Thinking about getting a dog but don't know where to start...

(27 Posts)
Playfortoday Tue 06-May-14 14:36:44

I grew up with dogs, but have never owned one as an adult. We're a family with three children (youngest five), I work from home and the longest a dog would be alone would be from 9-3 and this would be infrequent. We live in London, but have a garden and lots of parks nearby.

I have so many questions and I'm not sure where to begin. I'd be so grateful for any advice or steer especially about breeds.

1. Breed? I'm very taken with miniature schnauzers or something similar. That sort of size. Anybody know of any good reason not to get that breed? There are a lot of them about (every well-dressed man in my neighbourhood seems to have a grey one), which is both a good and bad thing. Or any similar sized recommendations very welcome.

2. Bitch or dog? What are the reasons for choice?

3. Where to get from? I presume I should go to a registered breeder. What websites are reputable (I keep coming up with various when I search). How best to approach this? How to plan a visit? What to look for etc? I obviously don't want to encourage any dubious puppy farming.

4. Why shouldn't I get a dog? I'm worried this is some sort of fur baby (am not going to have any more children) that I might regret.

5. Some of the hybrid dogs (e.g. schnoodle, jack-a-poo) are very endearing looking but is a bad idea to get a hybrid? Are they a fad? More likely to encourage puppy farming? MOre or less likely to have health issues?

6. What else should we be thinking about before embarking on what hopefully will be a happy and long relationship?

Thank you so much in advance.

basildonbond Tue 06-May-14 16:13:31

I got my first dog as an adult in September - and he's been fabulous smile. I'd grown up with dogs and frequently walked my parents'/sibling's/aunt's dogs in the intervening years but it's v different having your own (you can't hand them back at the end of the day!)

We did a lot of research before we got our pup - both on which breed to get and then visiting breeders etc and as dpup is a rare breed we had to do a lot of schlepping about

Anyway in answer to your questions

1.breed - we decided on a Toller - I love gundogs but was a bit wary of getting a dog the size of the average show goldie when our house isn't massive - then we discovered Tollers, met some and fell in love. Personally I'm not a big fan of schnauzers but I am v biased towards gundogs esp for a family with children. Obviously you've still got to train them etc but you're giving yourself a head start by picking a breed which has been bred for generations to be trainable and biddable

2. We've got a dog now, his best friends are both girl pups who are a couple of months older than him - pros and cons to both so I wouldn't make it a deal-breaker

3. Champdogs is a reputable site - don't tough pets4homes or gum tree with a barge pole - also get in touch with breed clubs as they will know good breeders/ones to avoid. Be prepared to pay for a well-bred puppy. If it's cheaper than you think ask yourself why... Lots of people on here will tell you to get a rescue - we'd got our heart set on a Toller and they hardly ever come up in rescues plus both our cats and wider family's pets are all rescues so I felt my rescue karma was in balance!

4. Why not? Dogs are a big responsibility - you need to put a lot of effort into training etc in order to have a well-behaved adult dog. Eg when you're out from 9-3 you'll need to get a Dogwalker to take the dog out in the middle of the day. Expense - vets bills, insurance, food, training classes, Dogwalker, extra expense on holidays - if you don't really want the dog you could end up resenting the cost

Hybrids - apart from the very small number of doodles bred as guide dogs the test of them (lovely though many are) are bred to make money. A lot of guff is talked about hybrid vigour but you'd need to make sure that dogs are tested for all the possible hereditary conditions for any of the breeds in a hybrid's make-up

Breed wise I'd look at breed traits rather than looks. Looking cute won't mean a thing if your wants and needs are mismatched. Don't assume small dogs are less work either, again it goes on breed for exercise requirements. I have a little Border Terrier who can walk for miles. He needs a good hour plus as a minimum or else he is pacing around all evening. There are websites where you can put in your requirements and it will suggest possible breeds.

When you have decided that, contact the breed club. They should have a list reputable breeders.

Just bear in mind the level of commitment with regards to your question of regret. Feeling under the weather? Busy weekend? Stressful day at work? Christmas day? It is like having a child in terms that there is no time off for good behaviour. Worth it in my opinion but only you know where you stand on that!

