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Choosing your next dog?

What breed should I get?

Where should I get my pup from?

Should I get a pup or an older dog?

All common questions that many people struggle with!

 

Well first of all, try picking a breed with your eyes closed.

This is a serious suggestion! Because many people chose a dog by its looks and this is a major contributing factor to the problem of dogs in the wrong homes.

Look through the criteria below and work out a check list for yourself.

Temperament

First and foremost this is the most important aspect of choosing a dog. Many dogs can adapt to your lifestyle yes that’s true, but understand that this is only possible if your lifestyle is only a little different than the dogs. You wont get a high drive, high energy dog to be your lapdog, it just won’t happen.

Within the temperament choices I believe the first category you should consider should be energy and more specifically, drive levels. Are you an active person that likes to exercise, do you get out for walks, runs, swims etc REGULARLY? As in daily? If so then you may be OK with the higher energy herding or retrieving breeds.

These too vary in energy and some of those breeds may only be really suitable for an athlete or a person with a goal to achieve with their dog such as dog sports etc.

My breed I have at the moment are Belgian Malinois, it is believed throughout the world that this breed is the highest drive breed in the world, owning two of them I support this train of thought LOL. Mine are working line Malinois which is the peak of the mountain.

Remember a working line dog is one that has had its genetic traits enhanced or maintained so that it will have more natural desire to do the job it was bred for. Say that you were considering a Border Collie for example, the working line Border Collies may herd or round up your children, other dogs and or be ball obsessed, whereas lines aimed more at the pet market may be a relaxed dog that will suit families more, but may fall short if you’re looking at a Dog Sports prospect or working dog.

I believe that unless you’re an experienced dog owner with a goal in mind then this breed may not suit you. They are very hard, fast and driven dogs that need exercise, training and stimulation daily.

Nordenstamm Venom and Steve

Down the list a little are some of the Herding breeds and Gun dog Breeds like German Shepherds, Kelpies, Border Collies, Labrador’s, etc, these will suit your higher active lifestyles without being over the top, but again if you go for a working line bred dog from this category, you may have your hands full unless you really know what you are doing and have a goal.

It is a common misconception when people have seen a certain dog in a movie and assume that all dogs of that breed will be like that, that is just not the case and also you may be looking at an older, trained dog and as we all know, there are many retakes in movies. Labrador’s would be one of the most miss chosen dogs, people see them as a lazy dog that lies on your front porch, and that is true some of the time with a 6-year-old plus Lab. Before that age, they can have very high exercise requirements and they can be pretty full on. Remember a Labrador is a retriever, the sport of retrieving requires a very high performance dog…

It is just as bad to choose a low energy dog when you have high demands of that dog, such as getting say a Bulldog to go on your 10 kilometer morning run…

It is quite clear in hindsight but with a little forethought you can select a dog that will meet your needs and give you many years of joy.

Nerves and stability

Arguably the most common problem that attributes to behaviour problems is a dog that has weak nerves, these dogs are easily frightened and can can make false assumptions which can lead them to be aggressive or reactive.

Solid nerved dogs are self balanced and can take most things in their stride without becoming phobic or fearful of it, but of course everything in balance is best. A dog that is very self-assured and has very solid nerves won’t make a good guard dog, they don’t unsettle easy nor detect things that are out of place and why should they, they aren’t frightened of much.

Nervous dogs can be difficult to manage in public

Size

A vet I used to work with said “never get a dog you can’t carry!“. I guess he would see this as a problem a lot whereas others may never think of this being an issue. Seriously though a large dog may be more than a small person can handle confidently and a small dog may be too small to meet your needs. It may come back to what you want your dog for – do you want your dog to go hiking in the bush with you, camping or fishing? Well a dog that is robust may be more suited to this type of activity than a small dog that may not be as weather tolerant nor terrain-able. Not all dogs can do every sport or activity well and over stressing a dog that isn’t built for an activity won’t be enjoyable for either party.

Also think about other factors like what size is your yard and home, will your dog have enough space to exercise and play?

Coat Style

This is a big problem for many people and it can come as a surprise to many how much certain breeds will shed. Do some investigation on what level of grooming the breed you are interested in will need. Many dogs have a coat that is able to be maintained by the average person with little experience and a few good grooming tools, whilst some other breeds will require professional help such as clipping, coat stripping etc.

Health

Many breeds have genetic health issues that can need monitoring, treatment or preventative care, so research the breed you’re considering well as some health issues may be more than you will be able to manage, afford or treat.

Some dogs have a shorter life span than others which may be a consideration for many.

Training

Will you get a dog to train to achieve a goal, such as an Obedience Title, Agility Title etc? Or will you only train your dog if you need to? Some breeds respond better to training than others, whilst some dogs are highly trainable but they require more advanced methods.

Structure

What part does structure play in choosing a dog? Well, if you are looking at a working dog or sports dog it may have a huge bearing on the dog’s ability. If you’re not then it may still need to be a consideration but maybe not a priority.

