Choosing A Dog Breed

Choosing a dog is a big decision. If you don't do a little 'leg work' first, it may end in disaster and you'll have to live with the consequences for a long time. Understand the key points to consider before choosing  your pet to be sure to get the right dog breed for you!

How To Choose A Dog

Cute Great Dane puppy

It really is a big decision to bring a dog into your home so it's something that needs a great deal of forethought.

Just think about the consequences of getting it and your family will have to live with that mistake for a very long time; between 10 and 15 years!

When choosing a dog breed, there are a few key points you might like to consider, so I've set out some of the main points below to help you to narrow your search.

If you've already decided that the Cocker Spaniel is the breed for you (and who wouldn't?), you're on the wrong page; you can skip straight to choosing your Cocker Spaniel puppy.

Why Are You Buying A Dog?

What is it that's motivating you to get a dog?

Do you want it to work for you, for example, guard your home, or are you looking for a hunter or a retriever?

Do you plan to show your dog, or do you simply want a companion or family pet?

Is having a friendly animal with a good temperament important to you?

For example, Cocker Spaniels and Labradors are typically classed as 'family dogs' because they've a good temperament, are very playful and are so willing to please.

Considering the above questions can help you to eliminate certain breeds; narrowing your choice to help make choosing a dog breed that little bit easier for you.

Cost Of Owning A Dog

Owning a dog can be expensive! My goodness, that's an understatement if ever there was one!

So, before choosing a dog breed, be sure you understand what associated costs may be involved, for example:

  • The cost of buying the puppy, ie the price you pay the breeder;
  • A dog crate and a few blankets and bedding;
  • An additional soft bed;
  • Daily food costs;
  • Treats;
  • Basic essentials such as collar, lead, towels, toys, and training treats;
  • Vet bills soon mount up and can be very expensive!
  • The cost of regular flea and tick treatments and worming tablets;
  • Kennel fees for when you go on holiday or if you become ill and can't take care of your pet;
  • Grooming fees - unless you intend to groom him yourself.

Choosing A Dog - Size Really Does Matter!

What size of pet are you considering: large, standard, small, miniature?

If you've only a small garden, or you live in an apartment, it might be wise to consider one of the smaller to medium dog breeds.

But if you own a house with a garden, your options are increased. 

Will you need to make any alterations to your home or garden to accommodate your new pet; how much work would be involved in making your premises dog and puppy proof? And can you really afford the costs involved?

All puppies are small to begin with so it's important to appreciate just how large your chosen breed will become when he reaches adulthood.

The size of your home may automatically eliminate some breeds, thus making the task of choosing a dog that little bit easier.

How Much Exercise Will He Need?

When choosing a dog you'll need to be realistic about how much daily exercise each particular breed requires. Some dog breeds need quite a lot of exercise whereas others don't need so much.

Then ask yourself if you're fit enough to exercise your dog?

Do you have the time and the inclination to exercise it well? Dogs need to be walked every day, come rain or shine! How much walking are you prepared to do each day?

Exercise is very important. Under-exercised dogs can develop behavioral problems and can become very high maintenance; barking, chewing, attention seeking.

And don't forget, you'll be committing to these walks for at least 10 years!

When Choosing A Dog, Consider The Children

I recommend that when you're choosing a dog breed, you ensure the right 'fit' for the family.

Choosing a dog as cute as this is easy!

For example, a Chihuahua or similar small dog breed probably wouldn't be suitable for a family with young children as it could easily become injured by boisterous or over-excited children.

It's common knowledge that Cocker Spaniels make good family dogs but no matter which breed you decide on, children need to learn how to behave around a young puppy, and would need supervision at all times until you were confident that they could be trusted with a dog.

A Labrador, for example, would be a good choice for families with young children as this breed could probably manage a bit of rough play from the kids!

A small or miniature breed may be better suited to an elderly couple or as an 'apartment' or 'lap' dog.

When choosing a dog breed, give a bit of thought to where you live - suburbs, rural, town, or the city; not all of these environments are suitable for all breeds.

Do You Have Any Other Pets To Consider?

If you're going to bring a puppy into the family, it's important to consider other household pets before you actually choose your breed.

A hunting dog may be unable to tolerate living around a pet rabbit or guinea pig; small animals such as these may bring out the hunting instincts in, say, a Lurcher or a Greyhound.

Max, my Cocker, has a high prey drive and chases rabbits, cats, lizards, in fact, anything that moves. 

If you do have pet, make sure they're safely locked away. Imagine having to explain to the kids that the dog has eaten their pet rabbit!

Choosing a dog breed needs a lot of thought, but once you've decided which breed best suits you and your family, the rest is plain sailing!

Choosing A Dog That's Easily Trained

Some dogs are so easy to train; others can be rather strong-willed, making training a little more difficult, but never impossible.

A strong-willed breed will require constant on-going training and reinforcement, especially if the puppy you choose also has a particularly dominant personality.

