Congratulations on deciding to extend your family with a four-legged addition. The next step is to do a little research as there are many factors to consider when choosing your dog.
If you’re getting a puppy you will need to consider how large they’ll be as an adult, and you will need to think about whether you want your adult dog to perform any specialist tasks like herding, how much exercise they will require, how often they will need to be groomed, the average life expectancy of the breed, and more. It is true that certain breeds do tend to have certain characteristics, but this is not always the case and there is no guarantee that a German Shepherd will be a fantastic guard dog, or that a Border Collie will be a fantastic sheep dog, as examples.
Spending time at dog shows where you can talk to breeders and breed enthusiasts about their particular breed of dog and whether they think they might be suitable for you.
Getting a puppy from a breeder gives you the opportunity to meet their parents and their littermates, which can sometimes give you an idea of what sort of dog your puppy will grow up to be. You can also see the environment in which your puppy has lived, which can help when socialising them a little later on. The Kennel Club can provide information about breeders, or your vet may be able to recommend a reputable breeder in your area. You might also get a puppy from a friend or family member who has bred a litter from their own bitch. Some rescue centres may also have puppies for rehoming. Wherever you get your puppy from, it is very important that you find out everything you can about how your puppy has been raised and the different things they have been exposed to so far.
Many people choose to re-home adult dogs rather than raise a puppy. There are many rescue centres with dogs waiting for new homes , and there are also dedicated breed rescue societies which re-home pedigree adult dogs and sometimes puppies too. Sometimes, breeders may want to rehome adult dogs. Many people will often rehome dogs from family or friends whose circumstances have changed. Taking on a rescue dog can be a challenge, as you may know very little about their previous history, however it is also very rewarding and giving an adult dog a new home is a very charitable act.
Many will already be house trained and have a basic level of obedience training, whereas some may arrive in your home having never lived inside before – so try and ask the rescue centre, breeder or previous owner as many questions as you can about your new dog to help you settle them in.
It is true that small dogs need less space than large dogs, and so if you live in a small house a giant breed dog is probably not the right choice for you. However, many small and medium breeds are very active and lively, and so will need plenty of exercise, whilst some of the large and giant breeds can be more sedentary and suited to owners who prefer short but frequent walks. Regardless of size, all dogs will need plenty of attention throughout the day and will rapidly become bored if left alone for hours on end. Attention from you can come in the form of walking, playing, training, grooming or simply spending time making a fuss of them.
Female dogs (bitches) tend to be smaller than males (dogs) which may be a factor to consider in your choice. You may also already have one or more dogs, which might influence your decision on whether to get a female or male puppy.
If you have not had a dog before, it might be a good idea to choose a breed which is easy to train and obedient, so you can learn about dog ownership as you go along. Another factor is coat length – if you are not prepared to spend some time each day brushing through a long coat or to take a long haired dog to a professional groomer to be clipped, it might be best to choose a dog with a short coat length.
There are lots of other factors to consider; so take some time to read up on your chosen breed and determine whether they will be suitable for you and your family. Of course, if you take on a rescue dog or a crossbreed there is sometimes no way of telling what sort of dog they will be!
The UK Kennel Club currently recognises over 200 different breeds, split into 7 groups according to their type and use. Each group tends to have it’s own characteristics. The Terrier group. for example, usually have a very strong temperament as they were bred to hunt wild animals and so needed to be very brave.