Anyone who knows me will tell you that I’m a caninetrovert, I prefer the company of dogs over that of humans most of the time. I have such an infinity with dogs that I have literally started to make them my life. I passed my Canine Behaviourist Diploma with distinction at the start of this year and I’m working away as best I can between projects, children, housework, illness and mental health to add Pet Bereavement Support Counsellor, Canine Nutritionist, Pet Therapy Assistant Dog Handler, Canine First Aider and updating my previous Veterinary Assistant experience that I gained before illnesses took me down a different path with doing a new qualification.
I believe so much in the power of dogs, not only in a professional manner but speaking from experience from the 3 wonderful boys I’ve had the great pleasure of having as my doggy companions in life so far; Dylan my childhood saviour who was a beautiful tri-colour Rough Collie, Vader, a black Labrador and my doggy soulmate, who was my light in dark times and who saved me and my human boys many times and my current fluff-ball Wade Wilson who has definitely become my healer dog after the passing of Vader and who has given me a brand new experience of not only Labradors but of being a chosen Doggy Human. Dogs can bring a plethora of positives to your life but you need to be prepared for the logical aspects too.
Here are some facts that lead me to think that writing this blog was good idea:
There is an estimated 8.5 million dogs in the UK, with 24% of households owning one or more dogs.
There are a staggering 130,000 dogs in UK Rehoming charities alone each year.
Devastatingly, behaviour issues are the most common problem for dogs under 2 to be euthanised.
Research shows that 45% of dog owners leave their dog/s alone every day in the UK with 28% leaving them for over 4 hoursa day.
Worringly 13% of owners say their dog has separation anxiety with almost 85% of dogs being anxious when left alone.
49% of dog owners say that their dog shows behavioural signs of fear when they hear loud noises.
One of the most worrying is that 1/5th of 14,500 owners surveyed said that their dog showed some signs of aggression (barking, lunging or growling) when on a walk.
Puppy Farming is still a huge concern, with stats showing an increase of reports almost five-fold in the last decade. The SSPCA received an increase to their helpline by 31% during 2017-2018 for illegal puppy farming reports alone.
Always take care of your dog; Even if your world falls apart, he will still be there for you
There are a lot of things to consider when thinking about bringing a dog into your life. I am going to list a few of the main things that should be taken into consideration before you decide whether it is right for you.
Different breeds of dog have different needs. A Pug, for example, won’t need as much stimulation or exercise as a Collie; however, all breeds need some level of stimulus and exercise. Consider carefully what breed you get: think about size, the home you live in and (a key factor) what the breed was originally bred for. A Labrador always wants to retrieve and needs this stimulus in its daily routine, for example, or some dogs may be more vocal than others. Make sure the breed matches your needs as well as matching the dog’s needs to your abilities.
Dogs need training! So many people think that a dog comes with the knowledge they need to be a well-rounded and adjusted member of your family, but that’s not the case: they require the same effort and one-to-one time as children do to excel and develop. The first seventeen weeks of a dog’s life are a crucial period in their development and it is in this period that they are most susceptible to developing habits that can cause problems later in their lives. Can you commit the energy and time to ensure your dog can have the training and play time it needs?
As with children, pets can cause added expenses. Food, pet insurance, vet plans, training for dogs, worming and flea treatments and all the beds, bowls, toys etc. they will need, and dog need injections as puppies and boosters each year. You need to consider this and do research, especially when it comes to insurance: it can be an expense every month that you may not ever need to use, but when it comes to vet bills for X-rays, MRI, water rehabilitation, even medicine for epilepsy or thyroid problems etc., insurance could really be helpful. Is it all in your budget?
Neutering. Whether it is a dog or a bitch, it is important to think about neutering/spaying. Certain hormonal behavioural problems can occur, as well as some medical problems, without neutering. The success rate of a change of unhelpful hormonal driven behaviour in dogs by neutering is 50-90% (depending on if the behaviour is hormone driven). Spaying for dogs is a more invasive procedure, therefore the cost will be higher, and the cost can vary with size of breed also. The last thing you want to deal with as a general dog owner is puppies and all the stress that comes along with that.
