Owning a ... dog
Before buying a dog, remember that it is your responsibility to care for it every day of its life, which can be up to 15 years.
Dog breeds are split into 6 main groups: toy, terrier, utility, gundog, working and hound. This section covers the most popular breeds in each group to help give an idea of which breed is best for you. Dogs with a Star Dog! award are particularly good choices. With regards to lifespan, smaller dogs tend to live longer than large dogs, with the giant dogs having the shortest lifespan of all. Many pedigree breeds have inbred defects particular to their breed, for example dachsunds are prone to back problems and spaniels are prone to ear trouble.
Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
This is the largest of the toy breeds and a very popular pet. It has a good temperament, so is suitable for a household with children and other pets. Although small, the King Charles still needs daily exercise.
The chihuahua is the world's smallest dog, weighing only 0.9 - 2.7 kg. Although small, the chihuahua is very protective of its owner and very affectionate. It is a cheap dog to keep and requires only gentle exercise. There are two varieties, the long coat and short coat (pictured).
The Yorkie is fearless and will approach any dog, even a great dane, without being the least bit scared. It makes a very good watchdog in town or country. It will require a lot of grooming to stay neat and tidy. The Yorkie enjoys exercise and will not tire like some toy dogs, so if you are looking for a small dog to go walking with frequently, the Yorkie is for you.
The Airedale is the largest of the terrier group. It is good natured, playful, good with children and an excellent guard dog, so much so that it is believed superior to the German Shepherd. The Airedale loves walks but also needs a fairly large house. As with all terriers, the Airedale will sometimes fight with other dogs. If you are looking for an adventurous family dog, the Airedale is for you.
The border terrier is a good-natured working terrier, bred to flush foxes from their dens. Subsequently it requires lots of long walks and exercise plus plenty of stimulation in the home. If you are looking for an intelligent, active dog the Border Terrier is a good choice.
The bull terrier is strong, muscular and tough, very affectionate and gentle with children. As with Marmite, you either love them or hate them. Since it was bred as a fighting dog, it can be strong willed and is not the best dog for a first-time owner. Needs plenty of exercise.
Jack Russel terrier
These little dogs are extremely popular, due to their lively and affectionate disposition. They require a lot of exercise. Make good companion dogs.
West Highland White terrier
A good family dog: intelligent, hardy and playful, good with children and other pets. A lively dog, the Westie requires regular exercise. They do tend to have skin problems.
Bulldogs are often mistaken as vicious. Despite their appearance, they are very gentle and affectionate and get on very well with children. Bulldogs require regular, but limited, exercise. They must not be taken out in hot weather, or on long walks. They do not have a very long lifespan. This dog is an ideal, low maintenance dog for a working owner. Can also make a good family pet.
Dalmations are attractive, good natured and loyal dogs. They require plenty of exercise and are generally very lively. Their coat sheds a lot, so you may end up with a black and white spotted house! If you are looking for a loyal and playful companion, this is the dog for you.
There are 3 varieties of poodle, the Standard, Toy (pictured) and Miniature. The Toy stands just 25cm (10 in) high at the shoulder, whereas the Standard reaches over 38cm (15 in). All three varieties are attractive, intelligent and playful. They require extensive grooming and clipping to keep them neat and tidy. The smaller varieties have a longer lifespan.
Cocker Spaniel Star Dog!
This is one of the happiest dogs in existence, it hardly ever stops wagging its tail! It is very long lived and needs plenty of exercise. Care must be taken that the ears don't get tangled or dirty, and be especially careful of grass seeds in the ears. This dog makes a very good family pet.
English Springer Spaniel
This is another excellent family dog, which is both intelligent and loyal. It has a wonderful temperament and is good with children. It requires a lot of exercise and is best suited to a country home where there is lots of outdoor space to roam around in. When wet, this dog tends to shake a lot, so your house may get a little dirty!
An intelligent, beautiful and loyal dog, the retriever excells as a family pet as well as a gundog. Needs plenty of exercise but is happy to roam wherever you go, town or country. This dog is near perfect!
Another excellent family dog, the labrador is good natured, obedient, agile and good with children. Labradors are very lively and excitable when young, and need plenty of exercise.