9-3 is too long to leave a puppy too so you'd need to face that hurdle too in terms of friends, family or doggy sitters? Or consider an adult dog if it is infrequent?

I have no problems with accidental litters of 'mutts' but my question would be why? You are not showing or looking to perfect a breed standard. So the motivation is likely to be money. It amazes me how much some of these crossbreeds are...I recently saw a litter of 'jugs' (JRT/Pug) advertised on FB hmm and they were as much as I'd paid for my KC reg BT!

Booboostoo Tue 06-May-14 17:16:37

1 Breed: this is a tough one. Smaller dogs tend to be more stressy and more yappy but you may not have room for a larger dog. There is a reason some breeds like goldies are very popular though. Before deciding join an FB group of dog owners of this breed and see whether you like the kinds of stories they share. They will usually be bonkers about their breed regardless of what the dogs are up to, but would you find similar antics funny or acceptable?

2. If it is your only dog sex doesn't matter. For a second dog, male and female are best, male and male second best, and two bitches the most likely to fight. The most important thing is to neuter/spay.

3. Start with checking out websites and see what you think. A good breeder should tell you their breeding programme (what kind of dog they are trying to breed, e.g. working, showing, family pet), they should tell you all health screening tests they have done on the parents and be prepared to show you paperwork proof without batting an eyelid (the Kennel Club tells you what the common tests are for each breed), they should let you meet at least the mum and give you information on the dad, they should keep the pups in similar conditions to yours, e.g. with children. The breeder should also be very interested in you and ask you a lot of information about your home situation and try to judge your ability to look after a puppy. They should also want to meet you at least once and see you interact with the adult dogs and they may well have a waiting list (it is MUCH better to wait for the right puppy than rush into getting the wrong one). The breeder should have a limited number of dogs and a limited number of litters a year, the puppies should be kept in the house and stay with their mum until 8 weeks or a bit longer. Don't be taken in by puppies in dirty, awful, neglected conditions, if you want a rescue, go to a rescue society, don't give money to an unscrupulous breeder.

4. Puppies are hard work, they soil in the house, they chew your things, they jump up, they mouth your children, etc. they are definitely an adjustment! Dogs can also be muddy, cost a lot of money at the vets and do need long term training. You will also need to think what you will do with the dog when you go on holiday and you will need to take the dog into account for the next 15 years (e.g. where to live as you will need a garden, what kind of car to have to fit the dog in, etc.).

5. For me it's a very bad idea as it is a silly fad. A reputable breeder will be following breeding lines from generations and generations back and will be selecting bitches and dogs with a specific idea in mind as to what they want to breed. They will be shaping the breed and contributing to its development. Hybrids are a quick way to make a buck. If you do get a hybrid make sure the breeder has done all health screening for both breeds, being a hybrid is no more likely to make the dog healthier, in fact it may carry genetic defects from both lines.

6. The most important period in a puppy's life is the window of opportunity between 8 and 14-16 weeks when they are not scared of the world. Anything they are socialised with during this period will be something they will be comfortable for life, so it is imperative that you spend a lot of time with the puppy during these early weeks introducing it to as many aspects of the world as possible. You should also make time for puppy classes (fun socialisation classes) and dog training classes (personally I think it takes 2 years of training to get a nicely behaved dog but most people do a lot less).

Best of luck

ErrolTheDragon Tue 06-May-14 17:35:00

Very wise to think it through thoroughly beforehand. smile

1) Breed less important than the individual Things to think about are size, coat (shedding/grooming/smell); temperament. I believe schnauzers are quite vocal - which may or may not bother you (I've got a standard smooth-haired dachshund which is probably somewhat similar in this respect grin)

2) some people reckon that bitches are more likely to be strongly attached to one member of the family... but again that's going to depend more on the individual than the sex

3) If you want a pedigree dog, then find the breed website. They all have lists of breeders with due dates of pups and sometimes older dogs who need a pet home (my current dog was 10 months when we got him - much easier than a pup, socialised, trained!). But do also consider rescue dogs - they can be more of a known quantity than a pup!

