Dogs are the most popular pet on the planet, and it is no surprise.
Each has their own wonderful personality, there are hundreds of breeds out there to suit every household and care, and they are one of the most faithful companions of the animal kingdom for humans.
While people can generally get to grips with the basics of looking after a dog quite easily, there are some things which you may miss or not be aware of before you dedicate your life to bringing a four-legged friend into your home.
- Lifespan: 10-13 Years
- Average Height: 15-110cm at shoulder
- Average Weight: Breed-Specific
- Popular Breeds: Labrador, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Pug, Bulldog, Chihuahua, Spaniel, Retriever
- Diet: Carnivores
- Origin: Worldwide
IMPORTANT THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW
- Dogs will need regular vet checkups, vaccinations and maybe occasional treatment too for teeth, claws or skin. You’d also benefit from monthly insurance payments
- Their food can start out as quite cheap, but more expensive and natural food is often seen as the best option for them. Some dogs can also have particular needs
- Dogs are usually fine as an only pet, but can also usually live with other dogs. Socialising them is seen as a good thing
- You should be sensible about their living space and not get a dog which is too big for your home. They also benefit from sufficient outdoor space
- Dogs must be microchipped by law, and also benefit from neutering or spaying. Extras such as holiday kennel costs and accessories can also add up
- Many dogs love to be cuddled or stroked, but they can also be very unpredictable, whatever their breed
WHERE TO BUY A DOG
We are big supporters of rescue centres and charities who allow you to adopt and rehome adult dogs who have previously been abandoned, given up or abused. Dogs of all ages and breeds are available, and it is much cheaper than buying from a breeder.
However, there will be occasions where a particular breed will be best suited to your lifestyle or needs. There are also some breeds which are vulnerable or endangered and you may wish to support.
In these cases, breeders can be a good thing. These will usually only sell puppies though, so information about adopting a young dog can be found on our Puppy Care Sheet.
If you do want to adopt an adult of a particular breed and are willing to wait until the time is right, the Kennel Club Find A Rescue service allows you to match up your desired breeds to the dogs available in your area, and you may be pleasantly surprised.
CHOOSING YOUR DOG
A healthy dog should be alert, and with an engaged interest in playing and eating. Their coat should be shiny and in good condition, and their toilet habits regular and sufficient. Things such as fresh breath and clean ears are also good signs.
Dogs can occasionally suffer from stomach upsets, off-days or may have eaten something which makes their breath pong (just like humans!), so missing any of the above signs are usually not too worrying unless they are long-term
There are 218 different breeds out there according to the Kennel Club. Some are more active than others, some need more regular grooming than others, some are better with children or older people than others.
There’s plenty of guides out there which can help you narrow down your ideal breed according to your lifestyle but do remember that these are only general assessments and individual dogs can always differ from their breed conceptions
If you need a dog which is hypoallergenic or doesn’t shed their hair very much, there are breeds out there which are designed or bred for these needs, but you may have to go to a breeder for this
Adult dogs are usually over the age of one year old. For small breeds, adulthood often starts at 9 months, and this is 15 months for large breeds. Compared to puppies, adult dogs can be harder to train in terms of behaviour or tricks but have often learnt how to go to the toilet, to not chew on furniture, and basic commands.
If you adopt from a shelter they will usually ensure they have basic training before they are adopted
Older dogs will need less exercise daily but may have additional health requirements. Juvenile dogs will need the most exercise out of all age groups, but will likely be with you for longer and may be able to settle into their new home easier. It may be a case of finding the right balance, or of adapting to suit the dog you have fallen in love with!
There are no studies to suggest that there is much of a difference between the sexes of dogs. Some people believe males to be more affectionate, and females to be more aggressive and protective over their owners and puppies.
These are usually unfounded – a dog will behave how they have been taught and brought up, irrespective of gender
However, female dogs are smaller so often mature faster, which can make them slightly easier to train over a certain time period. Female dogs will also come into ‘heat’ twice per year, which will have to be dealt with by the owner. Some male dogs may try to show dominance over others too, which could pose a risk if you already have another dog.
But the general consensus is that you shouldn’t really base your wishes on gender, unless for breeding. Focus on their behaviour and breed etc first
Dogs are usually more than happy being showered with attention, but the cut-off point for this can depend. Some will be lapdogs, loving physical cuddles and kisses, or being picked up and carried.
Others will not like this, and it can be risky trying to push this further as dogs can be unpredictable and growl or bite if uncomfortable. Certain breeds can be more affectionate and willing to have a cuddle, but you should learn how best to handle your particular dog.
Another point when it comes to handling can be how good they are when walking on a lead. Again, this can be unpredictable, but with sufficient training, rewards and methods, many dogs become great walkers
Dogs should really live in your home with you. This will make it easier for you to control their temperature as most dogs really struggle with cold overnight temperatures, so even a garage can be too cold.