No matter which breed you eventually settle on, you will need to invest quite a lot of time and effort in learning how to train your puppy.

Grooming A Dog Can Be Pretty Time Consuming

How much time are you prepared to devote to grooming your dog?

How much grooming a particular dog breed will need depends on the texture and length of the dog's coat. The longer the coat, the more likely it will become tangled and tatty and in need of lots of regular grooming. The same goes for a curly, rough textured coat.

Time spent on grooming can also depend on where you walk your dog.

For example, a Cocker Spaniel that enjoys walks in the countryside will probably need brushing every day (or every other day at the very least) to keep his coat free from burs, seeds, tangles and mats, and although grooming a spaniel can be fairly time consuming, it's well worth the effort!

But grooming isn't only about brushing your dog's coat; there are many more elements involved such as bathing, keeping your dog's ears clean and healthy, (particularly in dogs with pendulous ears, like the Cocker Spaniel) clipping nails, brushing teeth and much more.

Choosing A Dog: Allergies And Asthma

Does anyone in your family suffer from allergies or asthma? If they do, choosing the right dog breed will be a priority for you.

Some breeds shed profusely and may aggravate an existing condition, whereas other breeds don't shed at all.

If there are allergies or asthmatics in your family, you may be better suited to one of the hypo-allergenic dog breeds, for example, the Bichon Frise, the Standard Schnauzer, the Poodle - there are more.

Home Alone All Day?

It's not good to leave a dog home alone all day and puppies should never be left alone all day - they're simply too young!

If you have an adult dog and need to leave him for more than a few hours make sure he's had a long walk first and arrange for a neighbor to look in on him a couple of times during the day to let him into the garden do his toilet and to keep him company for half an hour or so.

If you could afford it, you could arrange for him to go into a kennel for the day. At least that way he'll have the company of other dogs and he'll be able to play.

If you're unable to be home for most of the day, I recommend you re-consider owning a dog until you have more time on your hands otherwise you may be heading for problems.

Choosing A Dog: Pure Breed Or A Mongrel?

Whether you want a pure breed or a mongrel is purely a matter of choice.

With a pure breed you can be fairly sure of what you're getting; characteristics, temperament and health problems, whereas a mongrel's traits and temperament may be uncertain especially if you don't know the parents or even the breed(s) of the parents.

Having said that, a pedigree is not necessarily a better dog simply because it comes from 'good stock' and costs more; there are many mongrels with a gentle, loving nature whose families wouldn't dream of parting with them!

Choosing A Dog: Male Or Female?

Do you want a boy or a girl?

Some owners prefer bitches because they claim they're quieter and easier to train.

Others prefer male dogs because they believe boys can be more affectionate and more faithful than a bitch.

Bitches come into season every 6 months or so and during that time you'll need to guard her fiercely as all male dogs will try to mate with her - a dog can smell a bitch in heat from a surprisingly long distance!

The bitch will discharge blood during her season which will obviously need to be cleaned before staining carpets or soft furnishings.

Males tend to be slightly bigger and stronger than the bitches and can become a bit of a handful when they reach two years old - full of their own self-importance - and may need firmer handling.

As there's not too much difference in temperament between the two sexes, I believe it's simply a matter of personal choice!

Choosing A Dog: Adult Or Puppy?

You'll need to decide whether you want a puppy or an adult dog.

A puppy will need to be vaccinated, trained to use his crate and potty trained, as well as given puppy obedience training to help him grow into a well-mannered adult dog.

Choosing a dog? Pick me!

A puppy will also need to be socialized, trained to walk on a lead, to walk to heel, and you'll probably need to acclimatise the puppy to being groomed.

An adult pet, on the other hand, is more likely to be 'the finished article'.

Although puppies are cute and adorable, you may decide to choose an adult because there's less to do - in which case, why not consider a rescue dog?

Thousands of pets end up in rescue centers every year, mostly because their owners find they can't cope with the care that their chosen breed needs, or because they've underestimated the cost of owning a dog, or the time involved.

Unfortunately, many such rescues are put to sleep long before new homes can be found for them, which is why choosing a dog breed should never be taken lightly!

If you decide to go for an older pet instead of a puppy, why not visit your local Cocker Spaniel rescue center?

Be sure to ask what (if any) behavioral problems the dog may have and seek professional advice to help you overcome them.

It's important to recognize that not all rescue dogs have behavioral problems. Some end up in rescue centers simply because their owners circumstances have changed (eg., moving abroad or ill health) and they can no longer look after their pets.

Choosing A Dog Breed: Summary

Well, that's just about it for this article on choosing a dog breed. I hope you've enjoyed reading it and that it helps you to find the perfect dog for you and your family!

Once you've chosen your ideal dog breed, you might find our page covering how to choose the perfect puppy for you and your family very useful. 

And when you've found one, don't forget to visit my page on caring for your puppy to help you give your puppy the best start in life.

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