4) Its a lifetime commitment. Insurance is expensive but (IMO) not optional. What do you do with the dog during holidays? Would it cramp you style - makes it harder to spontaneously go away for a weekend. (more things in link for (6))

5) 'More likely to encourage puppy farming? MOre or less likely to have health issues?' Yes. There's plenty of endearing dogs either pedigree or mongrel. You may not get what you're expecting with a hybrid... coat of a lab, temperament of a poodle ....

6) The Kennel Club has some useful advice here - some of which is good regardless of whether you want a pedigree dog or what you may think of the KC in other regards.

exexpat Tue 06-May-14 17:46:45

If the youngest is now five I think that's a perfect age to get a dog - my family's first labrador arrived when I was five, and I first got my own dog when DD was just turning six/DS was 10. The dog is the one thing that can get them out of the house and off for healthy walks at weekends now they are teenage/nearly teenage.

I did a lot of research - online and also just accosting owners of friendly dogs and asking them about the breeds - before deciding on a border terrier. They are known as very good family dogs - very sociable and up for long walks when they are on offer, but not as demanding as some bigger breeds - as well as being very low-maintenance, healthy dogs with very few genetic issues. Similar size to a miniature schnauzer. I have one or two friends who have miniature schnauzers and they seem lovely too.

I got my dog from a friend (not a professional breeder) whose border terrier was having a litter - not the MN-approved method, but it meant we knew the background very well and met our pup when he was one day old. We still see his mother and a couple of siblings.

If you are mostly at home then walks and training shouldn't be a problem; one thing you will need to think about is what you will do when you go away. We often go on non-dog-friendly holidays, but have a lovely dog-sitter who looks after dogs in her own home, and my dog seems to love going there (though comes back exhausted after a week or two of daily long walks and the constant company of up to six other dogs). However, that kind of in-home care is much more expensive than kennels and definitely adds to the cost of a holiday.

LadyTurmoil Tue 06-May-14 18:23:43

It's not just holidays and all the other things mentioned above, it's the day-to-day time you need. At the beginning, for housetraining and training if they're small (definitely couldn't be left from 9-3) but also when they're older. Can you fit them in between taking children to friends, clubs, football, swimming - whatever they do.... Also, spontaneous days out with kids in half-term/hols/inset days have to planned more carefully as you will need to sort out a solution for the dog if you are going to be out all day.

Will you have to take all 3 children with you whenever you go for a walk? They won't always want to go (especially when the novelty has worn off) When it's raining and cold they definitely WON'T want to go. If they do, you've got three children and a wet/smelly dog to cope with when you get home! Obviously do-able, just whether you want to do it day in, day out.

Also, look at rescues if you're not too bothered about breeds. Smaller rescues often use foster families which means their temperament can be assessed in a home environment with kids/cats/other dogs which could be good info for you. They also get puppies for all kinds of reasons so don't necessarily discount them out of hand.

Good luck in your search smile

Playfortoday Tue 06-May-14 20:19:03

Thank you all so much for taking the time to answer my questions.

You've absolutely persuaded me against hybrids. I was feeling that way but was swayed by a couple of endearing ones I've met recently. It just seems to be adding more uncertainty and potentially more dubious practices to the mix.

This may seem a really silly question, but I am a novice, but when the puppy is fully grown (say 18 months plus) is 9 until 3 still too long to be left? How does one know?

Apologies for naivety. If I'm going to do this, I want to get it right.

Playfortoday Tue 06-May-14 20:20:52

Sorry another thing, when people offer older dogs (i.e. not puppies) is there usually a reason? My parents have a rehomed Border Terrier (apologies to Border T lovers) who is a bit unlovable (actually a lot unlovable for myriad reasons). There was, sadly, a reason why her owners didn't want her.

Booboostoo Tue 06-May-14 20:50:18

5 hours is about the most you can get away with leaving a dog on a regular basis. It will mean that you have to take the dog for a walk before 9 and again after 3 and also try to stay at home or take the dog with you for the rest of the day otherwise the hours you leave the dog on its own start pilling up.

