Australia enjoys one of the highest levels of pet ownership in the world. Dog owners describe a rare emotional bond with their dogs, where they can be relaxed and open, and never feel alone.
But owning a dog is a long-term commitment, one that can easily span 10-15 years. During this time your dog depends on you to provide for all of his needs. It’s vital to choose a dog to suit your lifestyle, and to meet his needs, to ensure that a happy relationship doesn’t run into problems.
Ask yourself the following questions, even if you already have a specific breed of dog in mind.
What size and activity level am I looking for in a dog?
Although larger dogs may often be more active than smaller dogs, this is not always the case. Some small terriers can require as much physical and mental stimulation as much larger breeds. A lively dog that loves to come running with you may also enjoy running laps around the house!
How much time do I have to spend with my dog?
Dogs are social animals and crave companionship, and problem behaviour like barking may result where dog breeds with highly active minds are left home alone for long periods of the day. Dogs need at least some exercise (and many need a lot) on a daily basis. A large yard may be essential for more active breeds, but even that is no substitute for the mental and physical stimulation of time spent off your property. Free running exercise, games and social opportunities with other dogs, where appropriate, are all important to your dog.
Can I attend training classes?
Not just about sitting and dropping, obedience classes may be better thought of as “leadership” classes. This is where your dog learns the good manners to make him a welcomed part of your life, as well as teaching him to look to you for guidance. Obedience work should be practiced throughout your dog’s life: it is a great form of mental stimulation for your dog and a way for him to show you just how clever he is.
How much time can I spend on grooming?
Long, silky coats can tangle and mat without frequent brushing. Some dogs shed heavily and frequently, even those with short coats. Regular professional clipping is required by some to keep their coats manageable. Regular bathing is also important, and for large dogs access to a hydrobath can make life easier.
Are there other pets, children or elderly people in the household?
Some breeds of dogs love people but are not friendly towards other dogs. Others prefer the company of dogs of the opposite sex, and may try to dominate a dog of the same sex. Some breeds are trust-worthy with small pets including small dogs, cats and rabbits; others are not. People with allergies need to be taken into consideration. Elderly or infirm people or young children may also influence the dog breed you select.
What type of home do I live in?
If you are house-proud, consider the effects of shedding hair, chewed furniture and dirty carpet or scratched floorboards, especially if your new dog is a puppy. The size of your house may influence your decision – if you live in a tiny apartment with a balcony, a huge dog or even a smaller dog that is highly active indoors may not suit you. If you rent or live in a strata title property, there are likely to be regulations about owning a dog. Everyone in the home should be happy about the new member of the household!
What is my garden like?
You may need reserves of patience to deal with a new dog. Trampled plants and dog waste disposal are something every dog owner has to deal with. A secure yard is a must, for legal reasons and for your dog’s safety.
What are my expectations for the future?
Is your life likely to stay very much the same for the next ten to fifteen years, or do you plan to move house, have children, or travel extensively? It’s best to consider this in advance and be sure that your new dog will be compatible with those future children, or that you have a plan for your dog’s care if you can’t be there.
Am I prepared to meet the costs of owning a dog?
You’ll have already thought of the obvious costs, such as feeding and equipment. Other things to consider are health care costs (both routine and emergency), training, grooming and bathing. While it may seem initially daunting, if you make the right choice in the beginning, you can look forward to many happy years with your new friend ahead.