What to consider when getting a dog
Written by: Laura Staples,
Deputy Editor of Moneywise magazine.
We’re a nation of dog lovers. In fact there are around 8.5 million pet dogs in the UK. If you’re thinking about becoming the owner of a canine friend for the first time, remember it’s not a decision to be taken lightly.
It’s a commitment that could require you to care for your pet for 15 years or more. But sadly, as many as a fifth of people who buy a puppy no longer have their pet two years later.
So here’s our guide to becoming the perfect canine companion.
Firstly, sit down and look at the day-to-day cost of pet ownership, including food, insurance, vet fees and kennel costs while you’re on holiday. You'll also need to make sure you can afford to care for your dog in the long term. Some recent estimates put the cost of keeping a dog over its lifetime anywhere between £10,000 and £16,000. Here are some examples of the costs involved:
Pet equipment – A new pet will need essentials such as a bed, collar, lead, toys and bowls. This can cost up to £200.
Primary vaccinations – All puppies need a vaccination course which is approximately £100 to £120 and the vaccines are given 2 weeks apart.
Microchipping – Vets charge around £15 to £20, but charities such as the Blue Cross and Dogs Trust may offer the service free.
Neutering – Spaying or neutering can cost between £60 to £180.
Worming and flea treatment – On average this can cost between £10 to £15 per month.
Food – The cost of food will vary depending on the size of the dog and the choice of food, but the average cost is around £15 to £20 per month.
Pet insurance – A typical comprehensive policy includes vet fee limits between £3,000-£7,000 for injury or illness. Premium costs will vary depending on a number of factors, including the age and breed of the dog.
Get a pet insurance quote from M&S Bank today. M&S Pet Insurance is underwritten by Royal & Sun Alliance Insurance plc.
Time to teach
Once you’re satisfied you can take care of a dog financially, you need to make sure you’re ready to dedicate a considerable amount of time to the new addition to your family; they need lots of love and attention.
In the early days, you’ll find yourself as a substitute mother, meaning you’ll have to keep your dog fed, warm, house train him and clean up after any accidents – and be there to stop him getting lonely.
Next, you’ll need to teach your dog his name. The experts at DailyPuppy.com suggest calling your dog by name in a cheery tone of voice and rewarding with a treat or a cuddle as soon as he responds. Repeat several times in succession during the day, but don’t let your dog get bored – otherwise you’ll go back to square one.Don’t let your dog get bored – otherwise you’ll go back to square one
Then turn your attention to setting a routine so that your four-legged friend learns to understand your new, shared lifestyle. Try to keep to a regular pattern with walking and feeding. And be firm from the outset to avoid any disobedient behaviour in the future; for example, if there are rooms you don’t want the dog to enter, or furniture you don’t want it to sit on, now’s the time to set the rules.
Issue commands in a firm voice and in time your dog will learn. Be clear and consistent, be patient and stick to one new command at a time – and remember, never shout at or punish your dog.
Puppy socialisation classes and training classes can really help to get your dog off to a good start and you will reap the long-term benefits of having a well-trained pet.Be firm from the outset to avoid any disobedient behaviour in the future
Choosing a suitable breed
There is a huge choice when it comes to dog breeds, so how do you pick the right one for you? There are three main factors you need to consider – where you live, your lifestyle and your experience as a dog owner.
We asked dog expert and vet Dr Jess Ellis of the Heath Veterinary Group in Cardiff for her tips for different groups of people.
Families with young children
Look for a dog with a calm, friendly and even temperament, one that will be obedient and not too much hard work – for instance, I see many happy families come in to the surgery with working breeds, such as Retrievers, Labradors, Beagles and Setters.
Space is often an issue, so small dogs that can adapt to this are usually a safe bet, such as Pugs, certain Terriers, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Shih Tzus and Dachshunds.
The elderly or those with limited mobility
Think about what you are comfortable with in relation to exercise, grooming and handling needs. Often smaller dogs which require less exercise and have lower energy requirements are a good choice. If you enjoy grooming your pet, think about breeds like Shih Tzus, Bichons, Yorkshire Terriers, Cockers and Cavalier King Charles Spaniels which make great companions.