If you are thinking about adding a dog to your life, please consider adoption or rehoming: there are so many wonderful dogs who deserve a second chance at a forever home. Dogs Trust alone rescues 15,000 dogs a year in its 21 rehoming shelters in the UK. There are so many wonderful rehoming charities who strive to make sure that thorough assessments are made for both owners and the dogs and they do such a wonderful job keeping up with the dogs and their care while they look for forever homes.
If you are thinking about going down the route of buying from a breeder, please do your research! There are so many people who don’t have any knowledge of breeding and make their dogs breeding machines just for the money. This is not only dangerous for the Mother’s but also for the puppies that are being bred. These kind of breeders won’t be taking into consideration genetics for health or temperament issues and the quality of life for these puppies may be a lot more difficult. Most reputable breeders won’t be advertising their litters online and in apps, they usually have waiting lists via their own websites and contact details. A good breeder will be as curious about you and your home life as you are about them. If you do choose to buy a puppy from a breeder here are some of my top tips for making sure you are getting from a reputable breeder:
Search the breeder of the breed you are looking for online in your area. In the UK, Kennel Cluband Champdogs are a great source for reputable breeders who are registered and proven to breed quality puppies. You can also contact them directly through these sites. Once you have certain breeders information make sure to search this online and make sure they don’t have multiple adverts online for the puppies. No reputable breeder would do this.
When looking to buy from a breeder there are 2 main things to focus on; Physical Health and Behavioural Health. One of the things you trust and pay a breeder for is their effort to minimise that chance your puppy will end up with genetic problems. A reputable breeder will have Hip score information for example for the dogs, especially important in German Shepherds and Labradors. The puppies will also be bred carefully for good temperament also.
Ask Questions. Ask about vaccinations, ask about veterinary checks and tests carried out before you get the puppy, ask about previous litters, ask about their experience. A reputable breeder won’t be offended and will be expectant of these kinds of questions. This also shows the breeder you are being responsible and not taking a dog on on a whim.
Make sure you visit the puppies in the place it is being bred and reared. Most reputable breeders will allow you to visit more than once, some may not have the timescale to do this and that doesn’t mean they are unreliable. I visited my breeder for Wade twice, once for a booked appointment and I got to observe all the puppies and get to know the breeder and decided whether it was right for me. The 2nd time I visited was when I decided which boy I wanted as it has to be natural, the breeder can’t just pick one for you. While you are visiting make sure the Mum is still interacting with the puppies too.
NEVER be pressured into buying a puppy. Any reputable breeder will not pressure you into buying one of their litters as they will have other people who are interested and they want their puppies to go to the right people. NEVER put down a deposit online for a puppy and certainly not if you have never seen the puppy. Most breeders won’t ask you for a deposit until you have seen the puppies and decide they are right for you, however, if the breeder doesn’t feel you are right for their puppies they won’t allow you to put down a deposit.
Make sure you fill out a puppy contract. All reputable breeders will have their own version of a contract and paperwork in the handover process when you get the puppy. Never accept a puppy before8 weeks of age. Puppies need to be with their litter and mother until at least this age as this is when they learn about bite inhibition as well as when weaning is completely finished. 8-12 weeks old is the optimal age for introducing a puppy to it’s new family and separating it from it’s mother and litter.
Once you have decided you are definitely getting a dog or puppy please make sure you are ready to introduce your dog or puppy into its new home and surroundings. A rescue dog will need more adjusting time than a puppy, sometimes up to a month before it feels confident enough to interact and explore its surrounds fully. Do have patience with them in this process and don’t give up. These dogs may have been through a lot previously. Make sure you research dog training classes throughly for both rescue dogs and puppies and consider, especially for rescue dogs, if 1-2-1 sessions would be a better place to begin in rehabilitating any behaviours that need attention. In terms of both rescue dog or puppy make sure they have a safe place to go to, their own space where they can just be. Crates are a good source for this and can be used for training also but please do not think about using a crate as holding place for the dog while you are not in the house in the long term. Puppy pens are a great investment for your puppy as it gives them their own space to explore and play but also allows them to gain knowledge of their new surroundings, the ways the house hold operates and the noises that can be found to be different from where they came from.
There is a lot of information to consider in this decision but take it from me, if you follow these guidelines and do it all properly you will have years of unconditional love and happy memories from the only souls on earth that love you more than they love themselves. Once you form a bond with a dog and open up your soul, heart and life to them, you can never be without one.