Making the decision to get a dog is not something to be undertaken lightly, and whether you already have a dog and lots of experience, or are a first time dog owner, you will need to do plenty of research before the time comes that you actually get to bring your new friend home with you.
This process can take weeks or even months to work through, and there is nothing to be gained from rushing into dog ownership and finding out that you were not as prepared as you thought that you were!
Establishing that you are both financially able to afford to buy and keep a dog long term, and that your family situation is stable and you have enough time for a dog is the right place to start, but even when you have ticked both of those boxes, picking the right type of dog can take even longer to achieve!
In this article, we will cover the basics of how to narrow down your search for a new dog to a couple of breeds or types to get you going.
One of the first things to bear in mind is how large a dog you might like, and if your home and living situation is well matched to accommodate this. You might be a big fan or large and giant breeds, but if you only have a small home and garden, you might be being too ambitious!
Simply figuring out the range of sizes that you can consider owning will help to narrow down your search a lot.
Another important factor to consider is how active and lively any given breed is, and this can vary considerably. Some breeds such as the Siberian husky and the Border collie are very lively dogs that need masses of exercise and entertainment, while some other breeds are more sedentary and will be happy with just a couple of walks per day.
Work out how much time each day you can dedicate to walking your dog, and also how long at a time the dog will have to be on their own for, and narrow down your choices from there.
Pedigree dogs and non-pedigrees with known ancestry are grouped into various different types, based on their core traits and possibly, working history. This gives us groups such as toy dogs, working dogs, retrieving dogs, sighthounds etc., and each grouping has distinctive traits of its own.
All working dog breeds are likely to be intelligent and lively, while sighthounds will have a very strong prey drive, but otherwise, tend to be fairly quiet. Find out as much as possible about the traits of each type grouping, and rule out any that will not be a good fit for you.
Once you have worked out the size, activity levels and type that will be a good fit for you, you should be able to narrow your search down to a selection of breeds that fall within those parameters, and then look into each breed or type on its own merits. Compare a few breeds side by side, and don’t forget to find out what is bad about them as well as what is good!
An important consideration for any dog owner is their dog’s potential health and longevity, including finding out if the breed is prone to any hereditary health problems. A breed-specific propensity to health problems may impair your dog’s quality of life, shorten their lifespan, make them more expensive to insure, and cost more in vet’s fees in the long term, so do not make this decision lightly.
If you now have a breed in mind and are raring to go, take a minute first to find out about any negative traits that the breed possesses, and how fit you are to manage these. All breeds have their respective downsides, be that a high prey drive, a tendency to dominance or something else, and problems such as these that owners were not prepared for often form a large part of the reasoning behind rehoming or abandoning dogs down the line.
Do you want an adult dog or a puppy? There are merits to both types of dog, and the decision is very individual. Everyone loves a puppy, and getting a young dog can help you to ensure that your dog is trained and raised in the way you want it to be, without any outside influences.
However, adult dogs tend to be calmer, may already be trained, and have a lot to recommend them too!
Go back over your list once you have decided on your dog, and check and double check that you are happy with your decision. Remember, there is no rush to get your dog, and a little extra time spent now can make life much easier for both of you down the line!