With easy access to the great outdoors and ample opportunity to take a dog out for long walks, working and hunting breeds are often suitable, being naturally athletic and having lots of energy. Examples that are well adapted to country living include the Collies, Spaniels, Labradors, Pointers and many Terriers, such as the Border and Jack Russell.Examples that are well adapted to the country include the Collies, Spaniels, Labradors…
Where to get your puppy from
Be cautious; to ensure you’re buying from a reputable seller, think about going to a private seller, possibly someone you know who has bred from their own pet dog. Rescue centres such as the Dogs Trust, Battersea Dogs Home or the RSPCA have pedigree, crossbreed and mixed-breed dogs available.
If you buy from a private seller, always insist on going to see where the puppy was born and is currently living. Never let the seller simply deliver the puppy to your door. You should see it with its mother and the rest of the litter, if possible, to see how it fits in and whether anything looks out of place.
But wherever you get your new furry friend from, remember to pick a friendly, confident dog that’s happy to interact with you. And never take the puppy home the first time you meet. Go back a second or even third time to be absolutely sure you’re happy with the dog’s temperament.
Don’t forget, if the seller tells you the puppy has had its injections, been screened for common health problems, or is microchipped, ask to see the relevant certificates.
Should we choose a rescue dog?
Mandy Jones, head of rehoming services at Blue Cross, explains there are many benefits to taking on a rescue dog – including the efforts that rehoming services go through to make the best possible match between dog and potential owners.
“Charities like Blue Cross will have already given dogs a full ‘MOT’ before they go to their new homes,” she says. “This means they will already have been microchipped, neutered and vaccinated and given a full health check by a vet.”They will already have been microchipped, neutered and vaccinated
There are some challenges associated with rescue dogs. For example, some dogs under the age of one have ended up in a rescue centre because the owner could not cope with their behaviour. This behaviour should eventually settle, although an owner should be prepared for anything before then. Meanwhile, older dogs could have health or behavioural problems that will have to be addressed.
Puppy farmers are defined by The Kennel Club as intensive volume breeders who show little concern for animals’ wellbeing, while the Dogs Trust goes as far as calling large scale commercial dog breeding ‘battery farms for dogs’
As it is a business, profit margins are ultimately the most important aspect to the owners and as a consequence, the welfare of the dogs is not always up to standard. Most are bred for quantity, not quality, and housing can be dirty and cramped. Especially at Christmas, when demand for puppies is high, some puppies may be weaned too early, given an inadequate diet, deprived of worming, flea and veterinary treatment and can be poorly socialised, all leading to a bad start in life.
Case study: Melissa, Quinn & Mabel
Melissa Moremon from West Sussex has adopted two rescue dogs. She adopted Quinn the Jack Russell three years ago, when he was a 12-week-old pup. “We get on so well. He has bags of energy and is lots of fun,” says Melissa.
“I walk him in the morning and in the evening and because we live close to the countryside in West Sussex, at the weekend I take him out for extra-long walks for a good couple of hours.”
Not liking to leave him alone too often, Melissa has recently adopted a second rescue dog, three-year old Jack Russell/Staffie Cross Mabel. The three have been living together for the last two months and they’re getting on like a house on fire. “Quinn loves the company and Mabel’s very sweet with him,” Melissa said.
She uses a dog walking service for £14 a day, and also block books 10-day ‘doggie daycare’ passes at for Mabel and Quinn, meaning they socialise with other dogs.
“For me, it‘s definitely worth it,” she said. “When they’re not doing that, I’m able to bring them to work as we have a Dogs at Work policy in place, which means lunchtime walks with other dogs and lots of human interaction. They get a good balance of variety and stimulation and as a result are happy dogs.”
BATTERSEA DOGS & CATS HOME
Established in 1860, it aims never to turn away a dog or cat in need of help.
Largest UK dogs charity – with a focus on rehoming rescue animals.
Founded in 1824, the RSPCA works to prevent cruelty and promote kindness to all animals.
The views expressed here are solely those of the author,
and do not necessarily reflect the views of M&S Bank.