Steps to finding the right dog


Before you try to decide which breed of dog you’d like to own, you should take a good look at your circumstances and decide exactly what you need and want from your pet dog.

Start by evaluating your lifestyle. Are you busy and active or do you prefer to stay at home on the sofa and relax all day? Do you already own dogs or will this be the only dog in the household? Think carefully about the kind of dog which would be able to fit in with your life. For example, enthusiastic joggers would be well suited to active dogs who can keep up on daily runs. A Dachshund would be a poor choice thanks to his little legs and low stamina, but a Collie would thoroughly enjoy the opportunity to run alongside its owner.


Is dog ownership right for you and your current circumstances?


Owning a dog can give you joy, pleasure and love, however dogs are a long term, expensive commitment which requires a great deal of work and responsibility. Before buying a dog do your research about how it will affect your life. Consider not just how a dog will fit in with your lifestyle, but also how your lifestyle will need to adjust for your dog. Thinking about this will help you decide if you are ready for a dog and, if you are, what breed of dog would be best suited for your circumstances.


There are several areas which you need to think about when thinking about getting a dog.


The responsibility of owning a dog may not be a worry to you, but how does the rest of your household feel about it? If you have a family you should sit down and talk to everyone about how they feel about getting a dog. If you don’t want to be left walking, feeding and training the new pet on your own, you’ll need to talk about how members of the family will pitch in with chores and tasks. Children and teens may be more focussed on having a cuddly friend around the house, so it is particularly important to make sure they understand that caring for a dog comes with hard work and effort.


Young children love the thought of having a puppy around the house, particularly if their friends have pets, however as the dog gets older the novelty often wears off and it is the parents who end up caring, walking and feeding the dog. Therefore, you need to be enthusiastic about getting a dog yourself, and not feel pressured by your children.


One of the many reasons why dogs are left abandoned or have to be given up is due to changes within the family. Before getting a dog, ask yourself if there will be any family changes within the next few years. Dogs need time to settle into their homes and a big change could be distressing for them. If you’re planning on extending your family, how will your dog cope with the changes that will come with it? Marriage and new children are wonderful things, but they bring their own responsibilities and costs with them. Managing a new-born baby is tiring and takes up a lot of time; balancing parenthood and dog ownership may feel incredibly difficult, so you need to be 100% sure that you will want your dog around even when you’ve been up all night with your baby. You’ll need to devote quality time to your dog to ensure he doesn’t become jealous or feel neglected, as well as spend time training the dog how to act around the baby. Will you be prepared for this extra work?


While owning a dog has been proven to actually be very good for your physical health and fitness levels, dog owners do need to have a good amount of energy. Puppies and dogs are active and love to run about and exercise and their owners need to be able to keep up with them. Your everyday health should be fairly good so that you can keep up with your dog’s demands for activity. Of course, we all get ill from time to time, but a dog’s needs don’t stop just because you have a cold or virus. Dog owners have to be prepared to give their dogs as much care as they need, even if they aren’t feeling well.

If you aren’t in good health, then owning a dog may be a strain for you. If mobility is an issue, then you need to find a way to make sure that your dog will get enough exercise to keep him happy, mentally and physically stimulated and in turn well behaved. Long term health problems are stressful enough without having to worry about how you’ll cope with looking after a dog, if you are facing a long term illness and may require stays in hospital for example, it’s a good idea to have a someone reliable who you can trust to care for your dog, even at a moment’s notice. If you don’t know of anyone who can help, why not search for help from charities?


Dog ownership is a massive commitment which can last for over a decade. When you get a dog, you need to be able to commit a lot of time to him. He’ll be completely and utterly reliant on you to provide him with shelter, food, exercise and shower him with love and affection. It doesn’t matter if you’ve had a bad day at work or a sleepless, night, you dog will still need you to get up early and take him for a walk – unlike going to the gym or heading out for a run, walking your dog is non-negotiable.

If you live a busy lifestyle, work unsociable hours or travel a lot you won’t be able to dedicate the time needed to care for your dog. You need to make a commitment to not just stroke and cuddle your dog, but to spend quality time exercising, training and grooming him. Even if you have a large garden for your dog to run about in while you get on with other things, it’s no substitute for a good walk. Will you be able to commit the time needed to give your dog a wholesome, happy life?

