The best pups for first time dog owners - and the best time to get a dog
This is probably not the best time to be talking about choosing a puppy, as this time of year is not an ideal time to be getting any sort of pet.
A few decades ago people used to buy puppies for Christmas and then discard them in the new year, leading to the Chief Executive of the Dogs Trust (at that time known as the National Canine Defence League), Clarissa Baldwin to develop the slogan ‘A Dog is for Life, Not Just for Christmas' which famously appeared on car stickers and posters and other campaign information up and down the land. Whilst this problem has lessened, the Dogs Trust say that many dogs are still being given as Christmas presents and that dogs who are gifted in this way – often to a recipient who does not expect or even want a dog - can grow up with behavioural problems and be incredibly boisterous. and most dogs appear to be abandoned at the start of the Easter Holidays, some 4 months after being gifted.
Which brings us to the point of this week’s article. Giving a dog to someone that is not expecting it or is not prepared for a pet is a sure-fire recipe for disaster. In addition to this, choosing your first dog as an experienced owner for the wrong reasons: ie. because your mate has one or you like the look of it can also lead to issues too.
Having a puppy in the house is exactly like having a child. You may see your friend with their chilled out, obedient, toilet trained dog living their best lives and think “I want some of that.” But it takes a lot of hard work to get to that point. There will be pee, there will be poo and they will chew your favourite shoes too. If you’ve had no experience of puppy-rearing or dog ownership before, then it’s important to get a breed that is going to be manageable and fit in with your lifestyle, not one that looks good on your Instagram story, so how do you know which dog is right for you? And which ones should you avoid?
King Charles Cavalier Spaniel photo by Pixabay on Pexels
The worst dog breeds for first time owners
Speaking to the Mirror, canine behaviourist Will Atherton explained some of the best and worst breeds for first-time dog owners and how choosing the best breed means you are less likely to give your dog up for adoption because you simply can’t cope.
Will also talks all about choosing the right breed on his YouTube channel and one of the best things you can do before you buy a dog is do some research, both online and by talking to other dog owners. According to Will, too many people get breeds that they don’t understand or are not prepared for:
"I have seen first-hand the number of dogs that are unnecessarily euthanised or taken to shelters as owners didn't feel they have the tools and knowledge to be able to fix these problems.
"My ambition is to give every dog owner in the world access via social media to the education they need to raise and train their dogs to be the perfect canine companion.
"The main factor to consider would be working breeds who have high drive, high motivation and high energy levels, the number one culprit of this is the Belgian Malinois. Social media feeds are packed with trainers showcasing the best of this breed, but that's because they're professionals."
Belgian Malinois photo by Pixabay on Pexels
The Malinois has seen a surge in popularity recently due to it being featured in the feature film ‘Dog’ with Channing Tatum. But Malinois are working dogs and the videos that we see of them performing tricks and stunts in the movies and on social media are due to hours and hours of hard work with their trainers and plenty of exercise every day. If you like to sit on your butt all day watching movies and dog videos, then find a dog that likes to do the same!
"In the wrong hands and without the correct level of training, you'll be left with destructive behaviours such as chewing, whilst failing to manage protection instincts of these breeds could lead to bites and reactive behaviours.
"As with many rules there are exceptions, but for the vast majority of owners, these are the type of breeds that I would advise you to steer away from."
Golden Retriever photo by Garfield Best on Pexels
The best dog breeds for first time owners
If you’re pretty chilled – or out at work all day - you’re going to need a chilled out dog too. One that is naturally friendly, self-assured and that needs only a moderate level of exercise.
Will’s top pick for a first time pup is a Labrador or Golden Retriever:
"There's a reason these breeds are the most popular worldwide and that's because they're keen to learn, love their owners and aren't as demanding exercise-wise as their working line relations."
Just make sure you get a Labrador from a domestic line rather than a working strain or they will need more exercise and attention than a regular Labrador. If you’re buying it from a farm, it’s been bred in an outside kennel and is perhaps a bit cheaper than other Labradors then this is a clue you might be accidentally buying a dog from working strain. Don’t focus on saving money, paying a bit extra for dog with a decent and chilled temperament is worth doing as they are hopefully going to be living with you and your family for the next decade or so!
If you’re after a smaller dog, then Will suggests getting a cavalier King Charles spaniel as they are friendly and easy to train:
"It's incredibly exciting to be adding a new member to your family, but remember to consider the amount of time you have to dedicate to exercising, training, socialising and grooming your new puppy, as well as your experience level.
"Don't let your heart overrule your head and make sure you're starting your journey as a dog owner on the right foot."
Christmas Basset photo by Maximiliano I Pinilla A on Pexels
The best time of year to get a puppy
Christmas is possibly the worst time to get a dog. You may have extra visitors around, people knocking at the door or be going out to parties and not able to take the pup with you. There are presents they can rip up or chew and a tree to knock over. Plus if your pup eats a piece of Christmas cake or a mince pie they could end up in the doggy ER. Not a great way to ring in the new year!
Spring or summer are the best time of year to get a puppy. After the clocks have gone forward in spring. The warmer weather makes it much easier if you are housetraining as you need to encourage your pup to go outside or you can just spend time outdoors with them where they can pee freely rather than indoors on your rug. You will also have longer days and more opportunities to get out walking in the sunshine and playing with your pup.
If your children or your spouse really want you to get them a puppy for Christmas and are pestering, make them an 'IOU' or get them a cuddly dog in the breed of their choice and promise them you will get the real puppy in the spring when the weather is better. This also gives you more time to save up for that perfect pup too! You could also give your kids a Tamagotchi (virtual pet) and tell them that if they can keep it alive they can have a real puppy (don’t be too strict about this though as those Tamagotchis are really hard to keep alive! They do teach them how to be responsible though!)
Got any tips for first time puppy buyers? We'd love to hear from you. Share your experience in the comments section below.
Main photo of walking dogs by Blue Bird on Pexels