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Thinking of Getting A Dog?

Now’s the time to think of its welfare!

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Autumn and Spring are times when potential dog owners think about introducing a dog into their home and it is decisions that are made now that can make or break the future of this relationship. Lack of research prior to taking on a dog is one of the commonest reasons why dogs end up the unwanted list. 

First the prospective dog owner needs to establish the breed that is most suited to his or her lifestyle.  Even when going for a mongrel, the mutt will still retain certain traits of the breeds with which it has been mixed!

Choosing a dog is not unlike choosing partner from a human dating agency!  No one in their right mind would make a lifetime commitment to someone picked from photograph without finding out about their personality, their likes and dislikes, or whether they had anything in common at all.  It would be a recipe for disaster, and it is exactly the same with a dog.

The ideal preparation is to meet the favoured breed of dog or dogs and to speak to the owners and breeders who are familiar with its characteristics.  The perfect opportunity to do this is at the Kennel Club’s ‘Discover Dogs’ which is held this year at Earls Court on the 14th and 15th November.  A slightly more pared down version is held at Crufts’ in March.  Even if one cannot make these events, it is always a better to get to know a breed by visiting an accredited breeder and getting advice. 

Characteristics that should be taken into account include:

Size of Dog:  Where you live will have a lot of influence on this decision.  Do you live in a house or flat, town or country? Do you have a garden?  Would you be able to lift the dog if it became ill?  Do you have small children or elderly dependents that might get knocked over? Do you want to travel the dog in your car?

Original function:  Historically dogs were bred for a particular purpose and it was only the very wealthy that kept dogs as companions.  Hunting and working dogs are high energy creatures that need plenty to occupy their minds.  Guarding breeds can become possessive of their owners and require a lot of training.  Terriers are feisty and energetic and extremely good at tunnelling, and as most people are aware, many of the bull breeds were used for fighting and animal baiting.  The more placid creatures favoured as companions by the Victorians are dogs such as pugs and King Charles spaniels. 

Characteristics:  These can be closely aligned to original function but occasionally there are surprises.  Sight hounds such as whippets, greyhounds, salukis, lurchers etc.  are aptly named because they can spot the slightest movement from afar.  They tend to be used for racing and hunting and many people believe they must need heaps of exercise, but the word ‘sprinter’ is the clue, a mad 5 minute dash will definitely be on the cards but rest assured, the remains of the day will be spent deep within the duvet!  Don’t be fooled by the size of the dog either.  The Pekingese, much favoured by the Emperors of
China, were known as ‘little lion dogs’ and were used to guard the temples!  And of course, there is the Staffordshire Bull terrier, that contrary to its bad press, can be the ideal dog for families with children.

Under the ‘characteristic’ category one should take into account genetic disease.  This is something that the Kennel Club is trying to address, nonetheless, it does exist and it is worth researching.  Bear in mind that some breeds are more expensive to insure because of their propensity to disease.

How much experience do you need? Some breeds of dog need more commitment to training than others and although the result of hard work can result in a stunning companion, it is better to leave these characters to those that are more experienced or to those who are prepared to put in time and effort and are not afraid to ask for professional help.  Highly intelligent working breeds such as the German shepherd and Border collie need careful training to name but two!

Grooming:  The country of origin has a lot of influence on the type of coat a dog has. The Saluki originates from North African and has a thin light coat.  By the same token, the Alaskan Malamute has a dense coat.  Other breeds such as poodles and Yorkshire terriers shed less hair and are suitable for people with allergies but will need to visit the grooming parlour regularly.  Long haired breeds and dogs with thick coats tend to require more grooming than the short-haired, smooth-coated breeds.  Naturally in certain climates some breeds will feel the heat or cold more than others, all of which needs to be taken into account.

Cost:  This is a subject that has been touched upon in other categories but, if like most people these days, one is counting the pennies, it is worth noting that some dogs are much more expensive to keep than others.  Mongrel dogs are often the cheapest to insure but even that can vary if the insurers consider the dog to be a third party risk.  Cost of maintenance should be taken into consideration such as veterinary costs, food intake, grooming, kennelling, dog sitting, dog walking and whether the dog will need accessories such as a coat in cold, wet weather.

