When choosing a dog the potential owner is influenced by a number of factors, such as health, appearance, and character, but the size of the adult dog is generally the chief concern. However, size can often be deceptive, as some large dogs, such as the Greyhound, can be much less active in the home than smaller breeds.
Unfortunately, the more dogs are kept as companions the more their origins become obscured, though the instincts that first shaped their development often remain largely intact. Too many people choose a dog on the basis of its appearance alone without giving adequate consideration to the breed's ancestry, which is a factor that affects both its character and behaviour.
Small is Beautiful
Toy dogs such as the Papillon have a built-in advantage over larger breeds - their appetite is smaller and so they are less expensive to feed. 'They are quite easy to train and tend to be keen to please their owners. They thrive on affection and are usually good with children. However, it does not always follow that small dogs need less space; many small dog, especially terriers, are very active and like nothing better than to run loose in open counrry.
Some smaller hounds, such as the Beagle, have much to recommend them as pets, often having short, easy-care coats and lively, active natures. All scent hounds can be difficult to train, however, and will be reluctant to return to their owners if they pick up a scent. Pack dogs by nature, they can be greedy eaters.
Gundogs were developed to have a close rapport with their owners, and breeds such as the English Springer Spaniel make admirable house companions, provided they have plenty of opportunity to exercise and plenty of time devoted to their needs.
Grooming is a must, and particular attention should be paid to the heavy, pendulous ears, or they may become a source of problems in later life. Infections in the ears are common in spaniel breeds. One simple precaution is to invest in a very deep food bowl. The ears should then hang down outside the bowl, where they are less likely to become soiled by food.
Choosing a Pup
Having decided on the breed, you may be able to obtain a puppy locally. Breeder can be traced through the dog magazines or via the nutional kennel club. The cost of pups varies depending on their pedigree and the relative rarity of the breed. Pups are generally fully weaned and ready for their new home at about nine weeks old.
Arrange for a veterinary check-up as soon as possible to ensure that the pup is in good health. However not everybody wants, or can afford to buy a pedigree dog and, in terms of companionship, mongrels (dogs of mixed breed) can be delightful pets. But remember that it may be hard to determine the ultimate size of a mongrel.
Breeds suitable for guard work, such as the Dobermann, have recently undergone a surge in popularity. However, many guard dogs retain strong working instincts and are dominant by nature. Consequently, they require firm training from a very early age if they are not to become a liability as they grow older.
The Bigger the Better
The size of dogs such as the Great Dane can be off-putting. But size is no reliable indicator of a dog’s temperament, for this is a gentle, largely placid breed. There are certainly drawbacks in keeping an animal of this size: feeding costs are considerable, and they need plenty of living space.