DECIDING ON A DOG
When deciding to introduce a dog into the household there are a few factors that need to be taken into account. The main question is whether there is someone at home for most of the time to look after an animal. The maximum length of time that a puppy or dog should be left is 4 hours at a time. Dogs need human companionship and stimulation otherwise they become bored and destructive. Dogs are costly to maintain. Food, trimming, insurance, vets bills, kennelling during holidays all contribute to the running costs. A dog needs to be a suitable size to fit your house, garden and pocket.
Choosing a breed is personal choice and there is plenty of information available. All pedigree breeds have breed clubs which can supply information. The Kennel Club runs ‘Discover Dogs’ at Crufts’ in March and at Discover Dogs at Earls Court in November. Every recognised breed has a stand where breed experts are on hand to give information and allow close contact with their dogs.
Deciding on a dog or bitch is the next question. Both are equally suitable as pets. Bitches are usually most in demand but there are drawbacks. Bitches have seasons which need to be managed and neutering can lead to problems in later life. Dogs are faithful and affectionate but some people prefer to have them neutered.
Finding a puppy is much easier that it was previously, the internet gives more information and options. If a pedigree puppy is required then it is best to contact the breed clubs dedicated to the breed. The secretaries will often keep litter registers or be able to suggest contacts. The Kennel Club has an online list of people with puppies available but prospective buyers need to use their own discretion when choosing a breeder from the list – it might be a good idea to cross check with a breed club secretary.
People who advertise several breeds of puppies for sale or puppy supermarkets are best avoided. These are the places where puppy farmed animals turn up, they could have been bred in Ireland or Wales and been transported great distances in poor conditions. Never buy a puppy you feel sorry for or appears ill, it will only be replaced by another miserable animal if you give it a home.
Once contact has been made with a reputable breeder be prepared for a number of questions, these people only want the best for their puppies. The Kennel Club can provide information on the health tests that are relevant to the breed you have chosen.
When viewing puppies make sure you see them with their mother. This will reassure you that the puppy has actually been bred at the premises and you can tell a lot about the type and temperament of the puppy by meeting his mother. Puppies should be happy, glossy, lively and friendly.
When a pedigree puppy goes home with you it should have a diet sheet, probably some food, probably 6 weeks insurance, a pedigree and registration certificate and information about general care, when it was last wormed and treated for fleas. If the puppy is 8 weeks old it is unlikely to have started the course of injections so that is first priority
‘Designer’ dogs are becoming popular, poodles crossed with other breed to make non-shed dogs. Remember these are crossbreeds and you will be in the dark as to the type of dog you will end up with. Any dog needs bathing, grooming and trimming. Crossbreed puppies are available at rescue centres and from friends and acquaintances. All the previous points also relate to crossbreeds. Make sure you find out as much as you can about the parentage and history of your chosen puppy.
Not everyone wants to take on a young puppy, especially if they have just lost an old dog. Rescue centres always have dogs available to good homes but try to find out the history of the dog. If you want a particular breed then it is best to contact the breed rescue representatives for that breed. The information can be found at the Kennel Club website. Show homes sometimes have older puppies or dogs available which make very good pets.
It is not usually recommended to have two puppies from the same litter, especially if they are the same sex. Although they are good company for each other when they are little they do tend to rely on each other. It is quite difficult to train two puppies of the same age and when they get older they can develop sibling rivalry.
It is best to wait for a year at least before adding another dog. They will soon begin to play together and develop a strong bond with one as the leader. Opposite sexes are probably best but neutering one at least is necessary.
The twenty most popular pedigree breeds in 2008 as shown by Kennel Club registration numbers are in order
Labrador (45,233), Cocker Spaniel (22,508), English Springer Spaniel (14,899), German Shepherd Dog (11,903), Cavalier King Charles Spaniel (11,226), Staffordshire Bull Terrier (10,744), Golden Retriever (9,159), Border Terrier (9,145), Boxer (7,353), West Highland White Terrier (7,330), Shih Tzu (5,495), Miniature Schnauzer (5,333), Lhasa Apso (5,117), Bulldog (4,543), Pug (4,480), Yorkshire Terrier (3,951), Whippet (3,328), Bull Terrier (2,992), Bichon Frise (2,757), Rottweiler (2,631). Things have changed since then, with French Bulldogs now leaping to the top of the popularity stakes. This section will be updated with new numbers when they are available from the Kennel Club.
Gundog breeds are out in front because of their temperaments but in the spaniels the types are divided between the show/pet strains and the working strains – the latter can be too hyperactive to lead the life of a pet dog. Terriers are small enough for modern houses but they can be noisy.
If having a puppy does not work out as planned a responsible breeder will take the puppy back and some money may be returned if the dog is re-homed. This is not an ideal situation for the dog or owner so it is best to consider all eventualities before buying a dog in the first place.