Dog for life
How do you choose the right dog? All puppies are cute, cuddly and irresistible and so are the softest-sell in the world. Go for a casual look-see and you’ll be putting down a deposit before you know it. So be selective, do some homework and only visit a litter of the right breed. The same applies if it’s a rescued dog. So what’s the right breed for you?
Most people start with thinking of the breed of dog they would like to own. Good idea as they are fairly predictable thanks to centuries of selective breeding to produce groups of very similar individuals that when bred together, produce equally similar offspring. In general, this applies well to physical characteristics but less so for behaviour, which can be less predictable.
So let’s start with the physical. How big is your home and garden? Town or country? It might seem obvious but big, hyperactive dogs are unhappy in small urban homes and toy breeds cannot run tens of miles cross-country (in general). So first decision, how big, how active? That depends on your domestic situation and time/space to exercise. Working Spaniels and Collies need hours per day but sight-hounds (Whippets, Greyhounds and Lurchers) are sprinters. Easier in some ways but they will chase anything that runs. And they will not stop for fences, hedges roads or railways. So be warned.
If you go small, terrier breeds are well-named as they are often very territorial. Protect your postman. They do have big personalities though and love the sofa especially if that means the humans are pushed off on to the floor. Terrier temperaments are split 50/50 into psychopaths and pacifists and the best guide you have comes from the parents. Like all breeds, try to see both the mother and the father although this is often tricky with professionally-bred dogs as the stud dog may well be some distance from the bitch’s home.
Middle-sized dogs have recently become much more popular with cross-breeds such as Cocker Spaniel x Poodle (Cockerpoo). The first generation of this cross is fairly predictable but if two Cockerpoos produce puppies, the second generation is much more variable and may look more like the grand-parents than the parents. If puppies from this generation are selected for breeding and then their offspring in turn, in three more generations the physical characteristics become more stable and predictable. Clearly, to accurately predict what your puppy will grow into you need to know its family history.
As for behaviour, my advice for puppy selection is choose the friendly (but not over-friendly) quieter one. Not the puppy that cowers in the corner or refuses to be cuddled and neither the puppy that throws itself into your face. The younger your children the quieter the puppy should be as kids and pups wind each other up often with tears as a result. Young children must learn to treat puppies with respect and allow them time to rest and to be left alone. Of all the lessons a young dog needs to learn, the most important one is human attention and affection must be earned by being obedient. The best way to achieve this is by ignoring your dog a proportion of the time so that when attention is given, it’s a real treat.
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