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How to choose the right dog for you

Are you looking for a dog that loves adventure or a quiet companion who will while away the days with you? 

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Once you are happy with where you are getting your puppy from, and the health of the litter, it is time for the fun part – choosing which of the pups is going to be a part of your family! This is a huge decision; don’t forget, many dogs can live well into their teens, and the oldest ever dog got to thirty years old!

You’ll want to spend at least an hour observing and interacting with the puppies – this will give the pups time to get used to you, and you’ll get more chance to see all the aspects of their behaviour and interactions. 

Here are some things to keep an eye out for:

  • Let the puppies come to you rather than picking up the puppies or approaching them. That way you can see how interested they are in you, and who is the bravest!
  • Inquisitive puppies are good. Shy puppies may seem cute, but if they are afraid of human interactions this can be a sign of poor social skills which they will likely take into adulthood.
  • Confident pups may be the ones that come up first and seem to ‘choose you’, but be aware that these more brash puppies may be quite dominating, and can be willful and harder to train. 
  • Ideal puppies are those that sit in the middle of the pack – not the first to rush in, but not cowering under a table either. 
  • If you think you have identified the puppy for you, ask to spend some time with them away from the rest of the litter. This can give you some idea of how they will cope with being away from their family.

Puppy vs Adult Dog

When you have made the big decision to bring a new dog into your home, one of the first decisions to make is if you want to get a new puppy, or if you would consider rehoming an adult dog.  Puppies are lovely, but can be very draining. For some households, an adult dog can be an easier addition, and don’t forget – it gives a homeless dog a second chance to be part of a loving family.  

What if I want a pedigree dog?

Many of the dogs that come into shelters are pedigree, and there are also breed-specific rescue charities. Breeders may also look to rehome adult dogs that are later in their life, or they may have slightly older puppies returned to them from other homes. 

Older dogs tend to have a better established personality. This means that, although training and your own home routine will be able to make a difference to an adult dog's behaviours, their personality is already firm and you can be more sure about who you are bringing home. This is especially true when the dog’s history is known. Puppies are still learning about themselves and the world around them at eight weeks old, and their personality is often not fully developed. Depending on what you want this may be a problem or not; for many, watching their pup’s personality grow and being a part of that process is an important part of the experience. 

Training is also often easier with an adult dog – they may already know basic commands, and this can make moving into their new home and routine more simple. 

Some adult dogs, however, especially those that have been in kennels for a while, are very nervous or have behaviour issues, may need re-training or even specialist help so you shouldn’t expect all rescue dogs to come as the perfect fully-trained package. 

  • There will be unknowns. An adult dog, especially one with no prior history, can be a mystery. This means there may be situations or triggers that they struggle with that you won’t know about ahead of time. 
  • Change can be difficult. While puppies are open to new experiences while they are in their socialisation period, adult dogs are much more fixed in their ways. This can make big changes, like a new home, difficult for them and you may see some challenging behaviours. 
  • Honesty is the best policy. Knowing what you can offer a dog, and being honest about that with the rescue centre, organisation or prior owner is really important. If they say that a dog needs more than you can give them, it’s best to listen, else you could find yourself in a sticky situation further down the line. 
  • Current members of the household. If you already have a dog, you may find they will take better to a puppy or an adult dog, depending on their personality and stage of life. Puppies may be less threatening to an established dog, but could be too much for an elderly dog to handle!
  • Happiness. Nothing beats the happiness of a rescue dog in their new, safe and loving home – don’t underestimate the value of being able to give a rescue dog a second chance.

Pedigree vs Mixed Breed

A huge part of your considerations as a potential dog owner will be the choice of breed/breed mix of your dog and there are advantages and disadvantages of both pedigree and mixed breed dogs. 

Pedigree Dogs

Pedigree dogs, while all individuals, have a reasonable likelihood of developing the personality traits associated with their breed, for example, Labradors are likely to be good with people. Purchasing a pedigree puppy also allows you a little more certainty regarding personality, as you should always be able to view the parents of the puppies on offer and puppies, like people, are likely to take after their parents. That being said, where personality is concerned, there are never any guarantees. 