Having decided on the type of dog, the next question is where to get it, a rescue shelter or a breeder? 

Naturally there are many unwanted dogs including pedigrees that desperately need homes.  A successful adoption can be extremely rewarding and by taking on a rescue dog, another dog will get a new chance of life.  However rescuing is not necessarily the easy option and a re-homed dog often requires as much work as the young puppy direct from a reputable breeder. 

Whichever route one decides to take is a matter of personal choice but in either case, there are still golden rules that should be followed:

Rescue Kennels and Pounds:

Not all rescue centres are the benevolent organisations they make themselves out to be and some are in the business purely for money. Be suspicious if:

a) You are allowed to wander around the centre and pick whichever dog you please. 
b) You are not home-checked – a representative should visit you in your home and assess your suitability to own a dog.
c) The centre does not insist on neutering.
d) You are not given some background information on the dog
e) If you already have a dog, they do not insist the two dogs meeting before leaving.
f) There is no lengthy adoption agreement.
g) If there is no agreement that, should the adoption not work out, the dog should be returned to the centre and not sold or given away to a third party.
h) There are pedigree papers for pedigree dogs.
i) There are no vaccination records.
j) You are not allowed to visit the dog more than once.

Do remember that all good rescue charities will ask for a minimum donation.  Running a rescue centre is a costly business.

Puppy Farms Do Exist And Must Not Be Encouraged!

It is surprising how many people turn a blind eye to puppy farms or simply do not believe they exist. Other folk live in the belief that they have rescued a dog from a fate worse than death and that this very act has turned them into a saviour or a saint.  It has not.  It has simply encouraged these wretched people in their ghastly trade and, more than likely, will cause the purchaser a great deal of pain. 

What is a puppy farm?

Puppy farms are run by people who do not give a thought to the welfare of the dogs they handle.  They are literally farms where dogs are churned out to make money.  There is often more than one breed on sale from these places.  The conditions tend to be filthy and overcrowded and the breeding bitches have far more litters than is good for them.   

Young puppies may be brought in from other farms, long before they are weaned, and, if they survive the journey, are placed with bitches that already have large litters of their own leaving both mother and pups desperately under-nourished. 

The bitches or puppies are rarely wormed correctly, if at all, leaving the puppies at serious risk of dying from intestinal blockages after they have been sold.  Many litters contract disease such as parvovirus through lack of vaccination and hygiene.  The result is death.   More often than not, the puppies suffer congenital disease because of the breeders’ total lack of regard for health or genetics.

There is not one word that can possibly redeem this horrific practice.

How to avoid encouraging puppy farms.

a) Never buy from a pet shop
b) Never buy from the internet
c) Be suspicious if someone tells you they are selling for a friend
d) Be suspicious if there is no paperwork or health records
e) Check the cleanliness and hygiene of the area in which the animals are kept.
f) Be suspicious if multiple breeds are being sold from the same place.
g) Be suspicious if the ‘breeders’ do not insist the puppy is returned if things don’t work out.


Golden Rules for buying a dog:

a) Go to an Kennel Club assured breeder or an accredited breeder
b) Ask to see both parents of the puppy
c) You should be allowed to see all the puppies together and to handle them
d) The area where they are living should be clean.
e) If the puppies are advertised as Kennel Club registered, you must take receipt of the Kennel Club Registration Certificate (be aware of fakes!).  Be suspicious if you are asked for a large sum of money for paperwork – KC registration costs £15!
f) A good breeder will have started socialising the puppies, they will be used to being handled and accustomed to domestic noises.
g) Be aware of inherited conditions and check to see if the parents have had the proper health checks; i.e. hip scoring, blood testing, cardiac testing and eye testing
h) A good breeder will provide a puppy pack with written advice on training, feeding, worming, flea treatments and vaccination.
i) A good breeder will insist that the puppy is returned to them if the new home does not work out.
j) If you are at all unsure, take someone with experience with you!

Naturally we know that London Dog Forum readers are responsible owners but if you know someone who is thinking of getting a dog that is less experienced, please pass this advice on.


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