Perfect Partnership

Choosing the right breed of dog is like finding the perfect partner.
Stephanie Hollebrandse discovers seven simple steps to track down your match.

Buying a puppy isn’t just for Christmas – it’s for life. So if you’re ready to commit to man’s best friend for the next 10-15 years, make sure you pick the breed that is ideally suited to your lifestyle.

A good way to ensure this happens is by asking yourself a few questions. Your answers will undoubtedly help guide you towards the perfect puppy for you and your family.

Room to move

Question one: Where will the puppy call home?

Do you live in an apartment or a house, or on a farm? Each scenario presents very different consequences for the new member of your family.

It’s important to consider the exercise needs of your pup before you bring it home, and this doesn’t always depend on the size of the breed. There are a number of small and medium-size breeds that need more space to run around in than larger, less active breeds.

Think about how active your lifestyle is too – if you’re out trekking through fields every weekend you’ll need a dog that will happily trot along beside you. If you spend the majority of your time inside, a lap dog might be more to your liking.

Veterinarian, Dr Peter Higgins, says selecting the right breed is crucial to the long-term happiness of both you and your dog.

“Many of the complaints that veterinarians and councils receive about barking and unruly dogs are often the result of active dogs being cooped up,” says Dr Higgins. “If you don’t live an active lifestyle, don’t get a dog that is bred to be active.”

Together time

Question two: How much time will you spend together?

Some breeds are born to be your lifelong companion, rarely leaving your ide. During the hours you’re gone they’ll fret, cry and generally upset the neighbours and themselves. Others will be content to entertain themselves while you’re at work during the day. Dr Higgins says some breeds, such as the Miniature Schnauzer and the Labrador, prefer their own company at times.

“A lot of people think, incorrectly, that all dogs fret when their owners are away from home. But if you do work an eight-hour day, there are some breeds that actually like to be alone,” he says. So before you choose the breed that’s best for you, consider your work commitments and how much time you’ll be able to dedicate to your puppy.

Puppy purpose

Question three: Why do you want a puppy in your life?

Whether it’s for friendship, protection or for the Conformation ring, the breed to suit you will differ greatly depending on your needs. In all cases, seek out a reputable breeder. Registered breeders don’t breed for profit, and they work to minimise genetic health issues and behavioural problems.

Dianne Wright has been involved with DOGS NSW’s public education programs on choosing the right puppy for many years. She recommends going to a dog show to talk to breeders directly.

“Track down breeders of the dog you’re interested in and take the opportunity to see the dog in action,” says Dianne. “You will also see different age groups of the breed, from puppy to adult. Don’t forget, cute puppies grow up.” Remember too, if you’re buying a dog to show, seek out the relevant show standards for the breed and check out the show records of the sire and dam of the prospective puppy.

If you’re ultimately looking for a friend in your dog, the character of the breed is the important factor. Spending some time with the breeds you’re considering will help you decide the puppy that is best suited to you. Finally, if you’re on the hunt for a guard dog, locate a breeder who specialises in breeds with protective, not aggressive, natures.

Lifelong commitment

Question four: Are you committed?

Different breeds have different life spans. While Newfoundlands are around for eight years on average, Miniature Poodles can live up to 15 years.

Understanding how long your puppy will be in your life is especially important if it’s a present for your child. By the time they move out of home, chances are the puppy will be all grown up too but still need your care and attention.

Money matters

Question five: How much money do you want to spend on your new friend?

Depending on the breed, a variety of costs to cover food, care and medical treatments will come with it. The larger the breed, the bigger breakfast it needs. The higher maintenance the coat, the more frequent the grooming sessions.

Remember, your first decision is what matters most – don’t skimp on the cost of buying a good, healthy dog of your chosen breed. The wrong choice could lead to you buying an unhealthy dog that requires expensive medical attention.

Not only is buying a puppy one of the cheaper parts of owning a dog, buying it from a reputable breeder can bring unexpected benefits. Buying a healthy dog from a registered breeder also means you have a point of contact for any future issues regarding the feeding and training of the puppy.

Allergic reaction

Question six: Do you suffer from allergies?

If a house full of dog hair is likely to make you sneeze, seek out a non-allergic dog. While there is no breed that is truly allergy free, some breeds are less likely than others to shed hair, therefore decreasing your chances of reaching for the tissues every time your dog runs by.

Child’s play

Question seven: Is there, or will there soon be, the pitter-patter of tiny feet in your life?

If so make sure you decide on a breed that will fit in with your family. Children won’t be able to understand that your new puppy isn’t a toy and boisterous breeds won’t appreciate their coat being pulled.

Make a note too, puppies bite back and their little teeth are very sharp. Even when playing they’re likely to hurt a child so always supervise children with dogs.

Finding a breeder

Now that you’ve decided on the breed of your pup, it’s time to find the right breeder.

A responsible breeder will happily answer all your questions, and you
should have some questions prepared when visiting potential breeders.

Some questions to ask include:

  • Why did you choose this breed and how long have you been involved with it?
  • If we decide on your litter, can we visit regularly before choosing our pup?
  • Can we see the mother/father or other family members?
  • Can we see all the litter together?
  • When are the puppies wormed and vaccinated?
  • Are there any hereditary conditions in this breed which may affect the health of the puppy?
  • If there are hereditary problems in this breed, do you test breeding stock and are we able to view any results of those health tests?
  • Can we have the puppy checked by our vet before we buy?
  • If any unforeseen conditions arise, can the puppy be returned?

Breeders should also offer ongoing support and advice as your puppy grows. The premises on which they raise their litters should be clean and the mother of the puppies should be well conditioned, lively and friendly.

And remember, the breeder should in fact have some questions for you too. After all, you’ll be the proud new parents of their baby.

They should want to know why you chose the breed, where the pup will be living and the type of diet you’ll be offering it. It’s also important to note whether or not the puppies have been socialised at an early age. Dr Peter Higgins points out how this can lead to development problems in the long term.

“It is vitally important to socialise puppies from day one. They need to be exposed to a wide variety of circumstances and experiences and introduced to people of all ages as well as other animals. A poorly socialised puppy becomes an out of control adult,” says Dr Higgins.

Take the time to consider all these factors when choosing the newest member of your family. After all, inviting a puppy home is a lifelong responsibility, and one that will bring you joy for many years to come.