They should be comfortable and safe at all times, which may involve changing your home around to suit them
You may wish to give them a kennel or run outside where they can spend time if they have to be kept outdoors, but this should not be long-term
Some dogs are very clean. Others are happy to smell like fox poo all day and sleep in the dirt. However, you should try to ensure their favourite spaces (such as bedding or play areas) are as clean as possible. Try washing bedding monthly at least – this may need to be more depending on how hairy they are, or how dirty they get.
Don’t forget about washing toys and other items such as leads, bowls, and your dog too!
The normal body temperature for a dog should be 38 to 39.2°C. If external temperatures dip to below 10°C, many dogs can find it too cold and it could even be dangerous for some breeds.
As mentioned above, if they are indoors, you can ensure the temperatures are warm enough and you can keep them warm. The ideal room temperature is usually around 23 to 28°C for a dog, but breeds can differ slightly.
As a general rule, if you are uncomfortable with the temperature, your dog will be too
Dogs sleep for 12-14 hours every day and need somewhere comfortable to do this. Their bed should not only provide them with a peaceful environment but also the warmth they need as discussed above.
For this reason, they should be well-insulated and warm, but they may also need somewhere cooler to stretch out in the hotter summer months. Each dog will also have their own sleeping habits – some will stretch, others will curl up. Try buying a good-quality bed which will last for as long as possible
Other Products Needed
Dogs will need a water bowl and a food bowl to eat and drink out of. They will also benefit from toys which will tire them out, and keep them occupied. When on a walk, it is the law for them to wear an ID tag with suitable information on, as well as a collar or harness to fasten it on to.
Their ID Tag will need your name and address on, as well as a way to contact you. Ensure you invest in a suitable one
Dogs are naturally carnivores, although it is possible to feed them on a vegetarian or vegan diet if guided by a vet. You must ensure they only have their daily recommended amount of food to prevent them from becoming obese – there will be guidelines on the back of each packet.
Daily food intake is worked out by how old your dog is and how much they weigh
Dog food comes in dry or wet varieties, and there is also frozen, raw, home-cooked, cold-pressed and air-dried options available
Issues With Diet
There is a small chance your dog could be intolerant to some foods, the most common being grains or certain meats. But the biggest issues which can come from your dog’s diet are not giving them the correct balance of everything.
Their six basic nutrients required are water, proteins, fats, carbohydrates, minerals, and vitamins, which are all needed to carry out the basic functions of the body. As they age, they may need certain extras, which can cause an issue if you don’t adapt to suit
Foods To Avoid
There are the foods out there which everybody knows not to give your dog – chocolate, grapes, onions, and alcohol. Avocado, xylitol, cooked bones, and raisins are some others. We would always say to avoid giving your dog food not created for them, or anything you’re unsure about, though, as they can have very sensitive stomachs
Tips For Feeding
Dogs will occasionally benefit from (and demand) treats. This can be for good behaviour, good walking or as a way to keep them occupied. Remember that if they do get treats, in order to ensure they aren’t eating too much, you will have to adjust their meal sizes.
You will also have to adjust their meals if they are getting more or less exercise. Twice per day is usually frequent enough to feed them
Always check your dog over for any issues frequently, such as on a weekly basis. Look at their gums, their paws and pads, and for any lumps or scratches. You should take your dog to the vet for a checkup at least annually, but vets can always say if this needs to be more regular, such as if they have medical issues or are getting older
Most vets will take any breed or type of dog. They will be able to check over any concerns and then will usually have a look at their eyes, ears and gums and listen to their heart to check everything is looking right. Your vet will be able to microchip your dog if this needs doing, and will also be where to go if they need boosters or neutering.
It is a good idea to sign up to a local vet in case of emergency, but also check where your closest 24 hour one is
Many vets offer payment programmes where you pay a certain amount per month and the checkup fees, vaccination costs and some basic extra treatment are all covered. This could be worth considering if you will be going regularly, on top of having insurance
Many dog illnesses are breed-specific. For example, Labradors are more prone to joint and weight issues such as arthritis than some other breeds. Inflammation of the ear canal is common with dogs with long ears, and hip dysplasia can occur most commonly with large breeds.
If you are set on a particular breed, ensure you are prepared with information about insurance costs and likely issues first
Things such as lacerations and wounds as well as injured paws can occur for any dog after walks or exercise, especially if they are taken over rough tarmac or woodland. Allergies from food or their surroundings can occur at any age, even if they only eat something they have eaten all their life, as it can suddenly develop.
Urinary infections, dental disease and gastroenteritis are a few other issues which can occur for any dogs. Kennel Cough is a potentially fatal infection which can occur with dogs who have been boarded or socialised with others, but the good news is that there is a vaccination against it