It’s a dog’s life… And it's down to us to make sure they have the best one. Gaining the total trust of man’s best friend is a huge challenge and commitment but it’s also very rewarding. Here’s some crucial canine information to ensure the perfect partnership...
Paws for thought
Can you afford it? You’re looking at £15-30,000 for the dog’s lifetime (upwards of 15 years) including a large upfront investment for spaying/neutering, worming, lead, bed, collar, name tag, microchip, training, toys, bowls, insurance and food.
After that a good rule of thumb is £25 a week. “Of course, not all costs are financial,” suggests Dan Tiley, marketing assistant for pet insurance company Animal Friends. “Anyone thinking of raising a dog should be prepared to put in the time, effort, love and care that is needed to keep a dog healthy and happy.”
Time & space
How long will the dog be left alone? Anything over four hours isn’t recommended. Not just for their essential twice-daily walks but dogs, like humans, get lonely and need interaction.
They also need space… Small breeds aren’t necessarily best for smaller houses. Jack Russell terriers, for example, are incredibly energetic dogs and need a lot of space. Meanwhile lurchers, retrievers and retired greyhounds are docile and mellow. Here’s a great tool for finding out whether your situation is dog-friendly. Think about your car, too… If you want a big dog, you’re going to need a big vehicle to ferry him or her about!
“You need to choose the right dog,” says Caroline Cowan, a South Wales-based dog trainer and behaviourist. “Never choose a dog on the way it looks. Dogs in kennels aren’t bad; the majority of them have been chosen irresponsibly. You might think you love a particular breed but in reality you may not get along with them at all.
Also, consider an older dog instead of a puppy. With an adult dog you can see what you’re getting. You can see their temperament and you know how big it is. Trust me, you really can train an old dog new tricks!”
Walking: Council pounds need volunteers to help give th dogs exercise. It’s a fantastic non-committal way to meet lots of dogs and understand their behaviour and personalities. Most pounds will have volunteer organisations similar to Gocompare.com's local one Friends Of Cardiff Dog Home. A thriving online community, as well as raising much needed funds through events and awareness campaigns, they share information and pictures of the dogs after each walk to help find its perfect home.
Fostering: Another great way to meet different dogs and see how they react to your children and pets; find out more here.
Interacting: “Ring a local obedience class and ask if you can attend,” says Caroline. “The Kennel Club hold events that you can go along to and meet the dogs.”
Talking: Talk to dog owners! Every owner loves talking about their best friend and will happily impart their experiences and advice.
Sound as a pound
If you’re serious about this then please consider a rescue dog. Last year the RSPCA took over 28,000 abandoned animal calls and Council pounds are the on the frontline. Yet they’re only funded to keep dogs for seven days before rescue centres, fosterers or the sad inevitability takes over…
If your research has led to a particular breed then head to a breed-specific rescue centre. It will cost more than a Council-run pound, you’ll be vetted inscrutably and possibly even have your home checked out by the centre for suitability, but it’s for the dog’s benefit. “Rescue centres know the dogs,” says Caroline. “You have the after-care support; they don’t want the dog to boomerang back to them. Every time it does, the problem gets worse. It’s so distressing for them; they don’t understand why they’re returned. Every precaution has to be taken.”
Puppy farms: spot them and stop them!
If you decide to buy privately then research the breeder. Insist on seeing their Assured Breeders Scheme paperwork. The despicable work of puppy farms will continue as long as there is money to be made.
Consider these points…
• If the price is too good to be true, it is!
• Pet shops sell dog food NOT dogs
• Reputable breeders never use free-ads
• And never offer a range of breeds
• Visit the breeder’s home. If they say no, you say no!
• It’s essential to see the mum with the litter
• How old are the puppies? A caring breeder won’t part with it until it’s at least eight weeks old. Ask questions: Are they involved in other activities such as obedience classes? Will they take the dog back if something unfortunate happens? Are they keen to tell you how to care for your dog? Reputable breeders will answer yes to all of them. Expect questions from them, too: They want to know their puppy is going to a loving home.
So now you have a dog. Let’s ensure it really does have the best life possible.
Here are a few pointers to get started…
- Don’t take a week off to help it settle! It’s a false routine that will only upset the dog when you return to work.
- When you do leave your dog at home, walk it before you leave and make sure it’s left with food, water and a means to do its business.
- It’s essential to “form a bond, but don’t over-bond,” explains Caroline. “Don’t compensate for what’s happened to it. Don’t have it on your lap and over-nurture it. Be cool and calm.”
- Get involved in obedience classes or enrol with the Kennel Club’s Good Citizen dog training scheme.
- The more proactive you are together, the more your relationship will flourish. And never be afraid to ask for help. “Owners think they’re admitting failure in the first weeks if the dog is still misbehaving,” says Caroline. “Don’t let it escalate. Rescue centres and pounds want the best life for the dog too and they’re more than happy to help.”