If you’re thinking about welcoming a dog into your life, there’s lots of things to consider. Justine Williams from Our Family Dog, a website for first-time dog owners, talks us through the process.
Which breed or type of dog is right for you?
The first thing to think about is which breed or type of dog is right for your lifestyle. If you had a family dog as a child there’s a good chance that this may be your breed of choice as an adult. However, it’s important to stop and think about whether your lifestyle suits that breed. How big is your house, do you have a garden, how much exercise do you enjoy and do they need?
If you’re interested in a cross breed, such as a Cockapoo or Labradoodle, it’s important to research both breeds, eg. a Cocker Spaniel and a Poodle, to make sure that your lifestyle matches the needs of the breed. The Kennel Club’s Breeds A-Z is a helpful resource for this.
Where to get a dog from?
There are various options depending on whether you want to get a puppy or an adult dog:
Getting a puppy
You might decide to buy a puppy, but beware - it’s very easy to be scammed. Thanks to a new law - called Lucy’s Law - which came into force in England in April 2020 - there has been a clamp down on the unscrupulous trade in puppies, where puppies bred and raised in poor conditions in the UK and abroad would be sold to their unsuspecting new families, only to become very sick or die shortly after purchase. Other people have been scammed after paying for a puppy, only to find that there was no puppy at all. They have been left broken-hearted and out of pocket. Here’s some tips on how to buy a puppy safely:
Do your research to find a litter of puppies that have been bred and raised in a family home - rather than in a barn or outbuilding. A puppy that has been bred in a family home will be much more suited to life as a family pet. You can phone and ask questions about where the puppies have been bred and raised before you visit.
Arrange to visit a litter of puppies when they are 4-6 weeks old, rather than ready to go. This will stop a puppy seller from trying to convince you to buy a puppy from them there and then - it's very hard to walk away from a cute puppy! It will also give you lots of time to properly meet the puppies, get a sense of how they interact with you, the breeder, their mother and siblings, and ask lots of questions before you decide to buy.
Only pay for a puppy once you have seen it with its mother in the place where it was born. If you are asked to put down a deposit, make sure it is refundable.
Use the Puppy Contract when buying a puppy. It is a legally binding contract between you and the seller.
An alternative to buying a puppy from a breeder is to get one from a rescue centre. Many rescue centres have puppies as well as adult dogs looking for homes.
To learn more about how to get a puppy and prepare for life with a dog sign up for Our Family Dog’s free Getting a Puppy e-learning course.
Getting an adult dog
There are two ways to get an adult dog. The first is to rehome a rescue dog; the second is to buy from someone privately.
Rehoming a rescue dog
There are plenty of dogs in rescue centres looking for new homes. Often they have been given up by their previous owners or removed from their owners because they weren’t being looked after properly. If you decide to adopt a dog, start your search online to find a match.. A helpful resource is Rescue Review, which you can use to research and review rescue organisations before you contact them.
In most cases you will need to apply to adopt a dog and have a home visit. This is to make sure that you and your chosen dog are right for each other.
If you are looking for a specific breed of dog, try one of the breed societies. The Kennel Club has a database of breed rescue societies where you could start your search. If you are looking for a cross-breed, you could try The Cockapoo Club of GB or the Doodle Trust.
A growing number of people have chosen to adopt a dog from abroad. These tend to be street dogs from countries with high stray dog populations such as Greece, Romania or Spain. Although rescuing a dog from abroad may feel like a worthy cause, street dogs can often find it hard to adjust to living in a family home, so think carefully about whether you have the time and experience to take on a dog like this.
Private dog rehoming
Some people advertise on classified websites to find a new home for their dog. If you decide to get a dog this way make sure you ask lots of questions about why they are rehoming their dog. You should also get as much information as possible about the dog’s temperament and behaviour to help you decide if they are right for you. Spend time meeting and getting to know the dog before you make a final decision and don’t forget to consider your own safety when visiting the home of someone you don’t know.
Preparing for the arrival of your new dog
Whether you decide to get a puppy or an adult dog, you will need to take some off to help them settle in. Even if you work from home, your new arrival will need lots of attention. Here’s some other things that you will need to think about and do:
Find and register with a local vet. It’s important that your puppy or dog stays up to date with their vaccinations and has regular health checks so you should find a vet and book an appointment for a few days after they come home with you, or as advised by a rescue centre. Don’t forget about pet insurance to cover any unexpected costs in the event of your dog being seriously ill, injured or in need of surgery.
Research local dog trainers. Training is an important part of your dog’s development and should become part of your daily routine. If you get a puppy, then booking them into puppy school is a really good idea - the classes will cover basic dog training such as sit and stay, come when called and walking on a lead. If you get an adult dog, training classes can be a useful way to bond under the careful eye of a professional dog trainer. Dog training is unregulated in the UK, which means that anyone can call themselves a dog trainer. Look for a trainer who is approved by the Animal Behaviour and Training Council, which has been established to improve the standards in the UK.
Stock up at the shops. There’s lots of things you’ll need to buy for your dog, including bowls, beds, collar and ID tag, harness, leads, food, treats and toys. It’s a good idea to do a big food shop for yourself too - you may not find it so easy to pop to the shops in the early weeks with your new dog.
These dog identification tags from Pawesome Pet Tags do not chip or fade over time. They are suitable for both puppies and adult dogs. For information on what information to include on your dogs tag, read this article.
Prepare yourself. Sharing your life with a dog is really rewarding, but it’s also hard work. This can come as a surprise to first-time dog owners when they discover they are missing their weekend lie-ins or are struggling with toilet training a puppy. The good news is that it will get easier, with time and patience, as you settle in and adjust to life with your new dog.
For more tips and advice on getting a dog, visit Our Family Dog.