Perhaps you are planning to escape to the country this year, and this is the perfect opportunity to own a dog for the first time. Or maybe you have always wanted a dog for weekend walks in the countryside, but are nervous about how to proceed. Either way, if you wish to buy a dog this year, your choice of breed could be crucial. Some breeds will suit your lifestyle perfectly, but the wrong dog will lead to stress and unhappiness – for both of you.
Owning a dog can change your life for the better. Dogs give you a reason to go outside every day for fresh air and exercise; they bring a whole new dimension to exploring the countryside as they enjoy the space and freedom; and they will regularly bring you into contact with others of a like mind. And there is nothing quite like the companionship
that a faithful dog can bring.
All this only becomes possible if you have chosen and trained your dog wisely. To avoid problems, such as your dog running away, chasing, or pulling incessantly on the lead, you need to make a wise choice that suits your household, and also give good education and training.
To make a good choice, get the family together to make a list of all the characteristics you want from a new dog. Think about things such as exercise, personality, size, and attitude to visitors and other dogs. Include what you can offer the dog. Be realistic: how much free time does each member of the family really have? Who will do the feeding, walking, playing, taking to the vet and the extra cleaning? Armed with your list, find a dog with the genes to suit you all.
If any breeds look appealing, research their temperament traits. A big clue to personality is the history of the breed and the job its ancestors did. So once you know the temperament predispositions you’re dealing with, consider what a dog with those traits will be like living in your home.
Once you’ve settled on the type of dog you want, do you buy a puppy or find an adult from a rescue centre? A puppy is a clean slate and you will enjoy to delights of watching them grow, but you will need lots of time for education during the first year to develop a well-behaved dog. Alternatively, an adult will be past the house training and chewing phases, and what you see is what you get.
If you decide on a puppy, be sure to choose your breeder wisely as this will make a tremendous difference to the health and temperament of the dog you end up with. Not only will the breeder be responsible for the genetic make-up, but they will also be caring for the puppy for the majority of the socialisation period, a time when the puppy needs to learn all about the world in which it will live if it is to be well-adjusted and unafraid later. Finding good breeders is not easy, but it is best not to visit litters unless you have done your research. It is almost impossible not to fall in love at once when you see those little balls of fluff, so it is better to only visit puppies that you know have been raised by a conscientious and dedicated breeder.
Finding a healthy dog
In addition, make sure the breeder you choose has had all tests done for the inherited diseases for that particular breed. Sadly, in producing pedigree dogs, gene pools have become small and inherited diseases abound. This has become such an issue that many owners are turning to crossbreeds, such as Labradoodles or Cockapoos. So find out about the diseases affecting your chosen breed and make sure you are buying a dog that has every chance to live a long and healthy life.
Whether you get an adult or a puppy, one of the most important things to do is to train and educate. This will allow you to have a dog that can be controlled outside on walks and is nice to live with at home. Modern methods of positive training allow this to be a fun activity for both you and the dog, and all the family can enjoy teaching the new dog or puppy how to behave.
And finally, if going out in all weathers really fills you with dread, or work and a social life keeps you away from home, it may not be a good time to get a dog. Better to wait until your circumstances change so that both you and the dog will have a good chance of enjoying life together.
Country dog breeds
Bred for: Herding sheep.
Size: Large; height 46-54cm, weight 14-22kg.
Personality: An energetic, close-bonding, willing to please workaholic.
Attitude to others: Reactive and needs good socialisation when young to be friendly to all.
Exercise requirements: Loves to chase and needs plenty of games and training to fulfill its very high need for mental and physical exercise. Special characteristics: Loyal, affectionate and eager to work, quick to learn and intelligent.
Perfect owner: Energetic, sensitive owners who have time and room to exercise, play and train.
Bred for: Seizing and hanging on to large game until hunters arrived.
Size: Large; height 53-63cm, weight 25-32kg.
Personality: Energetic, enthusiastic and extrovert.
Attitude to others: Friendly.
Exercise requirements: Lively and agile, and needs plenty of exercise every day.
Special characteristics: Boxers are good-natured, tolerant, and playful, making them good companions for children.
