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Things to consider before getting a dog

Far too many dogs end up in rescue when children come on the scene because their owners didn’t consider their future plans. Not all breeds are child friendly, so if the patter of tiny feet might be included in your future try to choose a dog breed which is known to get on with kids.

In terms of pedigrees, gundogs and some of the companion breeds are generally child friendly. If you are getting a rescue dog, then the chances are it won’t be a puppy, so try to choose a dog who is known to have lived with and been good with children. Although, it is often hard to find a rescue dog who is good with children because the original owners probably made mistakes and that is why they subsequently had to give them up.

If you already have children then you need to seriously consider their ages. Under fives and dogs (of any age, shape or size) need careful supervision. Once you have chosen a good breed or type of dog who is likely to be able to get on with children you need to be realistic again. Dogs, on the whole, will not get on with children unless they are socialised with them to help prevent a fearful reaction. If a dog doesn’t like or fears children this doesn’t mean he is a bad dog — he is behaving as dogs do when they haven’t been desensitised to things. To avoid this problem, choose a puppy whose breeder has reared him in a home with children and then continue his socialisation at home.

Do your homework

‘No time lost that is spent in reconnaissance’ says the military, so step back in time to before your puppy came home. Ideally, choose your pup with its adult self in mind, and be upfront about what you do and don’t want.

Different breeds have different characteristics, both physical and mental. If you are tactile, keep away from aloof breeds; if you like your personal space, don’t get a busy type; and only take on a working breed if you are prepared to give it the vast amount of exercise and stimulation it needs. If smarty-pants people annoy you, don’t get one of the super-clever breeds; and if you expect a hair-trigger response to anything you say, keep away from those types that consider deeply what you have said before deciding whether to comply.

Would mud, lots of hair, or slobber be your idea of hell to live with; can you commit to a coat that needs professional grooming; would a vocal dog drive you nuts? Would your noisy household stress out a sensitive breed? Should the parents be tested for health issues, and what test results are acceptable? This reminds me of someone who advertised her puppies as hip tested, which they were, but the hip scores were horrendous. None of her buyers ever asked to see them. Well reared is half trained. If you take time to source your puppy from a good breeder, which might mean going on a waiting list, you will be streets ahead in your puppy management. Good breeders plan their litters, so may not have anything available when you first contact them.

They will grill you about your lifestyle and expectations, because they want a good home as much as you want a good puppy. Responsible breeders will not allow you to take two puppies together (a sure recipe for disaster) or have a runt who is cheaper than the others (good litters don’t have runts).

Good breeders won’t supply you with a puppy who has serious health issues. Most will have house training well under way, taken puppies for a few rides in the car, started a regular worming programme with a proper veterinary wormer, and will have all the paperwork that you need. They will insist that if you have to part with the puppy, he comes back to them.  

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