Hoppinggreen Tue 06-May-14 21:34:46

We are just going through a similar process OP.
We have discounted a rescue on safety grounds as although I know many rescue dogs make great family pets and a good rescue centre should match a family with the right dog I would feel happier having a dog from a puppy. ( out children are 5 and 9)
I also prefer to know exactly what breed the dog is ( or mix of) so we know if it's general breed characteristics will fit with our family.
We haven't decided on a breed yet, but I quite like Spaniels.
And I think 9-3 is too long to leave a dog alone, I think 4 hours is enough.

ErrolTheDragon Wed 07-May-14 08:20:41

>when people offer older dogs (i.e. not puppies) is there usually a reason?

yes but not necessarily a bad one! Our dog had been kept by his breeder for potential show/stud as he'd looked like a promising pup... but then he developed alopaecia. He's got a the best temperament of any dachshund I've come across. He's very healthy, just a lacking in hair here and there.

Our previous dog we had from a pup was inherently much more highly strung, scared of walking along roads which was a real PITA - you can't really tell how a pup will turn out character-wise, so I don't think they're the 'safe' choice by any means.

basildonbond Wed 07-May-14 08:31:37

Not all rescue dogs have issues - v much depends on their start in life. One of the rescues we had growing up had been kept in a shed for the first 6 months of his life so had had no socialisation or training and was v thin. He was the sweetest-natured dog you could imagine but was incredibly hard to toilet train and was dim beyond belief. The other dog we had at the same time was a collie x - he had no issues at all - very 'sensible', happy little dog. However some don't get over a bad start as easily as ours did and can have problems with fear aggression, stress etc
so best to go to a reputable rescue who'll do their best to match your family to the right dog

Playfortoday Wed 07-May-14 09:50:55

Thanks again for all this advice. Champ Dogs is an excellent site and I'll keep an eye on it. I think I can organise my life so that the only times I'd be out for max six hours, someone else would be at home and able to take her/him out. Most of the time it wouldn't arise anyway.

It's still a lot to think about. I don't know whether having finally got some of my freedom back, I really should be shackling myself to another helpless small creature…

Absolutely no to a hybrid. Any good suggestions for smallish (i.e. miniature schnauzer/border terrier) sized breeds?

It might help to know what you are hoping for - a quiet lap dog? An active playful dog?

What for instance did you find unlovable about your mums BT? Promise I am not being a BT obsessive and having a go grin It might just give us pointers as to what to suggest. Fwiw I have found the schnauzers we have met out and about a lot more nervy and neurotic than the average bt. They seem yappier.

SqueakyChicken Wed 07-May-14 11:10:43

This is a quiz by the Kennel Club to find the "right breed for you". While I wouldn't say it's the best tool in the world, it will give you some breeds that you might not otherwise have thought of.

www.thekennelclub.org.uk/services/public/findabreed/Default.aspx

ErrolTheDragon Wed 07-May-14 11:17:53

If you want a dog that doesn't require long walks every day but is perfectly happy and able to do them, low shedding, no grooming, very little smell, not yappy (proper hound bark!) then you need a standard smooth-haired dachshund. grin
Not that I'm biased or anything...

basildonbond Wed 07-May-14 11:43:36

It is a responsibility and sometimes I think I'm a bit mad to have done it but dpup brings us all so much joy - there is nothing like being greeted by an ecstatic puppy in the mornings

I love our Toller and couldn't imagine a better family dog but even though they're much smaller than all the other retrievers they're still bigger than a schnauzer. If you're looking at that kind of size I'd have a look at spaniels

LadyTurmoil Wed 07-May-14 13:10:49
LadyTurmoil Wed 07-May-14 13:21:47
LEMmingaround Wed 07-May-14 13:23:29

The dogs you are describing are not hybrids - a hybrid is a cross between two different species, so a mule is a cross between a donkey and a horse (isn't it?) "hybrid" dogs are just cross breeds with a fancy name and even fancier price tag! grin

Don't be fooled by size, a little dog often needs as much, if not more exercise than their bigger counterparts and can often be scattier. <spot the Jack russell owner>.

