The biggest mistakes people make when buying a puppy
“Right dog, wrong home”
During my time working in the relinquishment team for a dog charity this phrase was said a lot. A perfectly normal dog can be extremely difficult to live with if they are just not suited to your environment. Let’s take a look at some common pitfalls when selecting your new dog:
- Choosing your childhood dog: now there are loads of positives to doing this – you know the breed well and want to recreate the happy memories you had as a child. However, you need to sure that your lifestyle now is going to be the right fit. You may have memories of your childhood spaniel sprawled out on the sofa but may be forgetting that your dad was home all day and he was out with the dog several hours in the countryside. Be realistic of what you can offer a dog now and pick the breed that is going to be the best fit now
- Getting a dog for the lifestyle you want: the idea of going out hiking and running with your four-legged companion, getting loads of fresh air and losing weight may feel like your passport to a great new you but unfortunately for the majority of people, they slip back into old habits quickly. If you are currently spending most of your time indoors, chances are getting a dog will encourage you to get out more, but it won’t turn you into the next Mo Farah. Many behaviour problems come from dogs being in the wrong environments. They get frustrated and unable to cope which manifest as unwanted behaviours. Living with a frustrated dog is extremely difficult and it’s a big reason why many end up in rescues
- Weekend warrior: you’ve run a marathon, you’ve done a triathlon, you regularly go out training at weekends and need your equivalent canine athlete…Well, that’s ok but what happens the other days during the week when you’re working long hours in the office? Often people underestimate breeds. Whilst I wouldn’t advise breeds with known breathing difficulties if you’re wanting to do lots of exercise, there are plenty of breeds that would be more than capable of keeping up with you on a run. My first dog as an adult was a Cavalier King Charlies Spaniel. I chose the breed as I was working in London and needed a bomb proof lap dog that could travel around with me, come into the office and be adaptable to my lifestyle. He also trained for two London marathons and the Marathon des Sables with me. He certainly could run up a sand dune quicker than me in training! My point being people seem to believe if they are active, they need an active or working breed. Take into account your whole week and don’t underestimate what amazing athletes so many breeds actually are
- Looks: do people pick dogs that look like them? My cavalier is a argumentative ginger so maybe…You will find that some breeds just melt your heart and that’s ok. It’s good to pick a dog that you feel an affinity with, just make sure it isn’t your only reason for choosing. Personality is what counts and there is a massive array of personalities in the dog world. Particular breeds will have certain traits more pronounced than others. Specific breeds have been historically bred for different attributes and so understanding what they were bred to do will give you real insight into what they will be more likely to enjoy doing. Within breeds there can often be big variances. For example, working cockers are bred to flush out game. They are busy, intelligent and enjoy doing things at 100 mph. My working cocker Cash is exactly this and needs a lot of extra ‘work’ such as competing in flyball and agility to keep him fulfilled. There are some working cockers that are more laid back and happy with an hour’s romp around a field. Be aware of the differences even within breeds. The best way to predict their temperament is going to be looking at mum and dad’s personalities so make sure you see them and ask a lot of questions to the breeder
Some of the fundamentals to think about are:
- What is your dog’s lifestyle going to be like?
- How much exercise are you going to be happy giving?
- How much time are you happy to spend training (some dogs are happy with minimal on-going training once you have the basics, however, for some breeds they need to be learning every day)?
- What personality traits do you love and what would drive you nuts? Do you want a dog that is affectionate, that follows you around the house all day?
- What size? Bigger doesn’t mean more active or more work. Logistically, do you need to take the dog places where you need to pick it up? Do you have space at home to cater for XXL dog crates and enough room for a dog to comfortably move about?
- Health considerations. Do not overlook these. Whilst it is always a lottery, certain breeds do come with considerably higher chances of developing medical problems. Can you afford a series of medical bills? Be aware insurance varies a lot between breeds. My Cavalier costs four times the monthly amount to insure versus my working cockers.
- Food, insurance, vet bills (that aren’t covered by your insurance such as vaccinations, check-ups, treatments), grooming, toys, training…the list is long. Make sure you go into it with your eyes open. Some breeds will cost more than others. They may need to eat more. They may need more training and hobbies. They may need a professional groom every month. They may be pre-disposed to skin conditions and cost you a small fortune in treatments. Do your due diligence.
- Who will the dog be living with? First off, human family…some breeds and personalities are better suited to family life than others. A busy household is ideal for one dog but another dog’s nightmare so think about the dynamics in your home now and over the next 10+ years. Second, animal family…you have a responsibility to your current pets. Does your 14 year old dog really want a puppy bothering it during its twilight years? For some, they might and introducing a new dog could bring out the inner puppy in him again. For others, it could be extremely stressful and unfair on both of the dogs. Understand the types of dogs your current dog enjoys spending time with and the types they actively avoid. Very different dogs can get on successfully, but you need to be very aware that there may be a lot more management needed to keep both happy. You may need space to separate if necessary and you need to be aware of different exercise requirements. A puppy won’t be able to join adult dogs on long walks whilst they are young. A young active dog will need more than an older dog. Consider other animals too. Whilst good training can do wonders, getting dogs living with other species happily, such as cats can take time. It will be easier with certain breeds and personality types than others. For example, certain breeds with very high prey drive, a lot of training and careful management is needed – be prepared.
When researching different breeds there are some good websites to visit to get a good idea about general breed traits:
However, take these as a very general overview. Often these lists don’t take into account different types of a breed. For example, a cocker spaniel from working lines will have different exercise and training requirements to a cocker spaniel from show lines. Generic lists will often group these together which can be dangerous for new owners that are unaware!
Join Facebook groups for the breeds you are interested in. The groups will be full of owners posting about their dogs. You will quickly start seeing common threads in these groups and may open your eyes to what new owners are most struggling with so you can go into your decision prepared.
Another top tip is to go to breed specific rescue websites. Take a look at the profiles of dogs looking for new homes. There will be common themes coming through as to why these dogs are getting re-homed. Previous owners underestimated energy levels, there may be themes of certain behavioural traits such as resource guarding or excessive barking. This will give you a good idea as to the common difficulties owners run into with specific breeds.
Spend time with the breed you are thinking about getting. Strike up conversations with dog owners (if they start looking a bit concerned, with the amount of dog theft it is understandable, so don’t be offended if people are wary about chatting to strangers about their dogs…sad times). Visit friends with dogs. Ask to pop into local puppy classes and observe. Volunteer doing some dog walking with your local rescue centre. The more hands on experience the better.
Book some time with a local trainer. Most will be happy to go through different breed requirements and chat you through how best to prepare for your puppy’s arrival. An hour consultation charge could save you hours of research and navigating a lot of bad advice given by unqualified people on the internet. Not to mention the money saved buying things for your puppy that you won’t end up using. Utilise a professional who can give you all the inside tips. It will definitely save you money in the long run.
Herb Pet provide pre-puppy parent advice available via zoom call. Our dog training and dog behaviour consultations are available in person locally. Areas covered: Barnby Moor, Ranskill, Blyth, Bawtry, Newark, Retford, Worksop, Chesterfield, Sheffield, Lincoln, Nottingham. Further afield available by request (additional travel charges apply)