Pet Cover Direct

Caring for a dog

Why have a dog?

Dogs are one of the most popular types of pet. Many breeds of dogs love to play and entertain us with their antics, making them popular with families. Many dogs can also be trained to perform tricks and to take part in a range of dog sports including agility, obedience, flyball and much more. Keen runners often find certain breeds of dogs with speed and stamina make great running partners. Dogs can be a loyal guardian for your home - deterring strangers and intruders with a warning bark. Having a dog can also be a gateway to a healthier and more sociable lifestyle as you will exercise - and make new friends with other dog walkers - while you exercise your pet outdoors.

Proper care

Caring for a dog is not THAT dissimilar from caring for a child. Dogs need a great deal of time, love, affection and attention from you. You also need to ensure that you instill the correct amount of discipline from the very start so that your dog grows up understanding the family's rules and does not become a nuisance to his owners, their neighbours or the public at large. Dogs need to be socialised with other dogs and people. It is important to remember that dogs are ‘pack’ animals. This means that they will see your family as their ‘pack’, and within this ‘pack’ they look for a hierarchy. Your dog needs to understand that you are the leader of the pack and that there are appropriate boundaries when it comes to protecting his pack.

Pack leader

You need to make your dog aware that you are the ‘pack leader’. This is important for discipline as if this rule is unclear you are at risk of your dog taking over and being disobedient and potentially a danger. If you have children you also need to teach them safe behaviour around a dog. The majority of dogs are good around children - but they can feel threatened if they are teased and provoked and may snap in self-defence. Many dogs are also protective of their food and may snap if a child playfully tries to take the bowl away while a dog is eating. No dog should ever be left alone with a young child - as even the gentlest dog could hurt a baby or infant unintentionally. You must also remember that dogs aren't humans and therefore you can’t apply the same rules to them. They will not understand human logic and reason.

Pedigree or mongrel?

Another choice you need to consider when buying a dog is the type of dog that you want. There are a vast range of pedigree breeds and also many mongrels or crossbreeds. Many people see pedigree dogs as the more attractive option - but they also cost a lot more to buy and are more prone to health issues, some of them genetic and breed-specific. This can obviously mean that more trips to the vets will be needed. Crossbreeds are more hardy and generally suffer less health issues and can live longer. 

Exercise

The amount of exercise a dog will need will vary from breed to breed. Larger dogs generally need more exercise, but greyhounds - for example - although they enjoy a short burst of running, have little stamina and are content with a couple of short-ish walks a day.

Another expense that comes with dog ownership is food - which for a larger breed of dog can be a considerable amount every week. They will also need food and water bowls, clean bedding that is regularly washed, a collar and lead, brushes for grooming and toys. There are also the regular and essential expenses of vet check-ups, annual vaccinations, flea and worming treatments. Some dogs sleep in a crate or need a crate for travelling in the car. If you are going to holiday without your dog you will need to pay fees for a boarding kennel or possibly pay a dog sitter.

Life span

A dog’s life span varies from breed to breed. Generally, smaller breeds live longer than larger breeds. Think about the years of commitment that lie ahead before you commit to buying a puppy. That dog could be your responsibility for 15 years or more.

Puppy or dog?

Taking on an adult dog means that they may already be house-trained and may be used to family life. But if you are adopting an adult dog - from a rescue charity or from a friend or neighbour - try and find out what you can about the dog's background. Some dogs may have been surrendered because thier owners have died. Others may have been ill-treated and therefore may have issues that will require time and patience to overcome. Dogs are extremely loyal creatures and taking on an adult dog means that they may have separation anxiety and be confused for a while by their new family and their new home. However, it can be hugely rewarding to take on an adult dog and win his or her trust and see them settle in to your family and enjoy their second chance at happiness.

Taking on a puppy always means hard work in getting the puppy house-trained and socialised and teaching it obedience and basic commands. Puppies should not be left for long periods and require a lot of time, patience and firm, consistent handling. They may cry at night when they are first separated from their mum, brothers and sisters and it may take time to persuade them not to chew possessions and to learn the rules of the house. If you are buying a puppy, make sure you buy from a reputable breeder. Always ensure you can see the puppy with its mother and siblings. Be suspicious of anyone selling a puppy through an advertisement who wants you to collect their puppy from a neutral venue like a motorway service station. They may suggest this is for YOUR convenience, but it is more likely to be because this puppy has been bred at an intensive 'puppy farm' unit. Experience shows that these puppies are more likely to have physical and mental issues and their mothers are often bred intensively until they are no longer profitable and then discarded. A reputable breeder will want to vet you and not just hand over a puppy to the first person who pays the asking price.

Where to buy

Less pet shops now sell dogs. the ones that do may well be from puppy farms. Be on your guard.

The Kennel Club is a good source of information on reputable breeders. Their website and mobile phone app has lots of useful advice about choosing a puppy from a safe and healthy background. Sometimes you may find puppies for sale locally. If you can see the pups with their mum it's always a good sign as you can see if they are well-cared for and not being bred for pure profit.

There are many rescue organisations that always have dogs and puppies available for re-homing. Some of these dogs may have been surrendered because their family's circumstances changed. Some families find they are unable to afford to keep their pet, or they may to give it up if they have to move into rented accommodation or emigrate. There are specific rescue and re-homing organisations for virtually every breed of pedigree dog, so if it is your ambition to own a dog of a particular breed you may find a good match waiting for a second chance with one of these organisations.