A large part of the time you commit to your dog should be spent training. Puppies in particular need continuous training in order to teach them appropriate behaviour. However, the training must continue throughout their lives or they will slip into bad habits. If you’re not prepared to commit to taking your puppy to obedience classes and consistently training him, even when he’s older, you might want to think very carefully about getting a dog. You’ll also need to make sure your dog is exposed to other dogs, animals and people in order to socialise him. If you can’t make this happen yourself, then you will need to spend more time and money taking him to socialisation classes.

Quality of Life

Owning a dog is a hugely rewarding experience, but there’s no doubt that it will change your life. It’s vital that you find a breed of dog which is suitable for your lifestyle, or you may resent your dog for causing you to sacrifice certain aspects of your it. If you’re happy with your quality of life, then you should look for a dog which will improve it, not hinder it. However, no matter what breed of dog you get, there will be times when dog ownership can feel inconvenient. Say goodbye to last minute holidays, weekends away or days out with friends – your top priority will be ensuring the dog is safe, fed, walked and happy. How will you feel about walking your dog, even in the rain, sleet and snow? If you won’t be happy to give your dog the necessary amount of exercise, then dog ownership may not be for you.

As well as thinking about your own quality of life, it’s only fair to consider your dog’s quality of life. The very minimum that you need to give your dog is shelter, food and exercise. If these basic needs aren’t catered for you will end up with a very distressed dog that may have behaviour issues. No amount of love and affection will ever replace these needs – if you are having financial trouble then your dog will still need a home and to be fed. If you have to work late, your dog won’t understand why he isn’t getting his walk. However, with these basic needs catered for and plenty of affection, training, socialisation and play time you will be able to give your dog a wonderful quality of life. It’s the owner’s responsibility to provide these things for a dog, so be prepared to invest a lot of time, effort and love in your dog.

Living Arrangements

Whether or not you are able to have a dog, and which breed would be best for you, depends greatly on your living arrangements.

The area in which you live should be dog friendly. You should be in an area where you can safely walk your dog, even during dark, winter evenings. If there’s a lot of traffic, you will need to get a breed of dog which doesn’t need to be let off the lead. Find out if there are any large, safe parks nearby which you could take your dog to for more adventurous walks now and again. Country dwellers may find it harder to socialise their dog if they live in a remote area. In addition, if you live in a rural environment you may not have the same level of access to support such as dog sitters and walkers, should you need it.

As well as the area you live in, you will also need to pay some attention to your home. Whether you live in a house or a flat will have a direct impact on which breeds you should consider for ownership. Most toy dogs will be fine living in an apartment, while larger dogs are best suited to the extra room they get in a house . However, no matter what breed of dog you get it will need its own space. Before buying a dog, check that you are able to have one in your lease. Landlords frequently don’t allow dogs in their property and even owned homes may be subject to a no-pets clause in the lease. Many modern developments don’t allow people to own dogs as they can be a noise nuisance to neighbours. Rather than getting a dog and having to give it up later, check that you are allowed a dog in your home as a first port of call.

If you’re very house-proud, you may well find having a dog difficult. Puppies can be destructive, as can dogs if they aren’t well stimulated and trained, and certain breeds will shed a lot. Some breeds will also give off a doggy odour and there’s bound to be incidents where things get messy – whether your dog brings mud in on his paws or tips the bin over. Dog owners have to try to be a little bit laid back about the mess which comes with owning a dog, but you must also be ready for the extra cleaning and vacuuming which will be required.


Your financial circumstances should be in good order before you take the plunge and get a dog. You need to consider two things – the short term costs and the long term investment. In the short term, your new puppy or dog will need bedding, food, toys, training classes, vaccinations, a crate, collars, leads and harnesses, and of course you will have to pay for the puppy itself. In the long term you’ll be spending money on insurance, vet bills, food and replacements of essentials like bedding, as well as dog sitting and walking. You never know what the future holds, so it’s wise to have a contingency plan should you come into financial difficulties.

Deciding whether or not you are ready to get a dog is a huge, life changing decision. It can feel daunting trying to choose whether or not you are ready to get a dog, but if you do your research and carefully consider the impact on your life and how your current circumstances will manage with a dog, you can make the right choice. Consider every part of your lifestyle, your future, your living arrangements and your circumstances. Remember to think long term, rather than just looking at the immediate future, and ask yourself how you would cope with a dog in unexpected circumstances. Your dog will be a high priority in your life and requires a firm commitment and a lot of responsibility. Are you and your family ready?


Summary checklist:

Have you considered…

Family life?

Your health?

The commitment required?

Yours and the dog’s quality of life?

Living arrangements?

The short and long term expenses?



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