Are you thinking about getting a dog? If you are, yay! That is great news. Dogs can bring so much joy and love to a household. Selecting the right dog to suit your lifestyle can be challenging, but it’s critical to ensure you do not end up regretting the decision.
During my time volunteering and training, I have come across eager owners wanting to give a dog a loving home. However, because of a lack of research, they got something different to what they expected. This ultimately led to frustration, deflation, and in some cases, an unwanted dog. Pairing a dog to the lifestyle you have will go a long way to ensuring that both you and your dog live a long and happy life together.
“Should I get a dog?”
Firstly, really think about whether you should get a dog. The idea of a dog is lovely, especially if you are considering adopting from a shelter. #adoptdontshop. However, they are rather a big commitment. The basic needs of a dog are: a safe and comfortable shelter, food and water, regular exercise, affection and a sense of belonging, medical maintenance and environmental enrichment.
You should be committed to providing all of the above before you decide to take on a dog. Dogs can be expensive, time demanding, and all owners have an obligation to ensure that their physical and emotional needs are met. It is simply not fair to take on a dog if you are unable to care for it. Having said that, many organisations can help with walking, pet sitting, veterinary bills and more to overcome the daily struggles. But, ultimately, you will be responsible for your dog’s health and happiness. When they are healthy and happy, dogs are wonderful members of the family and can give us humans years of enjoyment and companionship.
“Where will my dog live?”
One of the first considerations when selecting a dog is, where the dog will live. How much space will it have to roam and play? Is there an outdoor space? Will there be a lot of foot traffic? Are you allowed pets? ** Do you have a “No Pets Allowed” policy? If so, speak with your landlord first or be prepared to move. It is heart-breaking for both owner and dog to be separated under these circumstances and this is completely avoidable. Separation may leave a dog with abandonment issues and they will need to find a new home.
If you live in an apartment that has a lot of foot traffic, you may want to look at breeds that are typically unconcerned by other people, dogs or noises. Smaller breeds such as terriers tend to be big barkers. It is a hard trait to train out of a dog. Each time they bark and subsequently see that no one has entered the apartment, their barking has worked. To them, their warning to stay away has been successful and this reinforces the behaviour.
If you have a large outdoor space, then you can consider breeds that have high energy and play drives. An enclosed outdoor area will allow them to have the space and ability to exert that energy using self-play toys or play with you. Even the time spent outside not playing can be mentally stimulating. Dogs noses are incredibly sensitive, and each smell brings a wealth of information with it. Highly intelligent dogs like Collies and Sheepdogs can become destructive or depressed if they are not given the right amount of stimulation to tire them each day. Small areas or concreted areas will not suffice, and you may find you have a dog pacing with frustration.
“Will my dog have roommates?”
Another consideration is who else will be sharing the living space? Do you have children or another animal? Some dogs simply don’t play well. Whether you opt for a rescue dog or raise one from puppyhood, there could be issues that arise from shared living.
If you are adopting from a shelter, the staff will have put the dog through tolerance testing and will be able to match you with a child-or-pet-friendly option. If you are raising from puppyhood, you might need to consider a trainer or behaviourist if you start to see signs of tension. Most dogs have no issues with either children or cats when introduced correctly and monitored from the start. However, it does not hurt to look for breeds that are, on the whole, a better fit for a family unit.
Which breeds are best...
The Golden Retriever is famous for being a gentle giant and is hugely popular with families due to their unwavering tolerance with children. These soft-hearted dogs will protect and nurture your child as if it were their own. If you have small children, you’re going to want a dog which can handle their heavy-handed hugs and stay calm when they’re running around the house. Other examples of breeds which make good family dogs include Bernese Mountain Dogs, Labradors, Beagles and Bulldogs
Not unexpectedly, the Golden Retriever also tops the breeds most likely to get along with other animals. Coming from a behaviourist view, I believe that all dogs could learn to co-habit a shared space. However, if you are looking for an easy life then opt for the laid-back breeds such as Bassett Hound, Shih Tzus, Cavalier King Charles & Cocker Spaniels, and Pugs.