Perfect owner: Boisterous families who want an energetic and exuberant companion.
Bred for: Hunting hares and rabbits in packs.
Size: Medium; height 33-40cm, weight 8-14kg.
Personality: Happy, enthusiastic and tolerant.
Attitude to others: Friendly to all.
Exercise requirements: Boundless energy but usually content to be quiet at home if given sufficient free-running exercise outside.
Special characteristics: A strong desire to chase wildlife can lead to control issues outside unless careful training is started early and continued throughout life.
Perfect owner: Active families who appreciate the need to keep this energetic dog under control.
Bred for: Chasing and catching rabbits.
Size: Small; height 44-51cm, weight 12.5-13.5kg.
Personality: Gentle and affectionate.
Attitude to others: Reserved but friendly.
Exercise requirements: Can make do with limited exercise but needs daily bursts of free running off lead, especially when young.
Special characteristics: Thin coat makes it vulnerable to the cold. It needs good socialisation when young, as well as early training, to ensure control over hunting instincts on walks.
Perfect owner: Gentle, sensitive owners who want an independent, elegant dog.
Bred for: Catching vermin and digging out foxes.
Size: Small; height 25-28cm, weight 5-7kg.
Personality: Affectionate, easy going and enthusiastic.
Attitude to others: Good with others, except small pets.
Exercise requirements: Lively and keen to go on long walks, but also content with quieter days with less exercise.
Special characteristics: Good watchdog without excessive barking.
Perfect owner: Families who want a small dog that is bright and keen to be involved with daily life.
Bred for: Catching rats, by Yorkshire miners.
Size: Small; height 22.5-23.5cm, weight 2.5-3.5kg.
Personality: Affectionate, playful and feisty.
Attitude to others: Needs to be well socialised; care needed with small pets.
Exercise requirements: Daily exercise and activity needed to be calm.
Special characteristics: Has a big character, despite its small size, and needs plenty of socialisation and training early in life to develop a good temperament.
Perfect owner: Ideal for careful owners who want a small dog with a big personality.
Bred for: Running alongside carriages, guarding their masters and the horses.
Size: Large; height 56-61cm, weight 23-25kg.
Personality: Active, gentle and affectionate.
Attitude to others: Friendly if well socialised in early life.
Exercise requirements: Loves to run and hasplenty of stamina, and so needs open areas where it can exercise safely, away from traffic.
Special characteristics: Quiet and sensible at home, providing it gets the exercise it needs.
Perfect owner: Active families who enjoy regular long walks in the countryside.
Bred for: Originally, to assist anglers in the cold waters of Labrador, Canada. Later used for flushing and retrieving game.
Size: Large; height 55-57cm, weight 25-34kg.
Personality: Amiable, fun-loving and playful.
Attitude to others: Easygoing and friendly.
Exercise requirements: Plenty of daily exercise and toy play needed to keep it content.
Special characteristics: A powerful swimmer, and loves to play games. It will need lots of chews when young to save family possessions from being shredded.
Perfect owner: A good choice for families.
English Cocker Spaniel
Bred for: Flushing and retrieving game.
Size: Medium; height 38-41cm, weight 13-14.5kg.
Personality: Lively, enthusiastic, strong willed, but eager to please.
Attitude to others: Friendly and outgoing.
Exercise requirements: Needs energetic walks and plenty of play daily.
Special characteristics: Can be strong-willed, so you need to put in the time to socialise and train it well when young.
Perfect owner: Active owners who are determined but kind, and have plenty of time to exercise and train this intelligent dog.
English Springer Spaniel
Bred for: Flushing and retrieving game.
Size: Medium; height 46-48cm, weight 16-20kg.
Personality: Happy, enthusiastic and willing to please.
Attitude to others: Friendly to all.
Exercise requirements: Will work tirelessly all day and still be ready for more, so will require long walks and lots of play to feel content.
Special characteristics: Makes a gentle but enthusiastic playmate for children.
Perfect owner: Active owners with plenty of time and energy. Ideal for families or dog sport enthusiasts.