So you have decided you want a dog. Which breed do you get? Do you adopt or buy? Do you choose an adult or a puppy? Long or short coated? Large or small?
Choose the right dog and they become part of the family. Choose the wrong one and the consequences can be disastrous for you, and lethal for the dog.
Having a dog has been shown to alleviate anxiety, depression and loneliness. A dog can help children grow up with increased feelings of security and confidence, and on average, dog owners get more exercise than gym membership owners! But what if your fur friend comes with issues of his own? What if his needs don’t match your ability to care for him? If the issues of the dog become too much to cope with, this is when pets are abandoned, surrendered, or euthanized. Many of these situations can be avoided simply by knowing what is involved in owning a dog, and then knowing which dog is likely to be most suitable for your lifestyle. Each fur friend has their own personality, so not all variables can be accounted for. However, you can go a long way to improving the likelihood of a happy relationship if you know what you’re choosing.
When deciding on which dog you want to join your tribe, breed choice is more than just what the dog looks like. Health, size, exercise requirements, intelligence and training requirements, previous history, coat/fur type, friendliness with other dogs, and child-friendliness should all be considered.
Below is a guide for making the best decision when it comes to getting a new companion for you and your family.
The cheapest part of owning a dog is usually the purchase price. Dogs are not like cars; the more you pay for them, generally, the more problems they come with! Many of our beautiful fur friends have inherited conditions from generations of breeding, which can cause significant medical problems. For example, many Staffordshire bull terrier dogs have inherited allergic skin disease. This requires life-long management and multiple vet trips (and bills).
To keep your dog and family healthy, dogs require preventative health care, including intestinal worming, heartworm prevention, vaccination, dental treatment, nail trims, and grooming. This is before any of those heart-wrenching, unexpected things happen that make a trip to the vet necessary. Insurance for pet health care costs comes highly recommended from the veterinary industry. Not because we can do unnecessary testing or charge more, simply because it means we can do our job properly and completely, and take care of your pet in the way you would want to be taken care of by the human medical profession. Remember, there is no Medicare for pets.
The average lifespan of a dog is about 10-12 years, depending on breed. However, they can live much longer than that. If you are living in rented accommodation, bear in mind when moving that it is much more difficult to secure a rental property if you own a pet. The type of property that you live in is very important also in governing which breed will be most suitable. For example, getting a German Shepherd or a Mastiff, if you live in an apartment with no back yard, is not recommended as these breeds generally need more room.
The amount of exercise a dog needs will vary with breed. Working dog breeds, like Kelpies and Border Collies, need a lot of exercise and can become very depressed and develop bad habits through boredom. If you have access to acreage, or if you have a very active, dog-inclusive lifestyle, then these lively and intelligent breeds will suit you. If you live in a unit, work long hours or are unable to exercise your new dog for a minimum of an hour daily, then these guys may be the wrong fit. They get very stressed and become difficult to manage, as they have too much energy to spare. This can lead to frustration and can undermine the bond between pet and owner, as when you come home at night tired from a long day at work, all your Kelpie wants to do is run around and interact as they have been at home and bored since you left.
What does size mean to the everyday care of a dog? Costs are a big consideration. Having a large breed dog means that all of your costs will be much higher. Feeding, worming, flea and tick prevention, and accessories are all a lot more expensive. Then there are the vet bills! An average course of antibiotics for a Miniature Poodle will cost around $35. For a Mastiff you’ll be paying $300 for the same medication! Then there’s the practicality of having a large versus small dog. Do you have the physical space? And lastly, do you have experience training large breed dogs? A little nip from a Chihuahua is not to be sniffed at but a “little nip” from a Rottweiler is a completely different story, and can result in restrictions on your dog, or even euthanasia.
Child and dog friendliness:
Some breeds are friendly with children but not other dogs. Some are friendly with dogs but not children. Others love everyone, and still others love no one! However, each dog is an individual and will respond as such, and any dog in pain is going to be less friendly to everyone. Learn your dog’s cues as almost all dogs will give signs prior to aggression if you are encroaching on their boundaries, BUT you and your family need to know what those signs are.
The importance of early education and training (of both your new pup AND the whole family!) cannot be over-estimated, and is vital to ensuring your dog fits right in. The leading cause of euthanasia and surrender in NSW is behavioural problems. Getting a head start on training your pet begins with a good quality puppy pre-school but does not end there. There are many reputable training groups that cater for dogs as they get older, and cement the bond between you and your pet.
To summarize everything above, do your homework. There is more to dog ownership than playing with a cute puppy on the weekends, and more to a dog than what it looks like. But when it goes right, the bond between dog and owner can be profoundly life changing, for the better. If you have any questions about any of this, just ask your vet.
Albion Park Veterinary Hospital 02 4256 3638
Gerringong Veterinary Clinic 02 4234 1317