“How much exercise can I give my dog?”
The amount of exercise you can provide each day can have a huge impact on how your dog behaves the rest of the time. A dog that does not get adequate exercise can become unmanageable in other areas. Through frustration, they can destroy household furniture, chew doors and scratch at floor skirting and floorboards in an attempt to get out. Dogs can become unresponsive to commands and not listen to a thing you say because they are too excitably with any and all interactions. They can also become extremely depressed and withdrawn. Boredom has a huge effect on dogs. Some extremely distressed and frustrated dogs will even urinate and defecate in the house.
Which breeds are best...
The time you have to dedicate to both physical and mental stimulation is a key factor when deciding what dog is best for you. If you have the ability or take your dogs on regular long runs or work outdoors and want a dog to join you, breeds such as the Doberman or German Pinschers, Viszlas, Weimaraners and Springer Spaniels are good options. These breeds are also highly trainable, meaning the high possibility of “off leash” activity and obedience.
If, however, you lead a more laid-back lifestyle than you’re going to want to opt for a breed which suits that lifestyle too. Breeds such as the Miniature Schnauzer, Whippet and Greyhound are generally satisfied with a couple of leisurely strolls each day and plenty of time spent cuddling on the sofa. They’re all fairly undemanding but still ready for a more substantial hike when you have time at the weekend.
There will also be some of you that have low mobility for various reasons but that does not mean that you should avoid the delightful companionship that a dog brings. In fact, dogs are known to elevate oxytocin levels in people when they meet them. They literally create happiness! If you have difficulty getting out and about as much as you’d like to, I’d still encourage to consider having a dog. However, opt for one that is low maintenance. French Bulldogs, Chihuahuas, Brussells Griffon and Bull Mastiffs are all dogs that do not need a lot of exercise or a lot of grooming.
“How much time can I spend with my dog?”
Dogs are social animals and are at their happiest when they are in the company of others. Some dogs can handle periods of time alone better than others. Dogs who are left alone a lot can become very distressed and develop severe separation anxiety. It is heart-breaking to see a dog who is extremely anxious. As their cortisone levels rise to an unhealthy level, the dog is in a permanent state of distress. Their hearts will be racing, adrenaline flowing throw their veins, muscles constantly tense and their breathing will be laboured. This is not a nice way to feel on a daily basis so consider carefully the dog you should get depending on how much time they are likely to be alone.
Of course, there are many services available to help if you have a 9-5 job, or a busy lifestyle. Dog walking, dog sitting, and doggy day care are available in most cities nowadays. As long as there is a healthy balance and as much routine as possible, a dog can fall into a happy life being with different people or in different locations. A hectic lifestyle where the dog does not know what he is doing from one day to the next can be very unsettling and cause as much stress as being left alone for long periods.
Which breeds are best...
Breeds that do not typically cope well with being alone are Italian Greyhounds, Bichon Frise, Dachshunds, Fox Terriers and American Pit Bull Terriers. It is best to stay away from working breeds entirely. Being cooped up and alone would be hellish for them. The afore mentioned breeds, as well as herding and sporting breeds, should be avoided if you can’t give them the adequate amount of attention they crave.
As much as we might want to, most of us cannot spend all day with our dogs. Thankfully, there are a few breeds that can handle a bit of alone time. The Maltese and the Greyhound will willingly sleep most of the day. Once you are home though, they will demand attention – rightly so. Boston Terriers, Shar-peis, and the newly-bred Peekapoos all cope OK with being left alone. They are amongst the few breeds that do not seem to develop separation anxiety. It is not a guarantee but so far there has been fewer cases with these breeds.
“Can I cope with a Barker?”
All owners can work with their dog and train them to stop barking with a vocal or hand cue. Some dogs are just barkers (or howlers). We cannot train out a behaviour that is so instinctive to them. It is the way that they communicate. Just like humans, some dogs are more vocal than others. They bark and that is just the way they are.
