Owning a dog can be such a joy but it is a 15 year commitment. Dogs punctuate our lives. “Friday” the staffie when you were ten years old was a different experience from “Chardy” the bull terrier in your twenties. We love them all but you need to choose wisely. Deciding on the right dog for you and your family is a very important decision as they will be your companion for up to 15 years.
Puppies are available from breeders, pet shops and private families or very occasionally from welfare organisations. You can choose a puppy based on breed characteristics however not every dog is the same. Starting out with a healthy puppy with a settled temperament is a great bonus. Come into Pittwater Animal Hospital for a free new puppy check as soon as possible to have a thorough examination and learn from our experienced veterinarians how to care for your new family member.
Adult dogs can also come from breeders, but more often from welfare. Some of the best pets are rescue dogs however you must be aware many dogs find their way into welfare because they have difficult behaviour. Separation anxiety can be a big problem with rescue dogs as is inter-dog aggression.
One dog or two?
It really depends
One Happy Dog:
This dog is a big part of the family. You take them everywhere and they are often the favourite child. It is important to concentrate on doing the best by your single pet. Make sure their their teeth are kept healthy, they have yearly check ups and are insured as a puppy.
Think about this carefully. Two puppies can keep each other company but also rev each other up. It is more difficult to take 2 puppies out and they can bond more to each other than the family. That said, we see some fantastic sibling pairs.
The old dog trains the new dog:
Once your trusted companion starts to age, (from 7 plus), think about a puppy that they can help you train. It can be such an interesting experience seeing your older dog step up and they are often very keen to have the newcomer trained just right. It also makes it easier to realise your older dog is ageing faster than you are which can be hard to accept.
Company for an unhappy dog:
Often people will get a companion for a dog who is suffering from separation anxiety or has a barking problem. This is sometimes helpful…..but not always. Barking can be contagious so the new dog may become part of the chorus. Often separation anxiety is to do with people and a dog companion does not help.
What Type of Dog?
Smaller dogs may be better for small spaces like apartments, but some small dogs (such as Jack Russell Terriers) can be very active. There are large lounge lizards like Irish Wolfhounds (and Greyhounds), that can settle very well in a small area and only require short walks.
When living close to other people it is good to have a dog that is less likely to bark or cry. As large dogs get older they can have mobility issues and may find it difficult if you have a lot of stairs to your property or slippery floors. If you have problems with mobility yourself, you might also need to reconsider having a very large dog.
Coat type is really important. The current trend to Poodles, Cavoodles, Spoodles and Moodles is mainly because they shed less hair, (and they are fun to be with), but they do need to be regularly groomed. Well-groomed “oodles” will be on a program of top-up grooming every 6 weeks. For a less well-groomed dog a full clip 4 times a year will usually keep them in good condition.
Short haired dogs are not necessarily easier maintenance as although they may not need regular clips, they will often shed more and more every year. Impressive shedders are Labradors, Pugs and Beagles, but this can vary between dogs. Some Foxies and Jack Russells shed a huge amount of hair. Shedding can be lessened in short haired dogs by clipping their coats very short twice a year.
Dogs vary from individual to individual in their temperaments. Dogs who are easy company are confident but settled and calm. Puppies may arrive nervous or anxious, as they have just had a major change of environment. However, if it lasts more than a few days then this may be their underlying temperament which can be worked with to some degree by careful management. Getting advice early on how to best manage your new pet’s temperament can be incredibly helpful. Our vets and puppy trainer can be a great help to the new puppy owner.
Working dogs and terriers can have really high activity levels, which makes them lots of fun, but if you don’t give them a job they will often invent their own, like tearing up the backyard!!
It is best to think carefully about how much time you have to exercise and stimulate a working dog before they become a member of your family.
Quiet lap dogs are fabulous for elderly people but also for quieter families. Cavalier King Charles Spaniels and Schnauzers can be great quiet lap dogs and generally have a gentle temperament.
Dogs do however vary between individuals, so watch out you might just get the wild one!!