Alsatian (German Shepherd)
The GSD is intelligent, loyal and an excellent guard dog. It requires plenty of exercise, and is best off as a working dog, either guarding, agility or obedience. They are sometimes over protective.
This dog is ideal for anyone wanting to compete in obedience or flyball. It requires a lot of exercise and stimulation and must not be kept in a flat or suburban home. This dog needs a job to do, so is not the best choice for a family pet. However, its intelligence and willing to learn make it a strong competitor in the show ring.
A good guard and loyal pet, the Boxer adores children and is a good family pet. However, it can be aggressive towards other dogs and often gets into fights, which it will no doubt win. This dog is very energetic and requires lots of exercise and games. It is a powerful dog and requires strong discipline.
A gentle giant, the Great Dane is a loyal and lively dog which gets on well with children. It needs lots of exercise, but thrives indoors in a cosy bed. Since they are so big, you will need to be strong to control a great dane, but they are not aggressive. They have a relatively short lifespan of 8 - 9 years.
Dachsunds are affectionate, courageous and playful. They enjoy walks but since they are prone to back trouble, should not be allowed to jump onto stiles or furniture. They make good guard dogs and have a loud bark. They may be aggressive towards strangers. If you are looking for a playful companion who will also guard the house, the dachsund is a good choice.
The greyhound is a perfect family pet. It is loyal and friendly. It doesn't require much exercise and is quite happy to sleep most of the day.
A gentle giant that loves children and enjoys the life of a pet, provided that is has plenty of space. Needs an average amount of exercise but plenty of space at home in which to play. A good family dog, but due to its size, expensive to keep.
The ridgeback is very big, but very affectionate and intelligent. It makes a brilliant guard dog, is very loyal to its family and good with children. Requires plenty of exercise and games. An ideal family dog.
A smaller version of the greyhound, the whippet is a good family pet. It is clean, elegant and gentle, so would be good for a family with children. It can also make a good watchdog. Needs plenty of exercise to run to its full capacity.
Mongrel/crossbreed Star Dog!
The mongrel is a perfect pet! Since they are not pure-bred, they have a longer lifespan and have the good points of many breeds combined in one lively, playful (though naughty!) dog. If you are looking for a family pet, guard dog or simply a companion, the mongrel will fill your need exceptionally well.
Choosing a dog
It is important that you get your dog from a reputable source. Either a well known breeder, or a rescue centre. I strongly advise that you go to a rescue centre. There are thousands of dogs that need good homes and a great variety to choose from - as the NCDL says, " a rescue dog loves you more!"
When choosing a dog, make sure it is healthy. Check eyes, ears and nose for any discharge. Check for any signs of diarrhoea around the rear end. Make sure the dog is lively and walks without a limp. Check that its teeth are clean and its coat shiny and thick. If choosing a puppy from a litter, make sure that you see the puppies with the mother. Choose the liveliest puppy - never choose the runt or a quiet puppy as they are usually weaker and prone to illness.
The breed you choose is very important. Obviously, if you live in a small suburban home it is not wise to choose a large breed such as a wolfhound, since there will simply not be enough room for it. Take time to research the breeds you are interested in and choose the one best suited to your lifestyle.
Male or female?
Male dogs are easier to care for as a first time owner than female dogs (bitches). Bitches come into season twice a year, and during this time their behaviour will change and males will be attracted to them. It is best to have bitches spayed (and males neutered) to prevent this, and also any unwanted litters. Apart from the inconvenience, bitches can get nasty infections of the womb and can also have false or 'ghost' pregnacies, which cause a lot of trouble both for the dog and the owner. Apart from this, there are few differences between male and female dogs. Males tend to be bigger than females and females can sometimes be more snappy than males. The choice is up to you.
Where should I get my dog from?
Your first stop should be a rescue centre. There are lots of these all over the UK. The most famous of which are the NCDL (National Canine Defence League) , Battersea Dogs' Home and the RSPCA. You can visit their websites by following the links on the nav bar. Alternatively, for a list of registered breeders in your area, contact the Kennel Club at 1-4 Clarges Street, Picadilly, London, W1Y 8AB. They will also be able to send you a copy of their Breed Rescue List, which is helpful if you want a rescue dog of a specific breed.