The Chihuahua is often referred to as the “yappy” dog and that is due to their reputation for incessant barking. They might be small but have big personalities and a lot to say. Bloodhounds are also well known for being vocal. They love to howl and bark at anything and are one of the hardest dogs to shut up when they get going. Basset Hounds, Beagle Hounds, and Dachshunds are also up there on the Barkers Top Ten. As well as the hounds, terriers are loud as well as lovable. Yorkshire Terriers take a top spot as well as Westies and Scotties. In the larger dog category German Shepherds and Huskey tends to bark and howl.
It is certainly not a reason not to get a dog if you really like everything else about the breed. But it is something to bear in mind (and perhaps warn your neighbours!).
“Do I want to train my dog or do agility?”
Having the time to really focus on training and/or agility can be an absolute pleasure and your dog will love you even more for it. Many breeds just love task-based activities and exerting energy in a positive way. Training and agility strengthen the bond between owner and dog as they begin to listen and trust in every command or cue you give them. A dog will eventually take your cue over an instinctive urge to do completely the opposite. That is how dogs have become Man’s Best Friend.
All games inside and outside the home are good fun for a dog but if you want to get serious about it, you should opt for breeds that are high intelligent and eager to please. Border Collies are extremely impressive dogs. Highly intelligent and quick to pick up body language cues and gestures.
A Border Collie named Chaser was taught to identify over a thousand different inanimate objects, seek them out from various locations and bring them back to her owner. She was even able bring back an object she had not yet become familiar with by process of elimination amongst objects in her vocabulary. Incredible!!! Her huge accomplishment has given us an insight into a dog’s learning potential.
This may come as a surprise to some; Poodles are wickedly smart. Under the fluff and curls lies an athlete physique and an eager-to-please personality. Unlike some breeds, all types of Poodle – Toy, Miniature and Standard – are judged as one. They are very intelligent and have a huge capacity to learn, with a long concentration time.
This can also be said for the German Shepherd. Typically used by the forces for their all-around capability, the GSD can be guard dogs, sniffer dogs, attack dogs or rescue dogs.
To adopt or not to adopt?
I am a huge advocate of adopting from a shelter or getting your dog from a registered breeder, rather than pet shops or newspaper ads. Puppy farms are unfortunately a real issue in today’s world and the only way to stop them is to reduce the demand for them. By going to a registered breeder, you can still get the breed you want without fuelling the puppy farm trade. They may be more expensive at the offset, but puppy farmed pups bring a whole host of medical problems with them. More often than not they have kennel cough and suffer with an array of digestion and intestinal issues due to being separated from their mother too early. The medical costs that often comes with puppy-farmed dogs run far past the initial purchase cost.
Adopting from a charity or shelter is both rewarding and helps control the rising population of dogs without a home. Many countries are so full that euthanasia is on the rise. Whilst this is still not common practise, none of us want to see a healthy dog put down. Adopting from a shelter can often take a lot of the research work away from you. The shelters will put their dogs through tolerance testing and know which are better suited to families, office workers, outdoorsy types or the elderly. They will do the leg work for you.
If you are up for the challenge, you may want to take on a dog with a history of abuse that is shy and withdrawn and bring them back, showing them the world is a good place after all. Maybe you have the knowledge and expertise to work with an alert dog and sense his discomfort in certain situations. If you can, then there is almost certainly a shelter dog crying out for you to take him on, protect and understand him. It is true, some will have problems. Some shelters dogs have been scarred badly by their start to life. If you are able to provide a loving and safe home, and have the patience to work with them, there is nothing more rewarding.
What is the Best Dog for Me?
Owning a dog can be a huge commitment but it is well worth it. Dogs bring us joy and laughter. They are loyal and loving. They have unique characters and funny traits and, when you truly trust each other, the bond between man (or women) and dog is unparalleled.
Take your time to find the dog that best suits you and you won’t regret it. If you need any advice, please contact me – firstname.lastname@example.org or comment below. I am always happy to help a dog find its forever home.