Given that a healthy, well-cared-for dog can live for 15 years, it’s important that you choose a breed carefully.
The first thing to consider is your existing lifestyle, and what type of dog will suit it best. If you have children or grandchildren (or plan to have them in the future) then you need to go for a breed that tolerates children. Labrador Retrievers are one of the most popular breeds of dog, largely because they enjoy a reputation as a good family pet and get very attached to their owners. Of course, this means that they can develop separation anxiety if there is no one with them for large chunks of the day, resulting in destructive behavior. If the house is empty throughout the working day, a Labrador is not an appropriate breed.
It’s also important to think about the role that you expect a dog to fill in your family life. For example, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is an ideal choice as a companion dog. However, if you want a dog that would alert you if someone was breaking into your house, that breed would be more likely to befriend the intruder than sound the alarm. Some dogs thrive on activities and being busy, others aren’t as active and would prefer a more sedentary lifestyle.
Another big consideration is how much time you have available to commit to a dog. In order to properly evaluate this you need to consider the needs of yourself and your chosen breed. For example, a false assumption that many first-time owners make is that, the bigger a dog is, the more exercise they need. This does not necessarily follow: Greyhounds only need a small amount of exercise compared to a physically smaller Jack Russell Terrier.
An awareness of a dog’s training needs – the intelligent and eager-to-please Labrador requires comparatively less work than more challenging or less intelligent animals – is also useful, while you should also find out about grooming dogs. Don’t forget to also consider issues such as the cost of dog ownership, registration, and legal requirements. Avoid taking on a dog with higher needs than you can meet – it won’t benefit either you or the animal.
Choosing the right dog is a case of balancing priorities, making educated predictions about the future, and doing your research. All that time will be worth it, though, for a pet that your family will cherish.
Trained dogs are a joy to own and repay the time and effort made by their owners many times over. You should start teaching your puppy as soon as he joins your household and this is covered in the section Basic Training.
All dogs need exercise. The amount depends upon the breed and size. The dog that is properly fed and given a good walk or run every day will keep him, and probably you, in good shape and help to avoid the problems associated with putting on too much weight. It has been observed by both medical and veterinary experts that fat dogs often have overweight owners! There is nothing like taking the dog out for a walk for keeping yourself trim – mentally as well as physically.
Your puppy must first be introduced to his collar and lead. This is essential equipment for keeping him under control in public places. Never let a dog out to run loose. Do not let him off the lead near farm animals.
Train your dog to go to the toilet at home in your garden or in an area where you can clear it up afterwards. When out exercising him in urban areas do not let him foul public footpaths or children’s play areas. In an emergency the use of a clean up device is desirable.
A good house dog doesn’t bark at everyone and everything. He can tell who should be about, such as the postman, and who should not. Some nervous dogs are difficult to quieten, but if you give your dog companionship and affection from puppy hood and develop the right relationship with you as ‘pack leader’, it is unlikely that he will become noisy.
Dogs need companionship, preferably yours for as much of the day as you can manage. If you have to leave your dog alone regularly for short periods it might be better to have two dogs to keep each other company.
If your dog enjoys chasing, then teach him to chase and retrieve a ball. It is important that he learns not to chase cars, bicycles or other animals.
Dog ownership is subject to more laws than you think. Every dog while in a public place must wear a collar bearing the name and address of its owner. Click here to view the legislation.
The owner of a dog which causes an accident or does serious damage is liable, so it is wise to have him insured with Allianz both for veterinary fees and third party risks. Some household policies already cover owners against risks arising from their animals. Check whether yours does.
If you plan to put your dog in kennels whilst you are on holiday, book early, and try to visit the establishment in advance. Reputable boarding kennels will only take dogs if vaccination certificates are up to date.
It is an offence under the Abandonment of Animals Act for an owner to abandon an animal, whether permanently or not, in circumstances likely to cause suffering, so never go away and leave any of your pet animals without proper care.
If at any time you plan to take an animal abroad discuss this with your veterinary surgeon. Under current legislation, it is a serious offence to bring any animal into Ireland without making the necessary arrangements in advance. View the Pet Travel Legislation to find out more.