal owner of the dog and that they have the right to sell it, and that the dog is in good health with no predisposition to genetic or inherited health problems. You can find out more about how to do this here. If you are buying a pedigree puppy, it is also important to make sure that all of the paperwork and provenance of the puppy comes with it and is available to you; more information on this is here. Always get a receipt for any monies exchanged, and if you are buying an expensive pedigree dog, you may wish to have a formal contract of sale drawn up to cover you as well. Ensure that any dog or puppy that you are considering buying is healthy and well; you may wish to consider having them checked over by a vet as part of the buying process. Also, find out what will happen and if the seller has any liability to you if your new dog gets sick or is found to be suffering from a pre existing condition shortly after the sale has been completed. Finally, remember that certain pedigree breeds of dog have an elevated predisposition to certain breed-specific health problems and conditions; research the breed that you are considering in depth before you buy to find out if this is the case, and what you can do to prevent or manage it.

How to transport your new dog home and settle them in

So, you have got to the point that you have agreed to buy a dog, and are all ready to go and collect it; have you got everything ready, and what do you do now?

  • Before you collect your dog, make sure that your home is all ready to receive it, that you have all of the equipment you will need, and that your house and garden are safe to bring your dog in to.
  • Arrange a time with the seller to collect your dog, and allow a couple of hours for the exchange to take place; remember that you will have to go through any necessary paperwork, get all of the information that you need from the seller, and take some time to get your new dog or puppy comfortable with your presence.
  • Work out the logistics of transporting your new dog home safely; do you have a crate or harness for the car ready to use?
  • Find out from the seller if your new dog or puppy has travelled by car before, and if there is anything you should know about carrying them in your vehicle.
  • If your dog is very young or your journey will be over an hour in length, make sure that you schedule in some comfort breaks to allow your dog to stretch their legs and go to the toilet on the way home. Make sure you have water available to offer to your dog if the journey will be longer than an hour.
  • Always keep your new dog or puppy on a lead until they are safely enclosed in your house, no matter how well trained or docile they appear to be.
  • Drive with your dog in mind: carefully, slowly and conscientiously.
  • When you first get home with your new dog, introduce them to the room that they will be spending most of their time in immediately. This should be the room where they will be fed, and where their bed or crate will be.
  • Let your dog explore and find their way around, and give them free rein to do this as long as it is safe. Your new dog or puppy will need to get used to their new environment and begin to regard it as their home, and this process takes time.
  • Make sure your dog or puppy knows where his water bowl is, and that he can have a drink if he needs to. Similarly, keep an eye on when they need to go to the toilet and how they indicate this until their regular routine is established.
  • Don’t feed your dog straight away after coming home; allow them a couple of hours to calm down and settle in first. Ensure that you find out what their normal meals consist of, and don’t make any changes to their normal diet within the first few days of bringing them home. If you need to change their food, do so gradually once your dog has settled in.
  • Routine is very important to dogs and puppies, and you should begin structuring their routine from the first day that you bring them home. This will help them to settle in and relax. Provide food and walks at the same times each day, and make sure that you are consistent with your commands and establishing what is and is not allowed from day one.
  • Remember that a change of ownership is a massive upheaval for any dog or puppy, and that it can be a scary and stressful time for them. Talk reassuringly to the dog, and don’t get cross with them if they make mistakes or don’t understand what is being asked of them.
  • Take plenty of time to bond with your dog, keep them occupied and begin the process of getting them used to you and the status quo in their new home. However, it is important that you do not over-stimulate your new dog during their first few days with you; ensure that they have plenty of quiet time to take stock of things and settle in fully.
  • Pop your new dog or puppy along to the vet within a couple of days of bringing them home, so that you can get a basic health check performed and get advice on any issues you may be facing or clarify anything that you are unsure about.

Dogs and the law

In the UK, dogs are regarded as the legal responsibility of their owner, and you are both responsible and potentially liable for any damage or injury caused by your dog. Dogs must wear a collar and ID tag at all times when on public property, must be kept under control, and in some cases, on a lead, regardless of your ability to control or recall your dog. From 2016 onwards, it will also be mandatory for all dogs kept in England and Wales to be microchipped, click here for more details. You are also legally obliged to clean up after your dog, and bag and dispose of their poop responsibly.Finally, it is actually illegal to own or breed certain types of dogs in the UK under the rules of the Dangerous Dogs Act (1991). The Pit Bull, Fila Brasiliero, Dogo Argentino and Japanese Tosa are all banned in the UK, as are all dogs of these types, including cross breeds and part breeds, so do not seek to buy or own any dogs of these breeds or types.



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