Canine Behaviourist & Trainer
Deciding what kind of puppy or rescue dog to get is as important as deciding whether to get a dog at all. So many people make the mistake of choosing the wrong breed or the wrong breed mix. Each breed of dog has it’s own genetic makeup; and this of course affects the personality, looks, activity requirements and temperament. So many dogs end up in rescue each year and often it is because it was the wrong dog for ‘that’ family/household. To make sure you chose the right puppy or dog, you need to do some serious research in order to understand just what is in that intelligent mind and underneath that coat.
So, here are the things you need to consider before even choosing what pup or rescue you want.
First though…the legal bit!
The law says that you must be 16 or over to buy or own any animal. So…if that child of yours insists on having a puppy or a dog, then you are responsible for the care and well being of him/her.
The Animal Welfare Act 2006 introduced something called the “duty of care”. This means that there are responsibilities that have to be provided by law to keep your dog healthy and happy. So what are these basic welfare needs?
Whether you are planning to home in an outside kennel or keep in the house, your dog will need his or her own space, a space where s/he can feel secure and be comfortable, out of the way of the elements in a dry, quiet, draught-free area.
The dog will need to be exercised regularly. The amount of exercise a dog needs will depend on its age, breed and health; of which I will discuss in the next chapter.
A well-balanced healthy puppy/dog needs plenty of mental stimulation to be happy. We have to provide a substitute for those natural genetic drives. Trust me…we do… otherwise they not only go stir crazy themselves…but send us around the bend too.
Care when you’re away from home
Dogs shouldn’t routinely be left alone for more than four hours. Well raised and mentally healthy dogs can be left for longer at times but boredom can soon kick in which results in barking and destructive behaviours. If you go on holiday without your dog, you will need to arrange for care to be provided by someone responsible enough to care for your dog. If you work, then arrangements for a dog walker/carer to take over in the day will be needed.
Good feeding = good health = less vet bills. It really is that simple. Food and water has to be provided daily but it is the quality and not the quantity that keeps our dogs fit and healthy. This will be covered in detail in another blog.
Socialisation and Training
If you are thinking of buying a puppy, it is imperative to socialise him/her while still very young. The socialisation process starts in the nest with mum and siblings…you will need to continue this, especially up to the age of 16 weeks, which is known as the classically conditioning age. This means that everything that is learnt by the pup at this time stays with them for life and they need to meet and greet lots of different kinds of people and other dogs.
Your dog will need to be trained to the level of what is acceptable behaviours for you and your family, there are various methods but the best and most effective are those using rewards such as treats and praise…but…you will also need to learn how to train your dog this way. This will also be covered in following chapters.
Collar and identification tag
Unless you have a working dog, the law says your dog will need to wear a collar and identification tag when in a public place. The tag has to have Your Name and Address on it…anything else, like the dog’s name etc is up to you. There are other methods of identification; such as microchips and tattoos but the collar and tag is the legal bit.
The need to be protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease
This is the expensive bit and it will be covered in some detail in following chapters…but unless you are prepared to pay or insure against what can be large veterinary bills, or qualify for one of the charity schemes, then a dog is not for you. You will need to learn basic first aid for dogs and health skills, how to monitor and do regular quick hand on checks, how to nurse a sick dog, when to take to the vet. How to groom, or if a furry breed, to find a groomer to do the job for you. The list is endless and can be very costly.
So…you still want that pup or rescue to enhance your life and become a best friend and loving companion?
The next chapter will look at ‘what is in a dog’…what makes collies herd, gundogs retrieve, terriers disappear down rabbit holes and huskies run…All puppies are cute and cuddly and adorable…but they grow, all rescues tear at our heart strings…but they usually come with baggage. Choosing that lifetime companion wisely, with knowledge and fore-thought, will not only give you the best dog for you and your family but will also mean she/he will be with you for his/her life and hopefully not end up as one of those rescues.