Choosing a Dog

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Keeping a dog as a pet is a joy – it will give companionship, amusement and the incentive to take regular exercise, as well as becoming the focus for a family’s affections. But ownership also means responsibilities for many years ahead: so ask yourself first what you can commit. Have you time to exercise a dog daily? Are you aware of the long-term costs of dog food, vet care, and kennels, for example?

A Pedigree or a Cross-bred?

Pedigree breeds come with documentation from the Kennel Club, and there is also plenty of information about their size, feeding, and exercise requirements, as well as their temperament. Pedigrees tend to be more expensive than cross-bred dogs, both in terms of their initial cost and veterinary requirements. When purchasing a pedigree, contact a recognized breeder (either through the Kennel Club, or enquire at the practice), but avoid petshop puppies, as sadly, these are all too frequently bred at puppy farms. Where ever a pedigree dog is purchased from, check that it has a certificate of lineage and is fully registered with the Kennel Club.

If you are not set on a particular breed, or wish to avoid the inevitable work of rearing a young puppy, then perhaps a cross-bred dog is for you! There are many local rescue centres, such as Foal Farm and Last Chance, which rescue dogs and re-home them to new owners. Most of these dogs are young, but no longer puppies. The randomness of their breeding means they are less likely to inherit diseases and disabilities than pure-breeds, and as such, tend to be less expensive to purchase and in the long term.

When choosing a rescue dog, take your time, and avoid going home with the first pair of big brown eyes that you see! Try to spend as much time as you can with the dog, and ensure that it meets all members of the household into which it may be moving, including other dogs. Rescue centre staff may be able to tell you something of the dog’s history – including any potential problems. Make sure that you have some idea of the dog’s age also, to avoid ending up with something the size of a Great Dane, when you thought that you had chosen a fully grown terrier!

Male or Female?

Choosing between a male ‘dog’, or a female ‘bitch’ can be difficult. Here are some points to consider:

  • Bitches tend to be more biddable, and on the whole, an easier first dog;
  • Bitches go “on heat” twice a year, and this demands either extra vigilance to avoid unwanted pregnancies, or neutering;
  • Aggression is generally more of a problem in male dogs;
  • Un-neutered males may wander in search of bitches, and can also be a nuisance if hypersexed!
  • If you already own a dog, we recommend that a new dog should be of the opposite sex. Generally, a dog and a bitch will live very happily together, whereas two dogs, or two bitches, will need to establish a hierarchy. It is a frequently overlooked fact, that two bitches will ‘fight to the death’ more commonly than two males, although thankfully, an uncommon occurrence.

What size of dog?

Generally the larger the dog, the more exercise it will require. There are however, some notable exceptions: a greyhound will be content with a twenty minute lead walk once a day, whereas some tiny terriers will go for hours!

Another important consideration, when choosing what size of dog you would like, is its veterinary fees. As routine flea and worming products as well as medications are dispensed by weight of dog, the bill for a 50kg Rottweiler will be about ten times that of a 5kg terrier!!

What type of coat?

Coat type is an important consideration when choosing a dog. Some breeds’ coats require daily grooming, with others bathing can be a chore, as can keeping moulting hair off furniture.

Long and silky – long-coated dogs, like the Afghan Hound, need daily combing and a regular trim.
Smooth Coat – smooth, short-haired coats are the easiest to maintain with weekly brushing, as with the Dachshunds.
Curly Coat – Non-shedding, curly coats, such as that of the Kerry Blue Terrier, must be clipped every two months.
Wiry Coat – The stiff, dense hair of an Airedale Terrier requires regular hand-stripping or clipping.

If you would like to find out more about a particular breed, feel free to contact the surgery, where we will do our best to put you in touch with a local breeder or owner of the breed in which you are interested.

Whatever age, sex, breed or size of dog you chose, we will be only too delighted to meet your new friend, so bring them into the practice as soon as is convenient, and we will give them a full veterinary check-up, free of charge!

Further Information

Further details about choosing a dog may be found in some of the publications mentioned below. Useful contact numbers of dog rescue centres, may be found in ‘Further Information for dog owners’, at the end of this section.

  • ‘Dogs Today’ is a monthly magazine, available from larger newsagents. It contains regular features about choosing a dog, and also has a back catalogue of breed factsheets available for a small charge. Back issues of this magazine can usually be found in the practice waiting room.
  • Many books have been published comparing the different breeds of dog. These provide a great source of information, for making an informed decision when choosing your pet. A good variety of books are available through the Biggin Hill Library, Church Road, Tel. No: 01959 574468.