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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.
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:
These are all things that you need to think about and consider before moving forwards!
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:
Then, as well as the initial costs, each year you will also potentially need to pay for:
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!
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.
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.
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:
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 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.
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!
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.
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?
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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