Spaniels are lovely dogs - but again, need lots of exercise and stimulation as they are bright. I think a cocker spaniel is more of a house dog than a springer, unless you are going to do somthing "with" your dog then a springer might be a bit much.

TBH it is really difficult because everyone will come on and recommend their favourite breed. Me personally, my next dog is likely to be another rotweiller although my DD is 8 now and I have two young JRTs so the next dog wont be for many years yet sad Rotties are great, don't need too much exercise, generally lazy arses but happy to go for a long walk, solid calm temprements (yes, really!) and not likely to be bouncing off the walls, mine were happy to be left. They are not for everyone of course, but mine were easy to train, i had one from a pup and one as a rescue with issues.

If i can say only one thing to you its this - please please please consider a rescue dog. There are so many dogs out there that need good homes and you sound like you are doing your homework and have thought it through so would be just that. Our latest rescue is a JRTx that we got from the dogs trust, he was about 6m old and they happily homed him wiht us and our DD who was 7 at the time. He is the apple of my eye (i know you shouldnt have favourites but....) he is so funny and sensitive, he "talks" to us all the time - so will growl if he wants to go out for wee, a different growl for his dinner and a lovely little worried growl if i am upset and he just wants to say, "whats up mum". Best thing - no toilet training grin

LEMmingaround Wed 07-May-14 13:27:39

arrgghhhhhh - why did i click on those links - OMG those puppies grin <wonders if i couldn't make room for just one more>

LEMmingaround Wed 07-May-14 13:28:30

Errol - the dashund bark never fails to astonish me smile WOOF!

LEMmingaround Wed 07-May-14 13:32:12

Hopping - rescues are full of dogs that people have got from puppies, not trained them properly, failed to understand their needs and got rid of them. A good rescue would only home a dog with the right family - many rescue dogs aren't suitable to go into a family environment. Be aware that getting a dog from a puppy does not always garuntee problem free. Unless of course you are an experienced owner. Having had both rescues and puppies i would not dream of buying a dog as a puppy in future - fuck that, too much like hard work.

Freckletoes Wed 07-May-14 14:06:47

My first dog as a teenager was a rescue dog. He was pathetic, underweight and seemed terrified of life but once home he turned into the most loyal, obedient, friendly dog I have ever had. Still miss him! So don't discard the idea of a rescue dog. Just make sure you use a reputable rescue centre who has a good idea of the characters of their dogs.

That all said we now breed dogs. If you are set on a particular breed really do your homework. Find out all the recommended health tests for that breed, the personality traits, health issues. The KC website will give you a lot of info but look elsewhere too. Please remember that a puppy can be KC registered without these health tests having been done on its parents so make sure you get all the info from the breeder-any breeder worth their salt should give this to you rather than you having to chase it up. If a breeder has KC registered parents but isn't registering the pups you want to ask why. Often people have their reasons but also it is a way of over breeding from their bitch-you can only register one litter a year per bitch (and 4 in her lifetime), so people get around this by not registering litters, or breeding designer crossbreds with silly names!

Any advertising site has good and bad on it-it is a matter of sorting the wheat from the chaff. We pay for a KC advert, but also once pups are registered our details appear on a KC list of dogs available. However we also advertise on Pets4homes and sometimes Epupz-purely because they are free and two of the biggest pet selling sites. There is a lot of dross on there but also lots of reputable breeders-make your decisions based on the adverts (long and full of info)-rather than the cute pics as they make have been nicked from someone else as we once found one of ours was!

My experience of Miniature Schnauzers has been that they can be a bit moody and nippy. They are very active, intelligent dogs that need lots of stimulation and training and if this isn't provided they will become miserable! That said if you are competent with your training and can dedicate a lot of time to them they can be nice dogs. Don't be afraid to look at larger dogs as family pets-many small and miniaturised breeds have had their personalities go the other way grin and they are not alway best suited to family living.

Good Luck!

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