Choosing a dog

Pondering how to choose a dog? Here are BorrowMyDoggy's top tips...

So the time has’re thinking about dog ownership and need some help choosing the right dog. With a plethora of information online about different breeds and temperaments, it can be hard to know how to choose a dog. This guide takes a slightly different approach and will help you ask yourself the important questions. Whether you’re considering getting a puppy or rehoming an adult dog it should help you make informed decisions about the next big step. A short version of this article is available if you need a quick reference of tips.

Doggy member, Andy

What dog is right for me?

Before deciding exactly what dog might be right for you or focusing on choosing a dog breed, we would recommend asking yourself the following key questions. Getting a puppy or an adult dog is a big commitment - possibly of up to 15 or 20 years - so it’s important to think it through carefully.

  1. Have I considered all the costs?
  2. Do I have space for a dog?
  3. Do I have time to exercise and care for a dog?
  4. Will I like owning a dog?
  5. Should I get a puppy or a rescue?
  6. Should I get a pedigree or a crossbreed?
  7. How will I socialise and go on holiday when I have a dog?
  8. What if I’m allergic to dogs?
  9. Should I get two dogs?
  10. Will I still be able to look after the dog if my current situation were to change?

If you’re not sure on any of these, we’ve included some more information below to help.

Austin the Golden Retriever

Have I considered all the costs?

Getting a puppy or an adult dog involves upfront and ongoing costs. For example:

  • the purchase or adoption of a puppy or adult dog, microchipping and neutering;
  • food, flea and worm treatment, vet bills, annual vaccinations, insurance, grooming, pet passports if you travel abroad, Kennel Club registration for a pedigree and training sessions;
  • collars, leads, shampoo, brushes, comfortable bedding, feeding bowls, poo bags.

    Given these costs, it might be worth drawing up a rough budget before committing.

Do I have space for a dog?

Dogs can live fulfilled and happy lives in lots of different environments - but consider the space you have when choosing a dog. Many dogs will fare better in a home where they have access to a garden - even patios and terraces can be a bit confusing for dogs at first. The size of the space is important but also ensure your place is safe for dogs. If you rent your home, you will need to check with your landlord as many landlords do not allow pets or require an additional pet deposit (also consider this if you move frequently).

Doggy member Aliqsi

Do I have time to exercise and care for a dog?

The amount of exercise a dog needs will largely depend on its size and breed but all dogs will need to be taken out daily and given plenty of mental stimulation to keep them happy. 

Look up local dog walks, borrow a dog for the day and consider how much you enjoy dog walking as a pastime - all these things will help you make a great decision.

Choosing a dog based on the amount of exercise you have time for could be a good starting point when considering different breeds of dog - for example, active families may be suited to a border collie or another type of active dog that enjoys running. You might be surprised by the types of dogs which actually prefer to laze about for most of the day!

Some questions to help think this through: Do you work full time? How will your future dog fit into your normal daily routine? Are you willing and able to change your routine to keep your dog happy?

Will I like owning a dog?

Perhaps a silly sounding question, but some of the members of the BorrowMyDoggy community have borrowed dogs as a good way to test run if they’d like to own a dog (or check if they’re really ready). Borrowing different kinds of dogs can be a good way to see how compatible you are and how you might fit them into your routine. Making friends with owners in the BorrowMyDoggy community can also be a rich source of information about dog ownership and discovering what dog might be best for you.

Pip the Bichon Frise

Should I get a puppy or a rescue?

Rescue organisations, breeders and experienced dog owners will usually be happy to share their experiences with you and discuss what might be the best choice for your particular circumstances. Similarly, whether to get a male or female dog is worth thinking about and discussing - particularly if you already have a dog in your home.

If you’ve never owned a dog before, weigh up the pros and cons of getting a puppy or a rescue - dog rescue organisations have a wealth of information that help them to ensure dogs are rehomed appropriately and so don’t be misled by the idea that all rescues have behavioural problems. There’s no right or wrong answer to this question, just slightly different considerations, for example:

  • Getting a puppy - consider the size and breed, check out the breeder and discuss your needs and experience with them, remember that a puppy will need training from scratch.
  • Rehoming or rescuing a dog - consider the needs of the dog, consider the dog’s age (puppy, adolescent or mature?) and be aware you may not get the dog’s full history.

How to choose a dog breed: should I get a pedigree or a crossbreed?

Getting a pedigree dog will give you a good idea of the inherited traits your dog might have and any health problems prevalent in the breed. You may also get a bit more information about the usual temperament of a pedigree dog by looking up particular breeds or contacting specific breeders and Kennel Club secretaries.

Crossbreeds, on the other hand, can often inherit the pawsitive traits of both breeds and some research shows that they are less likely to inherit the health defects common in their ancestral breeds.

Temperament and size are probably the two most important factors when finding the best dog for you, so whether it’s a crossbreed or a pedigree, find out as much as possible about the typical traits and the particular dog/puppy’s parents before falling in love! The temptation to find the cutest dog is high - but they’re all cute, right?!

How will I socialise and go on holiday when I have a dog?

Dog care can be expensive, so consider this question seriously if you work full time or travel frequently. There are plenty of dog friendly places to socialise or go on holiday, but be aware of how this might change the way you do things. Of course, BorrowMyDoggy can be a great alternative to kennels, dog boarding, doggy day care or other dog care options when you go on less dog friendly holidays. Just make sure you give yourself and your new dog enough time to settle in and get to know borrowers before committing. It’s also good to have plenty of options - so have a few borrowers or dog sitters you can turn to when you’re in need.

Penfold the Border Terrier

What if I’m allergic to dogs?

If you’re asthmatic or have allergies, you should consult a medical professional before choosing a dog - some dog breeds don’t shed hair, or shed less than others, but this won’t always prevent an allergic or asthmatic reaction. The Kennel Club’s breed club secretaries can also be a good starting point to get specific information and to ensure you get the right dog breed for your family.

Should I get two dogs?

It is generally inadvisable to get multiple dogs or puppies at the same time - orienting a dog to its new home can be a challenging time and training more than one puppy at once can be mayhem! If you have other pets (for example, cats) also consider how they might get on with a new, potentially boisterous friend. However, some rescue organisations will try to rehome more than one dog together - this is usually because they have lived together already and would prefer not to be separated.

Arlo and Sully the Dachshunds

Will I still be able to look after the dog if my current situation were to change?

Not all of us plan too far ahead but, as a dog’s average lifespan might be between 8 and 20 years depending on the breed, you’ll need to consider your medium term future before getting a puppy. If you’re rescuing or rehoming an older dog, the timeframe may be shorter but bear in mind the potential additional caring responsibilities an older dog might require and discuss these requirements with the rescue centre. Some questions to ask yourself to help think your future plans through:

Do you have major travel plans or want the flexibility to spend some time abroad? What’s going on in your work life - how likely is it that things will stay the same? Are you planning a career move that might require a period of longer hours and less flexibility? Are you planning a move from the city to the country, or the country to the city - would your potential dog be able to adapt to a new environment? Perhaps you’ll be starting a family soon - will that change how much exercise you can give your new dog or the type of dog you might get?

Apollo the Samoyed

Doggy buzzwords

Getting confused by the lingo? Here are a few definitions to help with your research.

  • Crossbreed - a mix of one or more breeds of dog
  • Hypoallergenic - relatively unlikely to cause an allergic reaction
  • Moult - shed old hair or skin to make way for new growth
  • Pedigree - the record of descent of an animal, showing it to be purebred
  • Rescue - shorthand way of referring to a dog that has been in a rescue organisation

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