Cost is also an important consideration. Pedigree dogs are expensive with many puppies selling for over a thousand pounds each. Partly this can be due to scarcity, if there are only a few breeders, but cost can also be driven by popularity and trends, which can be backed by advertising or celebrities. Especially in breeds with rapidly increasing popularity back-yard breeders often spring up, eager to make quick money off the back of rising demand. This can mean poor breeding, an increase in health problems, and a higher risk of getting a very poorly dog for your large sum of money.  The higher risk of inherited disease in pedigree dogs also means they are generally more expensive to insure, as they have larger vet bills on average compared to mixed breed dogs. 

If you do want to buy a pedigree dog, it is important to know what to look out for. Firstly, although the Kennel Club is a reputable institution, don’t read too deeply into a puppy being ‘Kennel Club Registered’. This only means that the puppy is certified as being the breed that the breeder is claiming that they are, and is no reflection on their health. So long as a puppy is born from two Kennel Club registered parents they can have this title. The Kennel Club however is working to improve breed standards, and to help make choosing a pedigree dog easier they have a list of Assured Breeders, which is a good place to start for improved peace of mind when picking a pedigree pup. There’s more information on finding a breeder here on this page. 

Mixed Breed Dogs

Mixed breed dogs are exactly that – a melting pot of genetics. This gives them some great advantages, especially in the disease stakes, as mixed breeds tend to have fewer inherited medical conditions. This mix of breeds, however, makes it a little less set what you will be getting. The personality traits of multiple breeds are buried in there, and it can be impossible to predict what traits will come out on top! That said, many of the traits are a little less extreme than in pedigree dogs, so you can find you get a nice mix. 

Cost is also a consideration. Fees for mixed breed dogs are generally much cheaper than for pedigree dogs, and this is worth considering, although it should be noted that there will still be all the costs associated with a new dog, which includes vaccinations, flea and worm treatments and neutering, if these haven’t already been done. The reduced risk of inherited diseases however does mean you may be less likely to find yourself shelling out for long term conditions later in their life.  Because of this reduced disease risk, it can be cheaper to insure mixed breed dogs too – cheaper and healthier are two very good reasons to consider getting a non-pedigree pet!

Personality

Are you looking for a dog that loves adventure and will trek across hill and dale? Or a quiet companion who will pop out for some fresh air and then while away the days with you? 

Dogs come in all shapes and size, and all personalities too! While on average smaller dogs need less exercise and space, and larger dogs need more of both of these, there are exceptions in both cases. Dogs can also have all manner of traits, from irrepressible cheerfulness, to protective instincts, aloofness, stubbornness and eagerness to please. That means that so long as you have enough time, and are comfortable with the financial responsibility, there’s a dog for you. 

If you aren’t sure which breed of dog would suit you, the Kennel Club website can be a great place to start. 

Once you’ve considered the type of dog that might fit best into your lifestyle, this handy guide can help you made decisions on if you want a puppy or an adult, look at where you might get your new dog from, and provide help on asking the right questions. 

Where should I get my new dog from?


If you do decide you definitely want a puppy, the next consideration is where you might get your puppy from. While your mind might immediately think of breeders, don’t forget that rescue centres can also have litters in, or may take in dogs that are pregnant, although the numbers of puppies in rescue centres is much lower than adult dogs and puppies tend to get snapped up fast. 

If you like the idea of rescuing a puppy, it may be worth contacting your local shelters. Even if they don’t currently have any puppies in, they may have a waiting list you can be put on, or be able to make a note to contact you if any puppies arrive. They may also have a young dog that matches your needs – a visit can’t hurt!

Read more about where to get your dog or puppy from

Checking your potential puppy's health


Although all puppies should have a vet check-up before you bring them home, you can also have a check over of your potential puppy to make sure you can’t spot any warning signs of being unhealthy:

  • Puppies should be plump, but not have a pot belly as this can indicate that they have worms. 
  • Have a look around their bellybutton area. If there is a swelling here, it could be an umbilical hernia. 
  • Puppies should be responsive to sudden noises like claps and whistles – if they don’t respond at all, this could indicate hearing problems. White dogs and Dalmatians are prone to deafness, so it is especially important to check in these dogs.  
  • Eyes should be bright and fully open, not clouded, red or mucky and with no squinting. 
  • Ears should be clean and not visibly red, sore or itchy. 
  • Puppies should not be itching, or have sore or bald spots on their skin. There should be no evidence of fleas.

Enjoy!

Wherever you get your new dog from, it should be an enjoyable experience. Bringing a new family member home is a fantastic moment and something to treasure, be that a baby bundle of fluff, or a fully gown dog just raring to go!

And don’t forget to get your newest family member registered at your local Vets4Pets!

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