Choosing a dog for your family? Must read tips

Choosing a dog isn't easy, but if you get it right you'll enjoy many, many years of happiness.
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Choosing a dog is no easy decision. Its exciting and emotional, and we are all prone to choosing what looks attractive, regardless of it if suits us or not. Think carefully about your expectations and requirements before you select a dog to ensure you take one home with the right temperament and characteristics to suit you and your lifestyle. A dog is for life. Not just for lockdown.

Start by evaluating your lifestyle when choosing a dog

Dogs come in all shapes and sizes, and there are varying breeds and character types to choose from. So it’s no easy job. One of your first steps should be to nail down what you and your family want from having a dog and how it will fit into your lifestyle.

How much time can you devote to your dog?

Dogs require a huge amount of your time. So think truthfully about whether you and your family have enough spare time, or can make time for training, playing, exercising, grooming and everything else that a dog brings. It is important to think long term. You may have lots of time now, but will you in the future?

Puppies are especially time consuming. An absolute pleasure for sure, but they require constant care and attention to grow into the perfect dog. Only consider buying a puppy if you can provide the time.

How much time do you spend at home?

If you’re not home frequently enough during a normal week, you may realise that some breeds or types of dog that require more companionship and exercise may not be suited to your lifestyle.

How much can you sensibly afford?

Dogs are expensive. Food, toys, training, health and insurance all add up. Dogs with coats that need clipping will require frequent trips to the parlour. Don’t forget that the bigger your dog, the bigger your food bill will be.

Choosing a dog? How much can you afford?
Photo by James Lacy

Do you have enough space for a dog?

Dogs need space. Space to play, space to get out of the way and space to cause… mischief (the garden). If you live in a one-bedroom London flat, it’s probably not a good idea to get a Great Dane.

How active are you?

All dogs need daily exercise. But some dogs need a lot more than others. So if you’re not a fan of being out and about, it wouldn’t be wise to get a dog with high exercise requirements like a Labrador. These energetic dogs need well over two hours of exercise per day to keep fit and happy.

Choosing a dog? How active are you?
Photo by Mitchell Orr

Do you have children or other pets?

If you have children (or expecting your family to grow), pets and frequent visitors to your home it is imperative that your new dogs will get on well with others and won’t negatively disrupt your life. A lot of that will come down to training and socialisation, but some dogs are naturally more sociable than others.

What character type are you looking for?

Choosing a dog by looks alone without considering behavioural traits can be a huge mistake. Choosing by temperament is a much better way to go.

Start by assessing exercise requirements and character types to see if they fit with your requirements, and if their needs match what you can provide. Once you have a list of dogs that comfortably meet your requirements, you and your family can then start taking looks into account.

Choosing a dog? Temperament vs looks.
Photo by Celyn Bowen

Choosing a dog: Puppy or adult?

Another important decision to be made is whether you would like to get a puppy or an adult dog.

Puppies are a clean slate and you can more easily train them to how you want them to be as adults. Puppies are a joy, but it’s crucial that you selected a healthy puppy, from a family tree of well-tempered dogs if you want to avoid problems later on. Puppies need a very intense period of training and education throughout their first year if you want them to grow into the perfect companion.

Adult dogs are already formed, and the frustrating puppyhood issues like house-training and chewing are likely a thing of the past, though not always. With adult dogs, what you see is what you get (Although they will adapt the longer they are with you) so it can be easier to see right away how they will be when you take them home.

Summary: Choosing a dog

Choosing a dog isn’t easy, but if you get it right you’ll enjoy many, many years of happiness. So take your time, think honestly and you’ll be sure you choose a dog with the right temperament and character to fit your lifestyle.

When you know what you’re after, actually getting a dog is the next big step. Here are a few tips.

Related: What are Mongrel and Crossbreed Dogs?

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