Puppy or older dog

This depends on many factors, there are many older dogs in pounds and rescues all over the world that would make an awesome pet, it is a myth that only dogs with problems are surrendered. In many cases people are not geared up to take on a puppy and teach that puppy everything from toilet training to leash walking and how to be a good canine citizen.

These people can gain huge benefits from getting an adult dog that has had some training already.

People who have time and commitment may be better off with a puppy as they can train, raise and shape the puppy to integrate into their lives and teach behaviours they feel are right for them and their dog. Those with children can teach their children how to care for and raise a baby puppy and allow the children share in the responsibility of doing so.

Don’t believe the myth that rescue dogs are trouble

Breeder or Pet shop?

Pet shops aren’t an ideal way for dogs to be sourced in my opinion. If you take a look at my Puppy Development Schedule you will see that there are better times to source a puppy than others, and they when we separate pups from the litter ideally they go to their forever home, not a pet store window.

So you may need to think  a little more about what breed of dog to get and what level of commitment that breed will take from you.

Dogs are a forever decision, they will become dependent on you and need you to be there for them, a puppy will be with you for 10 plus years, so please take your time, don’t buy on impulse and choose wisely.

Once you have chosen a breed of dog based on the above aspects, I personally believe that spending a little time and money on having a professional temperament test the litter is a very good idea. I know that I can see traits in a seven and a half weeks old pup that you won’t. Yes the temperament of the dog isn’t solid as yet, but it has a genetic platform it is built on and that is visible to the experienced people who have selected, raised and trained many dogs.

Is the breeder a good source of which puppy to select?

The answer is “maybe”. The basic criteria to being a breeder is to be able to get two dogs to mate…

However many or perhaps even most breeders are a lot more experienced than that and are a good source of information. How much influence they have over your choice is variable though, if you for example wanted a dog for competition obedience, and the breeder has been breeding dogs for a long time, competes in the same sport as you do then they are probably one of your best influences on the litter. If the breeder has for example shown dogs but not competed, they may not be a reliable source of information.

I personally will ask the breeder what are their thoughts on the litter, I will take that into consideration together with what experience they have with the breed and the goal I or my client has for the dog.

I will see how the dog interacts with me, the other pups and perhaps the mother, I will investigate the lines and the achievements or the behaviours of the parents where possible. All of these things will play a part in making the selection.

I personally won’t buy a pup from a breeder that chooses the pup for me, this is something I will not budge on.

Breeders Terms and Co Ownership

I don’t have a problem with this really and as I breed Malinois I may at some stage in the future offer a pup or pups on terms of use and ownership. There are some very big pitfalls here and these are something that I think people end up missing and then regretting.

One of the most common complaints I hear from people is that “I paid for the dog, feed it, raise it, take care of and bare all the expenses but it really isn’t my dog as I am not allowed to x, y , z“.

I really don’t think that this should come as much of a surprise, I am sure the contract clearly outlined such stipulations and perhaps even the reasons for them, but many keen puppy buyers glance over them in the excitement only to whinge about them later. I don’t think this is the fault of the breeder and I think the people have no right to complain. If you are going to enter into breeders terms or co ownership, then read the contract thoroughly, agree with it 100% and perhaps get someone else to look at it as well.

Don’t think that this is the only pup that will meet your needs so accept the contract, there will be other pups, other breeders and other opportunities.

I am uncertain of breeders who only sell pups on co ownership, I understand the benefits for the breeder but I can’t see too much advantage for the puppy buyer.

I think taking on any pup is a big responsibility, one that should stay in place for 10 plus years, so it is no surprise that I think that taking your time and making sure the pup you chose will not be one you regret. When you invest in a co owned pup, remember now that you are also committing a double responsibility, you are going to need to get along with the breeder for this amount of time now too.

Contracts should be fully understood

At a glance…

[list type=”check”]
  • Honestly look at how much time you have and what level of fitness you have.
  • Look at the type of temperament that will suit your lifestyle and goals.
  • What size dog can you manage?
  • What training will you be aiming at? Pet dog > competition prospect?
  • Is a puppy for you or would you be better off with an older dog that already has some manners?
  • How will you choose a breeder?
  • Are you up with breeders contracts and are you o.k with co ownership?
[/list]

Getting a new dog is a life changing experience, you will make new memories, explore new territory that you may have not ever gone before, or it can be quite a trying time with disastrous outcomes for those that dive in without considering the hazards first.

I don’t ever remember a time that I haven’t had a dog live with me and I hope there never will come that day.

About Stevek9pro

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16 comments

  1. Howdy, Steve!

    My Grandfather, before he died last year was a small town dog-trainer. He lived out in Pyramid Hill. As he was getting on in years he was going to begin training me so that I could slowly take over his business. Unfortunately that couldn’t happen.

    However I still want to become a dog trainer. Preferably I want to go into Protection Dog training, but I understand that I need to start at the bottom first. I do have a few questions though..

