Few pet relationships are more rewarding than dog ownership. Long hailed as man's best friend, pooches have a lot to offer. When buying a dog, the key is to find a pet who fits into your life perfectly - and who you can offer the right kind of care.
There are plenty of factors that affect these two points; among the most important is the breed you choose. Here, in part one of our two-part series, we take you through some of the main things to think about when picking a dog.
Each breed of dog displays its own characteristics, which are largely dependent on what it was originally bred for. For instance, Border Collies were bred for herding livestock; as a consequence, they need a really active lifestyle, which means as a owner, you need to dedicate plenty of time to walks and other activities.
This is the crucial element of picking a breed of dog - you need to research the kind of characteristics different breeds display and match them to the kind of lifestyle you are able to provide. It is often simpler, however, to first understand how much time and attention you can dedicate to your pet, and search for breeds that fit this description.
If you are buying a crossbreed rather than a pedigree dog, this can be a little more tricky, simply because it is harder to tell what kind of characteristics the dog will display. Try to find out as much about its parentage as possible, which should give you some idea of its likely behaviour and needs.
While crossbreeds can be a little bit harder to gauge in terms of personality until you get them home, don't let this put you off. Often displaying fewer health problems than pedigree dogs, they make just as good pets as their purebred cousins.
There are lots of wonderful dogs in rescue centres across the UK, waiting for the right owner to give them their forever home. So, it is always worth paying a visit to your local rescue centre and seeing who you meet; these organisations re-home all kinds of adult dogs, including pedigrees, as well as puppies.
If you decide to rescue a dog, seek out advice from the staff at the centre. They will be able to help match you with the right dog by looking at each pooch's temperament, history, and how the two of you interact; these factors will help highlight any potential problems, such as if the dog will have problems interacting with your existing pets, or children.
Adult or puppy?
This is by and large a personal choice, and may well be dictated by the dogs you meet - you never know who you'll hit it off with!
However, when it comes down to choosing an adult or puppy, there are things to consider with each. If you decide to get a puppy, for example, you need to be ready to give them a lot of care and attention - puppies, especially when you first bring them home, are very needy, as well as requiring a lot of training. Plus, they can be prone to being destructive. On the other side of the coin, you will have the joy of raising your dog from its early stages and forming that bond at the beginning of its life.
There are also advantages to taking on an adult dog, however. For instance, it is likely to have left its destructive days well behind, and will probably be house trained and generally calmer. That said, older dogs will have already formed habits, and while many of these may be welcome, some may be less, and you need to be prepared to deal with that.
How much exercise will they need?
Exactly how much exercise a dog needs can vary massively between breeds - and can also depend on each individual pooch's preferences. For example, a small dog, such as a Dachshund, will need less exercise than a larger, more energetic dog such as a Border Collie.
Think about the time you have available to dedicate to daily exercise carefully, and ensure you only consider dogs that can be kept happy and healthy with this amount.
In the next instalment of our dog-choosing tips, we will look at other important questions, such as how to tell if a dog is healthy, and what you need to know about their history.
Written by: Hannah Dyball