In the first blog from OUTPAWS. I spoke to Jim Stephens from the Pet Behaviour Counsellor with the Pet Behaviour Centre in Dublin. Jim excellent talents are featured as a permanent feature on the OUTPAWS website to help clients get the help, when it all goes wrong, with their woofs. He meets the people who can’t control their dog, or who are finding it difficult to get rid of those unrelenting issues that just won’t go away. Sometimes it can be as simple as owners ending up with a poorly pup. So I spoke to Jim about what should we all look out for when it to comes to choosing a dog - Jim’s top dog tips will help you get it right …
According to Jim Stephens, “My job is to fix pet problems when things go wrong for owners, however, with problematic pets situations could have been avoided had the owner done their research the first day.
- What is the time commitment you have for a dog in terms of grooming, exercise and training!
- Have you factored in the costs of dog owning? Licence fee, weekly dog food bill, vet fees, grooming and boarding costs for when you’re on holiday should be considered and these will vary depending on the size and breed and of dog.
- If you understand what the various breeds were originally used for then you can make a better informed choice as to what will suit your circumstances, for example terriers were expected to hunt vermin underground and therefore react quickly to sudden movement sounds and vibrations. They may not be suitable for a quiet couple or apartment living.
On Pedigree v Rescue Dog
Whether you decide to opt for a pedigree, or rescue dog, I’d always recommend going for a puppy aged between 6 and 12 weeks – This is the sensitive period where they are still open to new things and environments - after 12 weeks they become fearful of new things and can have problems adapting. 7 to 9 weeks is the optimal time, however, this may not always be possible.
If opting for pedigree, go to a reputable breeder via the Irish Kennel Club or breed club recommendation– they will have already exposed the dog to everyday stimuli and can offer new owners information and guidance .. If a pup comes from a farm or back garden it may not have been sufficiently exposed to everyday objects and you can run into problems.
- Especially with pedigree dogs – ensure you deal with a reputable breeder so that the dog comes with registration papers, microchip ID and the option of 6 weeks free insurance the pedigree will identify who the parents are going back over many generations.
- In terms of inheritable health problems, a good breeder will ensure their pups don’t have any nasty traits. Often breeders will have spent time and money to test breeding stock to best ensure healthy pups.
- With cross breeds you don’t know exactly what traits you are getting however with pedigree you know exactly what type of animal they are as particular traits have been deliberately chosen over decades and centuries to create the breed.. If opting for a rescue dog, see if you can take the dog for a trial period so you know whether the particular cross breed suits you.
- If you are taking rescue dog. Go to a reputable agency who will have a fair idea how the dog has been treated in the past, how it behaves and if there are any problems.
- There are lots of rescue dogs who have come from homes where people have emigrated, lost their job or their owners have passed away.
- The agency should be able to give you sufficient background information on the particular dog to help you make a correct choice e.g. was the dog used to children, ok with other dogs or pets, had any prior training or is known to have problems.
Basic pet sense;
- Don’t be led by your heart … Take your time until you find the right dog for you or your family. The dog will live with you for 10 years or more so it is important to make the correct decision for you and the dog. Ask if you can take the dog on trial.
- Opt for a dog that comes to you, or interacts with you and your family. The cute little ones which shy away can often have problems integrating or become fearful leading to territorial problems.
- Do your research … Pick a dog with the right personality for you … when buying car, you buy a car to suit your lifestyle, same applies for a dog i.e. don’t opt for a dog which needs a lot of walking if you hate walking; or a guarding breed if you hate barking!
- I would consider a Tibetan spaniel or cavalier a perfect family dog for young children. Terriers can be too reactive and tenacious for youngsters.
- Dogs are brilliant for kids … Research indicates that children with dogs in their lives makes better friends, academically do better and increase empathy with others. Dogs are even used in therapy sessions with children and adolescents.
- Whatever age your new dog is, dog-proof your home by placing ornaments higher up, checking the garden for sharp objects or poisonous substances, slug pellets, or plants etc.
- Visit your dog a few times before you bring him home, leave something from your home with them in the kennel, so they get used to your smell. Bring home the object so that you also bring home the litter smells into your home so that the pup will settle more quickly.
- Take some of their regular food so their diet does not change dramatically and gradually introduce new foods.
- You must teach the dog that it’s okay to be on its own - Teach you dog not to be over dependent on you … otherwise their dependency will create problems such as barking and depression separation related destructiveness.
- Begin training as soon as you can so that any minor issues can be quickly solved before they become major behavioural problems. Pups can begin training before they are 12 weeks of age, after all they are learning from the time you get them; they as well learn the right things.