The coronavirus pandemic has given many of us more time in our own homes, leading some households to make lifestyle changes, such as acquiring a four-legged friend.
According to the Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association (PFMA), 3.2 million households in the UK have bought or adopted a pet since the start of the pandemic, and the country is now home to 12 million pet dogs.
Taking on a dog is, of course, a lifetime commitment, and one that merits plenty of carefully thought. There are already tales of new owners struggling to keep up with the demands of keeping a pet, and Battersea Dogs & Cats Home predicts that, in the next five years, there will be an increase of up to 27% more dogs being abandoned or left to stray.
If you’re considering getting a dog, doing thorough research on the right breed for your family and lifestyle is important to keep you and your pooch happy. Here we detail the key things to think about when choosing a dog breed.
Where do I start?
There are many factors to consider when choosing a dog. For example, do you want a puppy or an older dog? Do you want a rescue dog or one from a breeder? Do you want a pedigree or crossbreed? And, which breed or crossbreed do you want?
A good place to start when thinking about these questions is to talk to friends and family who own dogs for tips and advice. You could also go to dog shows when restrictions allow, research breeds online, talk to rescue centres or breeders for advice, or buy some specialist magazines or books.
Some charities such as the PDSA and companies such as IAMS also have online tools that may help you with suggestions of breeds, while the Kennel Club has a handy A-Z of breeds if you’re looking for a pedigree.
But, before you set your heart on a breed, it’s worth considering the following to aid your decision.
Where do you live – and who’s in your home with you?
While doing research on dog breeds, think about your home environment so you can find a dog that will thrive in your household.
Some key questions to ask yourself are:
How much space will a dog have access to in your home and, if you have one, in your garden?
Is your garden secure? Some dogs may be able to escape over low walls, as an example.
How easily can you access open spaces to walk your dog?
Does everyone in your household want a dog and will you share caring responsibilities?
Do you rent – does your landlord allow pets?
If you have a small home and garden, researching dog breeds that would be content in this environment may be a good place to start.
Breeds that The Kennel Club says would be suitable for smaller homes and gardens include the Rough Collie, Miniature Bull Terrier, Beagle, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Welsh Terrier, Cocker Spaniel and Dachshund.
Do you have young children?
If you have school-aged children or younger, it’s worth researching different dog breeds’ temperaments carefully, so you can find a four-legged friend that fits in with your family.
It’s wise to look for calm dogs with a loving nature who respond well to training. BorrowMyDoggy, a site that connects owners with local people who’d like to walk their dogs, suggests the Labrador, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Newfoundland, Golden Retriever and Boxers as the top five family-friendly dog breeds.
You should also research how to introduce a dog into your family and learn more about child safety around dogs before your new pet arrives.
How much exercise will you be able to give a dog?
Think about how much exercise you’d be able to give your dog if you’re currently working from home and you have to return to the office. Or, if you’re at home all day, how much exercise is realistic for you to dedicate to a dog along with your other responsibilities.
Be aware that some dogs will experience pet separation anxiety if they haven’t been left alone for extend periods previously. Here’s some tips on how to handle the situation if it comes your way.
While all dogs will need exercise, some breeds will require a lot more than others. Just like humans, dogs can become overweight or develop behavioural problems if they don’t move enough or have enough stimulation.
As a starting point to help you to narrow down the breed for you, the PDSA has a rough guide for the total minimum amount of exercise different dog breeds may need each day, while it’s also included in The Kennel Club’s A-Z of breeds.
Research breed temperaments
It can be tempting to choose a dog by looks alone, but this risks leaving you with a pet who isn’t a good fit to your household.
Instead, think about what’s important to you personality-wise. Do you want a sociable dog? Or a dog that’s easily trained? Would you like a dog that loves to sleep on your knee in the evening or one that will go on runs with you?
While each dogs will have its own unique personality, many have been bred for different reasons and to bring out certain traits – some for how they look and others for certain work, so consider this too.
If you are considering a crossbreed, it may be trickier to find out its temperament so it’s worth talking to the breeder or rescue centre about the individual dog and its personality.
Research illnesses and medical conditions
Some dogs are more likely to get ill or be susceptible to certain health conditions due to their breed, so this is something else to consider when doing your research. Not only could your dog having a condition be upsetting, but it could cost you a lot in vet bills.
As an example, The Kennel Club, classes Pugs as a ‘category 3 breed’ which means it is considered as being more susceptible to developing certain health conditions associated with “exaggerated conformation” (the way it’s bred to look).
Conditions could include breathing problems, skin problems and eye problems.
For some pet owners, dog hair is an annoyance that can be hoovered up, while for others it’s something they couldn’t bear. Some breeds shed hair more than others so, if this is important to you, look up low-shedding dog breeds.
These could include a Cairn Terrier, Dachshund, Greyhound, Poodle, plus more.
Think also about the maintenance of your potential dog’s hair as some breeds need regular grooming, plus trims by a professional, which is an added expense.
Which breeds can you afford?
According to the PDSA, you should expect a dog to cost you at least £4,500 to £13,000 over their whole lifetime, with small dog breeds costing between £4,600 and £8,900, medium dog breeds costing between £7,000 and £11,000 and large dog breeds costing between £5,700 and £13,000.
This is the minimum cost and will vary depending on your dog’s breed, size and how long it lives. It includes pet insurance costs, the initial kit you’ll need for a dog, ongoing items such as booster vaccinations and food – but doesn’t include the cost of purchasing the dog itself, or other services such as training costs or day-care.
Think seriously about what you could afford alongside all of your other expenses and factor in extra for unexpected circumstances. Dogs can live up to around the age of 15 with the average purebred dog living to 11.9 years, according to the RSPCA.
Find a good dog breeder
Once you’ve done your research and decided on the breed of dog you’d like and whether you’d like a puppy or an older dog, it’s important to research the best breeders or rescue centres from which to get your dog.