Owning a dog can be incredibly rewarding, but the decision to become a dog owner is, or certainly should be, a big one.
Anyone wanting to get a dog must ask themselves a number of critical questions before they do anything else, including:
- Am I ready for a dog and do I want one for the right reasons?
- Have I done the proper research into which breed is right for me?
- Do I know what to look for in a responsible breeder?
- Do I have the time and patience to train, socialize and care for a dog for the rest of its life?
More and more people are choosing to make a dog a part of their life (there are currently around 8.5 million dogs in the UK), so it is more important than ever that people are getting them for the right reasons, choosing the right dog for their lifestyle and going to a reputable breeder. Research carried out by the Kennel Club in recent years has found that people often do not get dogs for the right reasons but instead decide on introducing man’s best friend to their life because a celebrity owns one or because they have seen a specific breed on social media and liked how it looks.
Furthermore, Kennel Club research has found that half of pups (49 per cent) bought online, without being seen first, fall ill – further showing why it is so important to do things properly, and source a puppy from the right place, even if this takes slightly more time. It will be worth it in the end.
Am I ready for a dog and do I want one for the right reasons?
Before getting a dog it is important that people are aware of, and prepared to commit to, the time, money and effort it takes to properly care for one. Dogs require training, socialisation, daily exercise, mental stimulation, visits to the vet and a lot of attention generally. This takes up a lot of time and anyone considering owning a dog should be prepared to commit to it for the duration of its life, which is generally around 10 years but can be much longer.
Time – training and socialising a dog can take up to a few hours a day in the early stages of its life and is an ongoing process through its whole life, so anyone not willing to give up this time should reconsider bringing a dog into their life.
Exercise and socialisation – depending on breed dogs can require up to around two hours of exercise every day. Letting a dog out into the garden is not sufficient and anyone thinking of getting a dog must be able to commit to walking their dog and giving them good exercise every day for the rest of its life – even in the wind, rain and snow.
Training and socialisation – puppies in particular need a great deal of training and socialisation to ensure they become functioning members of society. It takes a lot of time, effort and patience to train and socialise a dog, but it is well worth it, so anyone wishing to own a dog must be able to provide that.
Cost – owning a dog can cost around £25 a week after the initial purchase or adoption cost. Prospective owners need to consider whether or not they can afford things such as food, insurance, veterinary bills and training club costs for the rest of a dog’s life. Just like children, dogs are not cheap and will rely on their owner to take care of them financially.
Before getting a dog people should ask themselves why it is they want one. If the answer is because it is fashionable, because specific breeds look good, a favourite celebrity owns one, a certain dog has been used in advertising campaigns or any other similar reason, the Kennel Club would recommend reconsidering getting one. The only real reasons people should be getting a dog is because they love dogs and know they can offer a loving permanent home to a dog that fits their lifestyle.
Which breed is right for me?
There are 220 breeds of dog in the UK, and plenty more crossbreeds of all shapes and sizes, and each one is going to be different, so it is crucial for anyone thinking of getting a dog to find out which breed would fit best into their life. From the Labrador Retriever, Cocker Spaniel and Staffordshire Terrier to the lesser known Irish Water Spaniel, Otterhound and Kerry Blue Terrier, there isa breed for everyone – it just takes some research to find the right one.
Each breed has originally been developed to do a certain job – and what that job is will give some very clear ideas of what they are going to be like to live with. For example, if they have been bred to work all day, they are going to be very active (no matter what their size), whereas there are others who have been bred purely as companions and so are less demanding. Others have been bred to hunt, or chase, or dig, and they are also going to need outlets for these behaviours – and if they are not given them, can become bored, depressed and develop behaviour problems.
The Kennel Club has a breed information centre on its website which describes every breed – what they are like, what their care requirements are and which type of home they are suited to, which can be a valuable source of information for anyone thinking about getting a dog.
Where should I get a dog from?
The best advice the Kennel Club can give is to go to a Kennel Club Assured Breeder. They are inspected and monitored by the Kennel Club, which is accredited by the United Kingdom Accreditation Service to certify breeders and must adhere to best practice when it comes to dog breeding. In addition to their breeding premises being physically inspected, Assured Breeders must meet a certain set of standards such as carrying out all the relevant breed-specific health testing, socialising their pups, offering after sale care and much more.
Responsible breeders will be doing everything in their power to breed and rear healthy happy puppies from health tested parents with good temperaments.
There are a list of Assured Breeders, including those that currently have litters of puppies, on the Kennel Club website. Each breed also has one or more breed clubs dedicated to them, and these clubs offer a wealth of information and guidance for anyone interest in getting a specific breed. The Kennel Club website offers a Find a Club tool which can be used to find these clubs.
For those who have chosen a breed and are looking for a puppy, the Kennel Club’s Find a Puppy online service is a good place to start. Not only does this service provide a list of puppies in different areas, it also shows any accolades the breeder has been awarded (and whether they have been inspected by the Kennel Club).
It isn’t just important that the puppies are physically healthy however. For a puppy to grow up to be a well-adjusted, healthy, happy dog that is less likely to grow up to have behaviour or training problems, he needs to have a good start in life.
Kennel Club tips for puppy buyers
There are a number of simple tips puppy buyers can follow in order to ensure they are doing all they can to get a healthy, happy pup:
- Always go to a reliable and reputable Kennel Club Assured Breeder.
- Ask to see the puppy’s mother.
- See the puppy in its breeding environment and ask to look at the kennelling conditions if they were not raised within the breeder’s house. If you suspect the conditions are not right, then do not buy the puppy. If the environment is dirty, overcrowded and feels ‘wrong’ do not buy the pup, no matter how tempting it may be to ‘save’ it – you will just be making room for another.
- Check that the pup seems to be in good health. Puppies should look visibly healthy – bright and clear eyes, clean ears and nose free from discharge, clean and glossy coat and generally bright and active.
- Ask to see the relevant health test certificates for the puppy’s parents
- Be prepared to be put on a waiting list – a healthy puppy is well-worth waiting for.
- Ask the breeder lots of questions and expect them to ask a lot back – the more questions you ask the better prepared you will be to make a decision. Responsible breeders will always ask lots of questions as they will want to make sure they are selling a puppy to a good home.
- Ask if you can return the puppy if things don’t work out. Responsible and reputable breeders will always say yes.
- Be suspicious of a breeder selling more than one (maximum two) breeds, unless you are sure of their credentials.
- Consider alternatives to buying a puppy like getting a rescue dog or pup.
- Buy a puppy from a pet shop or any other third party.
- Pick your puppy up from a ‘neutral location’ such as a car park or motorway service station.
- Buy over the internet or from a newspaper ad without seeing the puppy and its mother in its breeding environment first
- Buy a puppy because you feel like you’re rescuing it. You’ll only be making space available for another poorly pup to fill.
- Buy from a breeder that doesn’t ask any questions about your suitability for dog ownership
- Buy a puppy that is under eight weeks of age
- Buy a puppy because it is advertised as ‘rare’ or ‘unique’ in any way – this is often a tactic used by puppy farmers to charge more for a puppy.
- Buy a dog simply because of the way it looks, because the breed is considered fashionable or because it is often used in advertising or on social media.
The Kennel Club is the UK’s largest organisation dedicated to dog health and welfare. It offers as wealth of information and advice on dog health, training and care, how to buy a puppy responsibly, finding the right breeder, as well as useful information on the 220 breeds of pedigree dog recognised in the UK. www.thekennelclub.org.uk