    I live in South Australia and, other than a TAFE course in Companion Animal Services I can’t seem to find a Dog Trainer course. Any ideas?

    Also, is it viable to buy a puppy and train him as I’m doing my course, or wait until afterwards and then train him?

    As I want to go into Protection Dog Training, what’s the best breed for this?

    Any info you might give me would be such a big help – thank you!

    • Also! I don’t JUST want to be a Protective Dog Trainer..At the end of my training I want to be able to offer my clients a variation of services. From puppy training, obedience courses..etc.

    • Hey Brooke, there really isn’t a course I know of in SA that can help you unfortunately. There really is not a course that will qualify you for what your want either, in the whole of Australia.

      I would recommend looking for a trainer to mentor you or travel overseas if you want to learn real skills.

  2. Steve just interested in different ways you might approach testing a mature dog versus a litter of pups. What particularly would you look for in a mature dog so that it might make a good all round pet (not talking sport or agility dogs here).
    For me I think most important would be reasonably good nerves. One thing Iove about Jake is that he is pretty much not fazed by anything, he can handle that kid that suddenly decides to throw their arms around him in the street (not encouraged by me btw but sometimes it is difficult to control the environment and others actions), he can handle the noisy traffic in a new environment or the thunderstorm in the middle of the night.

    • Solid nerves would be the highest priority for most pet owners, or at least should be very high on the list from a temperament stand point in a pup, but with older dogs you may not see the nerve of a dog but you may see some learned behaviours that were developed by nerve. One may be re activeness or aggressiveness toward other dogs, or children perhaps. Instead of seeing the nerve problem you see a behaviour problem as in an older dog it has had time to form.

  3. Great article. Your point about rescue dogs or older dogs being right for some is spot on. Our dogs have always been adolescents or adults when we have adopted them. Seeing an abused dog become more confident or an undiciplined dog learn manners is incredibly rewarding for me. While we have settled on a breed or type, (GSD or GSDxLabrador), every one has been an individual who has come with their own quirks. Even when you think you are getting a ‘type’, they do surprise you. Far as I’m concerned, you are there for your dog’s forever, and we have to muddle through together – sometimes the dog learns, sometimes we do! That said, it’s not always easy or clear. Steve, your assessment and help with ‘problem childen’ on a couple of occasions now has been invaluable. Thank You.

  4. Steve where were you 40+ years ago when I bought my first dog? Probably not born. Excellent article and mandatory reading for anyone thinking about getting a dog. Two things, however, I would like to say – I wouldn’t touch a dog with breeders’ rights, shared ownership, etc. Such a minefield. And, two, I think most people can get a good idea of a pup’s temperament by spending some time watching him interacting with the rest of the litter. The bully and the timid pup are pretty obvious, the others are just various shades of grey!

    • Well I can say I was training dogs just yet but I was probably thinking about it Lisa lol. Breeders terms can be a worry if you don’t think them through, I have had dogs on breeders terms and sold them on breeders terms without issues. But it takes a lot of thought to get it right.

  5. Steve , interesting article .. One comment though .
    Does the general public have any idea about the difference between working lines versus say show lines . I very much doubt it . You mention working lines a lot .
    I went to a very reputable dobermann breeder 2+ years ago , post losing my 141/2 year old dobermann .
    This breeder of show dobermans and ex president of the Victorian dobermann club , show dobes … Sold me a 2year old boy , her kennel , without mentioning the fact that he had bitten previously (hospitalized the mother in law ) and had a genetic fault ( proven ) cause of the inexplicable bites (sick / unstable , not vicious … He was temperament tested on 3 occasions
    He bit my neighbour .two weeks after I bought him .. I am facing court proceedings . as we speak .
    I now have a 16mth old dobe from pure working lines … Her character is totally stable , trustworthy , she is confident ( no signs of aggression / fear aggression nervousness . Traits you mention in the timid dog …etc
    Going to a reputable breeder , getting an older dog ( thought I was doing a good thing ) didn’t work for me .
    …. And on the long trip finding another … I reported another REPUTABLE
    Breeder of dobes to the RSPCA . It is a mine field out there . glad I have found the perfect breeder NOW !!
    What a journey … Buyers beware .. Of all breeders . Ps
    My pup was chosen by the breeder for me … She is perfect ( breeder got to know me quite well prior to litter born )

    • Hey Julia, the general public may not, but I do think that getting a new dog requires some pre thought and investigation, rather than buying on impulse. So they should discover pretty easily they differences. It sounds like the breeder you dealt with wasn’t reputable at all, I wonder what the term reputable means sometimes.

      And yes it can be a mine field, I guess as soon as it becomes commercial and involves money, crooks will jump in…

  6. Great article Steve and ought to be mandatory reading for all puppy buyers. Thanks for pointing out the advantages of an older dog too. Jake was around 1 when I got him and it was great to have a dog that could cope with longer periods alone (so long as he got his morning and evening exercise and mental stimulation) and as a bonus someone else had already housetrained him! I would seriously consider a mature dog again.

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