How to find the perfect dog for you

If you’re thinking about getting a dog, there’s a few things to consider to make sure you find the perfect pet for you. Justine Williams from Our Family Dog, a website for first-time dog owners, explains more.

Choosing the right breed or type of dog for you

Do you already have an idea of the type or breed of dog you would like to get? Before you decide, do your homework to make sure you find the right dog for you. Although all dogs are different with their own personalities and needs, different breeds tend to have different personality or behaviour traits based on what they were bred for. Knowing more about the characteristics of different breeds of dogs can give you a good idea of their potential personality and what they need to be healthy and happy. The Kennel Club’s Breeds A-Z is a helpful resource for this.

Then think about where you live and your lifestyle. Here’s some questions to ask yourself:

  • How much room do you have for a dog in the house?
  • Do you have a garden?
  • Do you enjoy getting outdoors and taking exercise or do you prefer to be indoors?
  • How much time do you have for training?

Cross breeds such as Cockapoos and Labradoodles are very popular at the moment. If you are interested in getting one of these dogs, you will need to research both breeds of dogs to make sure they are a good match for you. For example, a Cockapoo is a cross between a Cocker Spaniel and a Poodle – both breeds were originally selected to work and so tend to be very active, and can need lots to do to keep them busy.

How to get a dog responsibly and safely

There are a range of different ways you can get a dog, depending on whether you want to get an adult dog or a puppy.

Getting an adult dog

There are two ways to get an adult dog. You can either rehome from a rescue centre or buy a dog from someone privately.

Rehoming a rescue dog

You will find plenty of dogs in rescue centres looking for new homes. They may have been given up by their previous owners because they could no longer care for them, or removed from their owners because they weren’t being looked after properly. You can begin the search for a dog to adopt online –  a helpful resource for a list of rescue organisations is Rescue Review.

If you are looking for a specific breed of dog, you could try one of the breed societies which are often looking for homes for rescue dogs. If you are looking for a cross-breed, you could try The Cockapoo Club of GB or the Doodle Trust.

A growing number of people have chosen to adopt a dog from abroad. These tend to be street dogs from countries with high stray dog populations such as Greece, Romania or Spain. Although rescuing a dog from abroad may feel like a worthy cause, street dogs can often find it hard to adjust to living in a family home. Ask yourself whether you have the time and experience to take on a dog with special needs.

Rehoming a dog privately

Some people advertise on classified websites to find a new home for their dog. However, if you decide to get a dog this way, make sure you find out why the dog is being rehomed and whether there are any behavioural issues you need to be aware of. Always see the dog before you buy – if possible you should visit them a couple of times and spend time observing how they behave in their home. If you adopt a dog from a rescue centre, they will have been assessed before being rehomed. If you buy a dog privately, it will be down to you to make the assessment about whether the dog is right for you.

Getting a puppy

As you’ve probably heard, it’s very easy to get scammed when buying a puppy. Due to puppies being so popular, it has created a market for unscrupulous traders. You’ll want to make sure that your puppy has been bred and raised by someone who cares for their welfare, and not just about making money. Here’s how:

  • Do your research to find a litter of puppies that have been bred and raised in a family home – rather than in a barn or outbuilding. A puppy that has been bred in a family home will be much more suited to life as a family pet.
  • Phone and ask questions about where the puppies have been bred and raised before you visit – it’s hard to walk away from a cute puppy even if something doesn’t feel right.
  • Arrange to visit a litter of puppies when they are 4-6 weeks old, rather than ‘ready to go’. This will prevent a puppy seller from trying to convince you to buy a puppy from them there and then. You will also have plenty of time to properly meet the puppies and get a sense of how they interact with you, the breeder, their mother and siblings. Don’t forget to ask lots of questions before you decide to buy. 
  • Always see a puppy with its mother in the place where it was born – don’t be fobbed off with excuses about why the mother isn’t there. This is a common trick used by unscrupulous traders.
  • Use the Puppy Contract when buying a puppy. It is a legally binding contract between you and the seller.

An alternative to buying a puppy from a breeder is to get one from a rescue centre. Many rescue centres have puppies as well as adult dogs looking for homes. 

To learn more about how to get a puppy sign up for Our Family Dog’s free Getting a Puppy e-learning course.

Getting ready for the arrival of your new dog

Getting a dog is a big commitment. Whether you get a puppy or an adult dog, you will need to take some time off to help them settle in. Here’s some other things that you will need to think about and do:

  • Find and register with a local vet. You will want to make sure that your dog is vaccinated to protect them from infectious diseases, and has regular health checks.  Book an appointment with the vet for a few days after you bring your dog home, or as advised by a rescue centre.
  • Arrange pet insurance to cover any unexpected costs in the event of your dog being seriously ill, injured or in need of surgery.
  • Book your dog in for some training classes. Training is an important part of your dog’s development and should become part of your daily routine. If you get a puppy, then puppy classes are a great way for you both to learn new skills and for your puppy to meet other dogs and people as part of their socialisation programme. Look for a trainer who is approved by the Animal Behaviour and Training Council, which sets and maintains the standards for dog trainers and behaviourists in the UK.
  • Go shopping. There’s lots of things you’ll need to buy for your dog, including bowls, beds, collar and ID tag, harness, leads, food, treats and toys. Think about your needs too – it can be helpful to do a big food shop before bringing your dog home as it may not be so easy to pop out to the shops while you’re settling in.
  • Prepare yourself. Having a dog in your life is really rewarding, but it’s also hard work. Share the responsibility with other members of your household or, if you live alone, ask friends, family or neighbours for help when you need it. The good news is that as you settle into a routine with your new dog, things do get easier.

For more tips and advice on getting a dog, visit Our Family Dog.

About Justine

Justine Williams is the founder of Our Family Dog, which provides advice and support to first-time dog owners. Having spent many years working in animal welfare, Justine spotted the need for better support for new dog owners who were feeling overwhelmed with the responsibility of caring for their new pet. Our Family Dog, a community interest company, was launched in 2019.  It has a range of resources to help people to get a dog responsibily and safely and care for their new pet.

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