Pet ownership is a part of life that brings a lot of joy, mixed with occasional concerns and a huge range of learning experiences. It’s easy enough to enjoy meeting a friend’s pet, buy gifts for a neighbour’s pooch, or follow one of the many social media accounts dedicated to dog pictures, but when you get a dog of your own there will be no shortage of moments when you sit and look at your pet and wonder what exactly they are doing – and then search online for an explanation, learning something you never knew in the process.
The difference between idyllically daydreaming about a dog you might get, and actually owning one, can be a culture shock. If you are actively considering becoming a dog owner, there are some things you will need to learn before you bring one home. The better-informed you can be, the better the experience will be both for yourself and for the canine who eventually becomes the newest member of your family. This all starts with picking the right dog for your lifestyle, and below we will look at a few questions which will help you make the right choice.
I can’t be around all the time. Is this a problem?
All dogs experience a certain amount of separation anxiety – much like people do in their early days – but there are definitely levels of seriousness. If you work outside the house and the dog will be left alone there, then it rules some dogs out completely. A husky or malamute, for example, needs not only a lot of companionship but huge amounts of exercise. Left to their own devices they can become distressed and even destructive. Your best bet in this situation will usually be a greyhound or French bulldog; they won’t love it when you leave, but they’ll get used to it and be more affectionate when you are around.
I already have a cat – are they going to get along?
There are so many cliches about cats and dogs, and their perceived unsuitedness, which is a huge surprise given that so many households are home to at least one of each. Cats and dogs can get along perfectly well, and even become firm friends, but there is no doubt that some breeds are more at home with a feline pal than others. Golden retrievers can be very comfortable around their purring, sleepy counterparts – and if you introduce them at the right time, they’ll end up playing together happily. Larger working dogs are less likely to see a cat as a friend, so give wolfhounds and sheepdogs a miss if you have a cat already.
I like long walks in deep countryside. Which dogs will be up for this?
This is where a husky or a malamute is the perfect pet. These dogs are bred for long, tiring walks through terrain that presents a challenge. Their ancestors pulled sleds across Alaska and other snowy corners of the world, so don’t worry about either of the above breeds, or a samoyed, being able to take on the walking trips you love. Depending on how tough the terrain is, you might also be surprised by how happy a poodle is with long walks and open water. In truth, most dog breeds we know of today were largely bred with working and exertion in mind, so you might find yourself struggling to keep up with them.
I’m worried about my neighbors complaining if the dog barks a lot…
Before we say anything else, a quick PSA: dogs who bark, bay or howl are not necessarily being mistreated, and anyone who assumes this is deeply misguided. Some dogs scream aloud for the sheer enjoyment of it among other reasons, and none of those dogs should be on your list if you have neighbors who are put out by noise. There are many quiet breeds who will fit the bill much better for you. Perhaps a Wheaten terrier, who will stay quiet while you’re out and greet you by jumping all over you when you return? Or a Scottish deerhound: they’re quiet, dignified and (at 3’ tall to their shoulder) also huge.
I’ve heard some breeds are a little … less intelligent. Which ones are those?
In truth, most dogs are as intelligent as any other, they all just suffer here and there from reputational cliche. It’s more about the work you put in training them – if you take the time, most dogs are trainable to a high level, and as the information here points out, there is little to choose between different types of the same breed (such as a labrador) in terms of intelligence. All in all, don’t get hung up on the potential intelligence of a dog; it doesn’t much impact behavior, and you’re getting them as a pet, not a potential CEO for your business.
What do different breeds of dogs eat?
Dogs are, for the most part, very unfussy eaters and will tuck into most of what is put in front of them, as well as some things that aren’t put anywhere near them. In the latter case, this tends to result in them making a big mess and then looking very ashamed. There are many different theories on how to best ensure a dog gets the nutrients they require.
Some people insist on a raw food diet for their dogs, but not only does this get expensive and time-consuming; it’s also very difficult to get the right nutritional balance. Ready-made dog food, however, isn’t always more balanced – it requires a lot of research, so be prepared to read up a lot when you first get a dog. The one thing we can say with 99% certainty is: the bigger the dog, the more it will eat – which may be worth factoring into any decision.
As long as you bear in mind a few ground rules, and recognize that there are certain environments that work well for certain dogs, you will find that any dog can be a good match for you and vice versa.